Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!
Where Writers Write is a series that features authors as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen.
This is John C Foster.
John was born in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and has been afraid of the dark for as long as he can remember. A writer of thrillers and dark fiction, Foster lives in New York City with his lady, Linda, and their dog, Coraline. Dead Men is his first novel. For more information, please visit www.johnfosterfiction.com.
Where John C Foster Writes
I write in a corner of my apartment in New York City’s East Village. It’s a great place to write, with a wall of books to my left and a framed poster of Neil Gaiman’s Eight Rules of Writing nestled beneath the air conditioner over my head. I know those rules by heart but I let my eyes rest on them often as I’m working through various writing issues, which is a bit like having a pal whisper, “Confidence,” in my ear.
A triptych of photos hangs beside the A/C, featuring me and Linda at our favorite French bistro. Not only does that triptych remind me of Linda, but of my old friend Graham, now a world traveling journalist, who took the shots while we shared stories and ate boudin sausage. Our aging CD player is within easy reach and I occasionally put on some Junior Mance or Sonny Rollins to create white noise, but usually the voices in my head are enough to crowd out the real world while I work. I don’t need much ritual to get into the writing zone these days.
To my right is the sliding door to our balcony where I take frequent breaks for fresh air and to clear my mind. A few years back our cat Lucy would wander over and curl up beneath my desk, which is actually a small white table barely big enough for my laptop and messy stacks of paper. These days our dog Coraline knows to come over and bat my arm off the keyboard when she needs me to scratch her belly or get her a treat.
As great a space as this is, it is not my favorite writing space.
Some days I go up to our small roof deck, facing out over the jagged New York skyline at a table beside our garden. It’s a wonderful place to work when the weather is mild and I tend to keep at it well into fall, until temperatures drop and my fingers grow numb on the keyboard. Even this incredible spot is not my favorite place to write.
It used to be that I needed to drape myself in ritual before I wrote, needed to escape to a coffee shop or a bar to work. Don’t get me started on how fragile my connection to the muse was. My muscles were weak then and I was slightly full of shit, still wallowing between “I want to be a writer” and just sitting down to work. Some days the quiet hum of the other patrons worked to my advantage, some days it destroyed my fragile concentration. At best I could put in an hour…but to cut myself some slack, I was still learning what it took to write fiction not as a hobby, but as a profession.
So the coffee shops and bars, despite their value, weren’t my favorite places to write, either. That distinction, my favorite place to write, well ahead of every other, goes to a loading dock on Mercer Street.
Yeah, a loading dock. I had published several short stories, this was a few years back (in the days of Lucy the Cat and before Coraline the Dog) and I had waded into the swamp of my first novel, Dead Men. Having written several solid (in my opinion) short stories as well as screenplays, I thought I was ready.
I had no idea what I was pitting myself against, the sheer weight of so many pages, so many details and subplots to keep track of. My need for ritual only increased as the scope of the project became clearer to me and one day I set out for the nearest coffee shop, only to find no seats available. I made my way towards a second and a third and found that they too were full to bursting and I could feel my tenuous connection to that day’s writing slipping through my fingers. I was close to throwing in the towel for the day when I found myself heading north on Mercer, a smallish street in between the East Village and Greenwich Village. I was passing a loading dock, maybe chest high and painted black. I had no idea what it was for but the big rolling doors were closed and it was several feet deep so I hopped up, made myself as comfortable as I could and cracked open the laptop. It wasn’t a long chapter, it was, in fact, pretty damned short, but I knew exactly what I wanted to write and I set to work with people passing by on the sidewalk close enough to touch.
That day with maybe thirty or forty minutes of work I threw aside my need for ritual and special writing places, stopped thinking about how I wanted to be a writer and just fucking wrote. That loading dock is my favorite writing place.
If I have to pick a spot where IT happened, it was there.
One last thing before I let you go, one more reason why that was my favorite writing place if you’ve got a minute.
I haven’t been able to find my way back to it.
I’ve gone looking and can only conclude that I must have been in such a daze that I wandered onto a street other than Mercer before I sat down to write. I mean, it can’t just be gone. But for the life of me, I’ve never found that loading dock again.