Monday, May 31, 2021

where we write

My entry this past week on summer writing got me thinking about my favorite places to write over the years. It has shifted and changed as my life changed, but also as my modes of composition changed subtly from handwriting to to typing. Those summers during college, my writing space was portable, with my typewriter and my box full of drafts.  I wound up many places, though a favorite was my parents' dining room table when no one was home. Or I'd be out at the table on the deck under the giant umbrella of trees. Night, cross-legged on the floor and working on the coffee table in front of the couch. Eventually, I typed my drafts on the electric machine, but they were composed on scrap or notebook paper.  I still have some of these initial drafts full of cross-outs and margin notes and they are all really, really bad.  

Later, in Chicago for grad school, I had brought an old dining table from the basement into my tiny Lincoln Park studio apartment. It took up a good portion of the room and doubled as food prep area in the tiny kitchen corner.  I worked more often here  than my desk, which was where I kept the word processor I used to type poems and my papers for my MA. Again, those years usually found me on the floor, back against my futon/couch, with the machine on a large cushion across my knees.  This was where I wrote the first poems that weren't terrible. Where I completed that poorly wrought first manuscript I just felt I had to finish before I tuned 25. 

When I lived in Rockford with my parents again briefly, I mostly was trying to write short fiction with hopes I could make some sort of living from it (I was making a sad little sum at the elementary school  library, but it left me the summer of 2000 mostly free.)  I wrote stories in stacks of spiral notebooks, which I often took on fishing trips outings with my parents to various lakesides (since I wasn't a fisherman).  I'd sit at picnic tables with headphones on, or lie on blankets under trees and write in my journal through long afternoons. 

Late that fall, I landed back in the city.  Here my writing happened in various places...the round table in my dining room with the really uncomfortable chairs. Sprawled across my bed. On my couch. I was still writing by hand, so could do it anywhere I could balance the legal pads I used to draft poems.  Since I moved around at the library, I took to scribbling bits on the backs of old catalog cards then typing them into my e-mail to save them.  I'd write blog posts at the circ desk at night and type up my drafts when things were slow.   I wrote in coffee shops when I was perpetually early for things. I edited and revised the entirely of my  final fever almanac manuscript in the Barnes & Noble's Starbucks where I had really good focus for some reason.  When I was working on my MFA-- I liked to revise and make notes on workshop poems at the Corner Bakery on Michigan on days I had class all days.  Weirdly, while I'd say I'm often distracted too much to compose poems in public, editing and commenting were feasible.  Some weeks, I'd sneak over to the Art Institute to make notes for my Cornell poems. 

Before I moved into the studio, I had my laptop set up on my dining room table, where I wrote and made books and jewelry and collages.    I'm not sure when the shift between hand writing and composing on screen happened, so it must have happened slowly, but by the late aughts, I was solely a typist and rarely a scrawler, unless it was notes and bits of idea. At some point, during a rearrange, I left the dining room table for messier pursuits like painting and printmaking and moved my laptop to the small writing/ vanity table I am sitting at right now. For awhile when I was doing my daily poems, I wrote them over breakfast in the studio, but now you will find me here each day with coffee trying to squeeze it in before I have to leave for the library. Weekends, I spend here editing and writing blog posts and assemblng manuscripts and such. (the dining room table is still for bookmaking and messier things, but I occasionally take the laptop over there to write near the window in the summer where it's cooler.)  Years ago, on a long train journey back from Seattle, I wrote a bunch of poems for ghost landscapes on a laptop in the lounge car speeding across the blackness of Montana, which planted the seed for a one day sleeper car trip across country just to write.  I also am weirdly enamored of writing in hotel rooms when I have the chance. 

Today, it being writing day off work and a holiday to boot, I got up and made a bigger breakfast involving actual bacon then sat down to write this post and work on getting the unusual creatures pieces ready for their zine debut. It is warm enough to have the windows open again, and I'm listening to my across the courtyard neighbors in the townhouses playing old Luther Vandross hits a little too loudly while they grill out. I suppose that is a sure sign that summer is here. 

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