If you’ve tried to be productive in a coffee shop, especially one in New York, I bet you came away $50 broker, full of bad coffee and pastries, with all of one page written after a few hours. So, I bet you also know that Virginia Woolf was right: to write, one has to have money and a room of one’s own.
I refuse to write at home unless UPS or FedEx forces me to. At home, I have the comfort of my couch. There’s a television there that plays a circuit of mostly garbage daytime talk shows. There’s a cabinet full of snacks, and a refrigerator that usually houses more wine and beer than eggs and milk. There’s also the floors that perpetually need to be Swiffer’d, the bathtub that could use a rag ran around its ring, and the glass decanters that could go for a good Windex-ing. And by virtue of my living in the ‘hood, inevitably, there is an argument between two neighbors and incessant sirens outside my window.
Therefore, as much as I love my home, in order to think, I cannot be at home.
I think Virginia mentions money not as a way to say that only rich people can write, but that a good space comes with a cost.
I am a member of the Center for Fiction in Manhattan, and I frequently use its writers’ studio. I LOVE the Center because, while I am writing memoir, I was raised on fiction, so the organization supports a cause that I can get behind. It also provides workshops and talks for writers and readers, encouraging literacy and intellectual dialogue.
The writers’ studio is usually full of people doing exactly what I should be doing: writing.
The studio atmosphere is quiet and library-like, but not so stodgy that you can’t eat a sandwich without people glaring at you. Mostly, there is an unspoken respect for the craft of writing, and being in that environment every day for the past three months has been invaluable. There’s just something about being around like-minded people who are trying to accomplish a goal similar to yours. It’s allowed me to bust out 175 pages and 60,000 in less than half the time I thought those milestones would take.
Sure, it’s not free, but the cost is minimal if you think about how many cups of tea and the number of pastries I would have had to consume by now, jumping from coffee shop to coffee shop. And while I respect entrepreneur-friendly spaces like WeWork, the cost is prohibitive, even for most entrepreneurs, so the Center is way more than I bargained for.
There’s quite a few spaces like this in the NYC area, including The Writers Room (the OG of writers’ studios in the city) and Paragraph, though both of them have more stringent membership requirements and/or higher prices than The Center for Fiction. For my friends in Washington, DC, there’s Writers Room DC in Tenleytown and the Writer’s Center in Bethesda.
I highly recommend anyone working on a serious project seek out a special space to complete it. And for those who have full-time jobs, many of these spaces have post-6pm hours, so there’s no excuse not to live the writer’s life.
So, get a little dough, then get a room, for goodness’ sake.