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.
Raised outside of Buffalo, New York, Lenore Myka describes her upbringing as Polish-American Catholic, and says of her outlook on life, “I am hung-up on fairness in the world, despite being told from an early age that life isn’t fair.” She has published fiction in such journals as the Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, and the New England Review. She has won fiction awards from Cream City Review and Booth Journal, and her work has been listed as notable from Best American Short Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is a graduate of the University of Rochester, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and Warren Wilson College’s MFA program, and she served in the Peace Corps in Romania. Myka just moved from Somerville, Massachusetts to Florida. KING OF THE GYPSIES is her first book. You can find her online at lenoremyka.com.
Where Lenore Myka Writes
I have often heard other writers complain about their inability to write in cafes or the library, or even in their beautiful home offices designed for just the occasion. Being an expert procrastinator myself, I am quick to smell a rat in these conversations. All the complaints—how these spaces are not inspiring, are too confining or noisy, cold or poorly lit—hold the sour smell of dishonesty. What’s really going on, I think, is that we’re just coming up with more reasons not to write.
An early writing teacher instructed me to learn to write just about anywhere. She recommended subway cars, airports, park benches, in beds and bathroom stalls, at bus stops and in grocery lines. When I first heard this advice, I laughed. Bathroom stalls? She couldn’t be serious! But then years later, in a pinch, I snuck into a restaurant bathroom and seated myself on the porcelain throne to scribble something that needed to be written in that very moment.
To this day I try to take my teacher’s advice to heart whenever I bemoan the unhappy and ever-changing state of my writing space. Places, like bread, can get stale and perhaps because of this I find that I must change things up from time to time. Where I write usually consists of three, sometimes four locations in rotation. This need for change also means that my writing space is always temporary. There are no fixed items—no bulletin boards covered with muse-inducing photos and quotations, special pens or coffee mugs to accompany me. Like the quest to find the perfect writing space, I find that accouterments can serve as distractions from doing the work.
Currently, my spaces are at the kitchen table, in the basement, and at the local library (where I happen to be writing this essay right now).
The kitchen is my ideal place. It has a table wide enough to hold notebooks and books, as well as my laptop. It is adjacent to the living room where the majority of my book collection is easily accessible. The window looks out on our yard where wisteria and a mulberry attract squirrels, sparrows and occasionally a raccoon. Our dog likes to hang out with me when I write here and I feel that he is some silent cheerleader, urging me on. He’ll wedge himself beneath the table or languish at my feet, occasionally getting up to be let out, reminding me blood flow in the body is good for the brain. The unfortunate downside to this location is that, for obvious reasons, I eat to procrastinate. Once, when I was writing almost exclusively at the kitchen table, I gained five pounds in two weeks, but had maybe only three pages of written work to show for my time there.
The basement is the kitchen’s antithesis. It is huge and dark and void of resources; there are windows but you’d hardly know this from the little light allowed to enter. I most like to write here in the winter months. I’m an early riser and enjoy waking to and writing in darkness. There is something magical about those first hours of the morning when my dreams still linger in the back of my mind and the world is still; it seems conducive to unfettered creative output. And with the exception of a single bare bulb, the basement can remain dim for long into daylight. But the basement is also frigid, most especially in winter. Sometimes I move a space heater beneath my feet and swaddle myself in a comforter; sometimes it’s so cold I wear a hat. I feel like a character out of Charles Dickens then, which can only be a good thing.
As for libraries, well, there’s always a library in my life. Currently, it’s the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library. I like the second, silent floor, where I can stare out the window with views of a green lawn and willow trees. In summer people lie on blankets; during the fall students from the high school next door eat lunches outside and flirt with each other. I’ve gotten to know certain people at this library, which creates a sense of camaraderie and community. It also makes me oddly competitive. For a while, there was one woman with whom I became friendly. One day, she happened to mention that she spends all day at the library, five days a week (she worked evenings). The next day I was there when the library opened and refused to leave until it was time for dinner.
In a few weeks, we’ll be moving from the Boston area down to Florida. I have many anxieties associated with this move, but one of the biggest is where I’ll write once we’ve relocated. The mystery of this stirs deeper insecurities in me about the path I’ve chosen, what sometimes feels Quixotic, this writing life. But I know that we’ll have a kitchen table, and there will likely be a library. So I’ll start there.