I’ve been thinking about location lately, and what it means to a writer. Many writers can produce no matter where they are. I’ve seen plenty in coffee shops and heard tales of those on commuter trains squeezing hours in between jobs, but some writers can only produce in a designated place, a quiet place.
Those of us who nerd out on books are often intrigued at where past writers wrote the masterpieces we’ve come to love. (I’ll never forget how excited I was to catch a glimpse of Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva when I was last in Switzerland — history was made in that little abode in Cologny.)
We landmark writers’ houses and vacation homes and rooms and acknowledge these places as sacred because we understand creative energy. We believe it’s around us, on the outside. That’s interesting to me. It suggests the location of our creativity is relevant.
I certainly understand the need for calm surroundings to produce, but I also believe that the only space a writer needs is in the mind. It’s in us, not around us. Virginia Woolf talks about a room of one’s own, which I believe is right on point. But how much of that real estate is simply found in the head? It’s important to bar the outside stuff, to turn the world’s chaos away, in a sense, to build writing space in your mind.
At least, that’s how I’ve come to see it over the years, and probably the reason I’ve been able to write despite not having a permanent space. You see, I’ve moved around a lot in the last two decades, and in the last ten years I’ve been writing, I’ve noticed that wherever I live, I write at least one manuscript. So for archives’ sake, I’ve decided to take note.
I lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, when I wrote my first novella, The Banished Ones (formerly A Perpetual Mimicry). From there I moved to Oakland, California, and lived in an apartment on Lake Merritt, where I wrote the first book in The Journal of Vincent Du Maurier series. (I was supposed to be writing my dissertation at the time). That was in 2012, during the zombie/vampire craze.
When I moved back to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (same building, different apartment) nine months later, in the three years I was living there, I wrote a lot. First, I started and finished my dissertation (a tedious study of redemption in the Early Modern period, though Shakespeare and Marlowe and Milton make appearances so I was enjoying some amazing reading, too). Then I wrote books two and three of the vampire series, a short novel called Venus Fall (formerly El and Onine), a short story called The Piano String, a thriller called The Trinity, and a work of contemporary fiction called All At Once (also known as Boy Exits for a brief marketing attempt). Then I moved again.
I landed in Canada and stayed with family for a six-month stint, where I barely wrote at all. I couldn’t produce, which I think has something to do with quiet in the head. I have a large family, which meant less quiet than usual. But I did write the fourth book in my vampire series — that one happened in a burst of energy after four months of not writing at all.
Next I moved to New Orleans, where I lived in two different apartments in six months. New Orleans was a rebirth. My first apartment was in Uptown on Chestnut and Bordeaux, where I wrote a coming-of-age novel called Love Me First (aka Beneath the Same Sky). I also started a detective noir in that same apartment (still a work in progress), and when I moved to my apartment on St. Charles, I wrote a short story called Snowdrifts. I was teaching full-time then, so my hours to write were limited, as well as my head space.
The following move was to the desert. I lived in Las Vegas for six months, and I’ve got to say the Mojave Desert was rather fruitful for me. I wrote a screenplay from the coming-of-age novel I mentioned earlier (called The Moon in the Attic), and I rewrote The Trinity completely. (It hadn’t been well received after a major promo on Bookbub in 2016, which really shook my confidence. To get back on the horse, at the time, I got up every morning at 5 AM to write 1000 words before I left for teaching. That’s how I wrote All At Once and regained the courage to keep going — ps: don’t let bad reviews rob you of your clarity and writing space. It’s in the mind. Your mind. Remember that.)
I also started a historical fantasy manuscript in the desert, which I completed in San Diego, my next stop on the whirlwind moving truck. I lived in downtown San Diego for two years. I taught full-time as well, but still managed to write a domestic suspense, Breaking Ava Lake, which is the last book I self-published. (I’ve decided to shop every manuscript I write from here on in, until I find the right agent for me.) So in San Diego, I wrote my most ambitious project yet, which is currently on submission with agents. It’s a retelling of Prince Troilus’s story during the Trojan War. I’ve submitted widely and it’s been successfully rejected. Good thing I’m stubborn.
I moved to Los Angeles this past summer, where I currently live. I’m in my second apartment here already. I wrote a manuscript in the first place, in the Hollywood Dell. It’s another historical fantasy, a retelling of Lady Macbeth before she becomes Lady Macbeth. I’ve only submitted that one to a handful of agents. I’m planning a rewrite soon. Now I’m living in downtown LA and just completed a work of upmarket suspense that I’m about to start submitting. (Wish me luck!)
I suppose this has a point?
Not really. It’s all to say I realized since I started writing fiction nine years ago I’ve lived in seven different cities and called ten different abodes my home. I’ve also finished seventeen different manuscripts (excluding some false starts and projects I gave up along the way). The only conclusion to draw is that throughout it all I’ve carved out a room of my own, most definitely in my head, and I’m inclined to think it may very well have made Virginia Woolf proud.