Yes, of course, "the writing space"—used to be the Writers Room, now it’s Paragraph on West 14th Street. My friend Jack, commenting on my first blog, asked why I didn’t find a more congenial place to write, as it seemed like a long bunch of work to get here. It’s tough, yes. But for me, the quiet sound of other writers’ brains engaged, the quiet tap of computer keys, the occasional muffled cough, all are eager fuel to my fire.
I can and do write at home, of course. Have a nice little office carved out in a corner. But home is where the distractions lie for me…the siren call of dirty dishes in the sink, the lint on the floor that begs for the attention of the dust buster, the windows that could really stand a good scrub, the magazines that are aching to be read... At Paragraph it is just me and the words.
But there’s also the call of the coffee shop. I’ve always loved writing in public, especially a public space where there’s a hum, a white noise, many talking, low music maybe. I can remember deciding to start writing a piece after I sat down at a small table in the Billy Wilder Café on Potzdamer Platz in Berlin. I’d been carrying an idea for some time, and it seemed like a good time to start. There was coffee, there was a pleasant sussurus of German, unintelligible to me. I opened my composition book, said a silent prayer (Oh, please, don’t let this be a novel), and began what turned into a play. I continued to write at it those three weeks in Europe, opening the book in almost every café I stopped in. I was able to begin another story in Prague, in a café overlooking the Vitava River on a gray day with golden leaves floating to the ground.
Not to mention New York coffee shops. The best. Or truck stops on the interstates. Or the train, while commuting to New York and then back home again. Or in an airline terminal, sitting with an early cup of coffee, not wanting to read, thinking about how I want to tell myself/you/the world about my relationship to my Royal Portable, and there, underneath the table, is the electric outlet – four prongs. I am excited, I am smiling, I am eager. Because, now, I can plug in, save the batteries for the plane, and do some actual, real, tangible writing in the kind of place – food court, coffee shop, airline terminal – I’ve always loved. People passing, life here, but beyond the barrier of thought, and definitely far from the brain-hand connection that places words on the screen almost as fast as they drop into consciousness. Hey. Who could ask for anything more?