Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Portable Writing

In comments to not one post but two, John Scalzi is encountering opposition to his apparent belief that writers who go to Starbucks or the like and set up camp with their laptops are really just poseurs who aren't really writing but want to be seen writing. I guess I can see his point, sort-of. But not really.

I'm one who used to enjoy writing in different places, back when I was still doing all my first drafts in longhand. I'd estimate that I did about, oh, 75% of my writing at home, at my desk, with the headphones delivering high-quality classical or film music to my eardrums, but sometimes, I just plain wanted a change of scenery. So I'd pack up my papers and my pens and go off to the cafe at the grocery store or maybe the library, and I'd sit there and write.

I've always been pretty good at shutting out the outside distractions of the world and attending to my writing (an ability that I cultivated much to the chagrin of more than a few of my teachers through the years), and those abilities came in pretty handy when I just wanted to sit somewhere other than the same exact chair in front of the same exact desk and work on the same exact manuscript. If I'm really losing myself in the writing -- and you'll have to take my word for it that I am -- well, what difference does it make where I'm doing it?

And yes, I'll admit that when I sit at the cafes and libraries of the world, I do tend to put the pen down and "people-watch" a bit, which I think is part of what John interprets as indicative of "poseurness". (Poseurity? Poseurdom? Hmmm....) But that doesn't mean that, if I were sitting at home, I'd be that much more productive. You know why? Because my desk is surrounded by my books. And believe me, the tendency to just look up "a passage or two" from Tigana or The Return of the King or any other book is, at least for me, one hell of a lot stronger than the tendency to watch the cute girl in the black turtleneck and baggy jeans who's mixing all the cappucinos.

(In fact, since I don't own a laptop, I can't blog anywhere other than here!)

Some writers subscribe strongly to the idea that you should have one place where you do all your writing, and that's it, and it should be your place and it should be the only place where you ever get any real work done. Well, if that works for them, great. Not all writers work that way, just as some writers insist that you should outline your novels, and others resist outlines religiously.

Now, since I pretty much stopped doing first-drafts longhand in favor of typing, all of my writing activity that involves stringing words together has to take place right here, at this table in my living room. But I can still edit my manuscripts elsewhere. And I have, and will continue to do so.

So there!

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