finally, hope


Was sick and focused on recovery. Slept as much as I needed and wanted, skipped the makeup, stayed in pajamas and/or workout pants all weekend. Began to gain back all the weight I’d lost from the flu (mixed feelings about that!).

Even as I type this on a crisp cool and brilliant Sunday morning, I’m skipping my weekly visit to the farmers’ market. I love the farmers’ market but but but…our fridge is still full because between the whole household has been down with the stomach ailment/flu for days now. We’ve been consuming food like anorexics and vomiting like bulimics. And this hermit life has grown on me. I could get used to this.

I did venture out twice–to go to a cafe to get some writing done. I had not been to this cafe in fifteenish years! But how could I have forgotten? It’s where I got most of my creative writing done as an undergrad, back when I used to hide my creative writing. And it still works for me–I emerged with having accomplished some decent writing on my laptop (back then, I used to write in a notebook–the paper kind you use with a pen).

The scene’s still the same: college students come for socializing, a bit of reading. And a few middle aged people taking part in this collegiate atmosphere. That dude up there sat across from me and handed me a flower before settling into his book. I’d forgotten the permeable social membrane of being at college cafes.

I like the sounds. Loud espresso machines against the cacophony of voices and a stereo playing gypsy kings or some other music with too much treble. The environment even made it into my novel–a woman laughed at a nearby table and I did wonder, “My main character lives in a city–he hears a distant laugh in the alley outside!” So that dear anonymous woman with the laugh is now a character in my novel, albeit a very very minor character.

Anyway–I’ve been discouraged about my novel’s progress for some time. I feel like we’ve been fighting a losing battle against the music of daily life and work.

It’s not like I wrote hundreds of pages–I think I really wrote only about ten (omg sorry, total brain burp made me miscount) five in the two hours total spent at cafe writing, a pathetic total for many writers out there. But it’s a lot more writing than I usually get done in that span of time. And I feel like if I can keep this up, then the ending is not too far away.

I’m thinking a lot about ideal writing environments for me these days. I wonder about setting–I would still love to go to New York for a month to write (and visit friends!) and I would still love to go to Seoul/South Korea for a month write (and visit family!). I wonder with glee how the environment would wend its way into my novel, set both in Korea and New York City. I wonder about music and weather and temperature and humidity, and how all these elements help me produce.

What is your ideal writing environment?



Filed under The Novel, Writing

12 responses to “finally, hope

  1. anonwupfan

    Ah, the hermit life. As Nelson Algren said,
    “I don’t recommend being a bachelor, but it helps if you want to write.”

    I prefer isolation and silence at my desk–cranking out a (devastatingly embarrassing all of the sudden) page per hour or so. I like to take occasional walks around the neighborhood to collect & organize ideas.

    If you fantasize about writing in some exotic locale that’s almost as good, right?

  2. SenNim

    Mmmm, it sounds like a cafe I loved in grad school. I miss that about the US and American college towns.

    Being Korean, I really get wanting to go to Seoul and write. Things are so energetic. And the people, and the food, and things to look at!

    But the current fantasy is to find a nice room in Jindo island–all those beautiful dogs strolling about everywhere. Go for a walk, and talk to about two dozen dogs and come home to write.

  3. Glad you’re feeling better…

    Ten pages in two hours is fast! I can’t imagine ever writing much more than that.

    I can’t write in a cafe because I worry that I’m hogging the table or that someone I know is going to come in or else I hate the music. I like a really, really quiet place. Either a small room when no one is home, or in the middle of the night (not so great when you have to get up with kids, though) or a very isolated corner of a college library. But no one can be coughing nearby, or it’s all over.

  4. Violeta

    Ten pages in a few hours is fast for me, too! (though I am admittedly a slow writer)

    My ideal writing environment: on any kind of patio, terrace, deck…where I can be in nature, but still be sheltered; where I can hear people, but I don’t have to interact with them; where I can imagine being transported elsewhere on the wind.
    Cheesy, but true. 🙂

  5. omg horrified, horrified. I meant to say 5 pages…my brain messed it up (I was thinking, “5 pages 2 hours from 2 days…5 pages, 2 hours…and then I multiplied the two numbers). ack.

  6. anonwupfan: there’s something about isolation that helps the writer write. though isolation isn’t a good thing for the soul! i was once on an interviewing committee for my MFA program–we interviewed prospective professors–one of them visited for in-person interviews out of the Midwest. as i gave that person a tour around campus, in the sparkling beauty of a northern california winter, that person commented, “how can you get any writing done with weather like this? i think i have to go back to ohio.”

    SenNim: you and me both! i really really want to go jindo island and hang out with those dogs. i grew up with them, and wrote a short story about a jindo dog once, and i am in love with them. what about the jindos appeals to you?

    r ellis: i wish you lots of good and quiet writing time! i gotta try out the library…

    violeta: omg, you would love Hedgebrook!

  7. anonwupfan

    JP: Yes, you’ve got it sooooo good. As usual Mrs. AWUPF (an East Bay native) has spent her November in deep retrospection over her choice to relocate to the Midwest. This year she’s also hopped up on a witches’ brew of pregnancy hormones, so I’m getting the ole evil eye in spades!

    During my first visit to the Bay Area I can remember thinking about how much I wanted to climb up and stretch out on top of every single green hill. Of course, that was in May–before things turn brown and catch fire!

  8. SenNim

    😀 My parents always had a couple around, and one Jindo mix.

    My uppity puppy was always showing that she was one higher on the family totem than me.

    And so cute when they’re fat puppies, and then their ears start perking up.

    For complete brain melt, I’m guessing you’re already following the shiba-cam:

  9. YES I AM TOTALLY ADDICTED TO THE SHIBA INU PUPPY CAM. Uptil last week they sure looked a lot like jindo puppies (my parents bred jindo puppies for a little while). SUPER CUUUUTE.

  10. YES I AM TOTALLY ADDICTED TO THE SHIBA INU PUPPY CAM. Uptil last week they sure looked a lot like jindo puppies (my parents bred jindo puppies for a little while). SUPER CUUUUTE.

  11. Love the photo — especially the craggy guy in the background!

  12. lalber–thanks! yah craggy dude even left me a bougainvillea flower.

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