As Alexander Chee recently wrote in a lovely essay for the Morning News, we should all definitely go to writing colonies as much as possible. But not everyone gets to chill at Yaddo with the lit stars. So how can a writer acquire that enviable writing-colony glow if she’s not experienced enough, lucky enough, or possessed of enough free time to chuck it all and head to the woods?
Good news: people, especially those who don’t fit perfectly into the traditional literary establishment (see also: women, genre writers, people of color, people with day jobs), have been writing for centuries without delightful daily lunch baskets waiting for them on the steps of their light-filled studios. People even write without MFAs, or Twitter followings! We write wherever we can, however we can, and we get our life stuff done and manage to keep on writing.
Here are a few suggestions for writers without a (free) room of their own:
1. Weekend Quarantine, otherwise known as “staycation.” We know, your apartment is small and filled with distracting stuff, and your roommate blasts Taylor Swift all night long. You know who has a nice apartment? Someone else. Ask a friend if you can swap places for a weekend. Keep your eyes peeled for housesitter gigs. Basically, try to spend a chunk of time anywhere that is different from the place in which you normally write. NB: Working in a café won’t cut it. You need space and quiet if you’re ever going to replicate that magical “I’m Only Here To Write” feeling.
2. Once you’ve scheduled a Weekend Quarantine (or its younger cousin, the Day-Long Writing Binge), take care of any creature comfortsbeforehand: Stock up on food and coffee, and pre-plan your meals. If you’re really persuasive, maybe you can get an elfin friend to deliver you a lunch basket, but leftover pasta will probably suffice.
3. Go to the library. Have you heard of these places? They’re amazing. They are full of books and electricity and you can get stuff done in there! And they are free.
4. One of the best things about colonies is the interactions you have with other artists while you’re procrastinating — er, processing. To get a hint of creative cross-fertilization, begin a writing session with some non-writing. If you write prose, read a poem; for a different view of the world, peruse a book of photography or paintings for ten minutes. And listen to music. (I prefer music without vocals — my go-to writing albums are Coltrane’s Africa Sessions, Chopin piano pieces, and anything Explosions in the Sky, Dirty Three, or Electrelane.)
5. Log onto your Facebook profile. Go to the little “account menu” arrow in the upper right hand corner (or wherever they’ve moved it lately). Choose the option that says “Account Settings.” Choose “Security.” Click on “Deactivate your account.” There, you've just cleared hours a day off your schedule.
Extra Bonus Pro Tip: Don’t sweat the scene. So you’re not besties with Andrew Sean Greer? So what. Suck it up and write, already.
Image courtesy the author