The “Where” of Writing: A Writer’s Confession

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

– Thomas MannEssays of Three Decades

When I picture a writer, I immediately picture a human being as self-conscious about writing as I am. He, or she, is probably sitting at a coffee shop, realizing that their cafe’s choice of relaxing music is not actually as relaxing as he had imagined and that there are more people in the cafe than he was wanting. We writers are always about the particulars. The gentleman next to him took the last open outlet, and so now he’s staring despondently at the 20% battery sign on his refurbished macbook pro. He’s thinking, “Well, I didn’t have much to write anyway. Guess I’ll write till this dies, then go home.” 

I say this because I’ve been similar to that “writer” before. I put the word “writer” in quotations because it’s an identity that I so easily placed upon myself when I was younger, in middle school and high school, and even in community college, but that I have had a difficult time claiming of late. Writer is a name that I feel I do not always have a right, or the time, to claim. I say that I’m a writer, but with my lifestyle, I hardly have time to write as consistently as I did earlier in my life, hence my insecurity. It is now the most exciting event when I write a poem within the span of two weeks, and even more thrilling when I’ve written two in one day. 

I did not always struggle with this confidence of identity as a writer. Growing up I let the fuel of emotions and the immense expanse of time at home via being homeschooled spur my writing. While I wrote from my pent up pubescent and teenage emotions, my bed was my place of writing. I had a gorgeous desk made of elaborately engraved wood that I’d found at a resale shop, but as a hectic, artistic person my living space was a whimsical wreck, piled with books, undone schoolwork or scratch papers of poems I’d written days before. Besides my writing, reading, some science classes and elementary math, I was a surprisingly uneducated homeschooled child. I was socially savvy, but I always felt like I didn’t know as much about the world, particularly math, as I wanted to. I took the emotional needs of my silent depression and fueled them into my poetry. Poetry became my secret self-language, reading my loyal refuge, and journaling my daily self-care duty before self-care was even cool. 

But from the age of 14 to 24, I traded emotional needs for mental and emotional stress. This stress is built up by adult responsibilities that I can hardly keep up with, much less my writing dreams. For years I told people, “I’m working on a poetry book”— “I’m writing a poetry book”—repeatedly. Over and over again. I had yet to follow through until now.

I am at the point in life where I need to channel the emotional fuel of writing into a mental fuel for writing. After community college, and getting married, life has greatly changed for me, and this last year has been the most difficult one of my writing career. Aha! I said it. My Writing Career. Because I am a writer. I’m a troubled, anxious writer, that perhaps cares too much about the perfect written representation of those in my life and every aspect of my skills as a writer. But, I finally came to the conclusion that these anxieties are cemented to the locations I chose when I wrote. 

Now when giving yourself an identity, location matters, and I soon I realized that home was not the ideal place to write; that I’d already explored most of the inspirational spots within and that I needed to venture outwards for mental writing food. This pertained particularly to my essay writing in my junior and senior year of college at UMSL. I was swimming through the ocean of school whilst being engaged, then being a newlywed. And now that I’ve been married over a year, it’s still not any easier, and I am definitely still a newlywed. My new home with my husband is a place of relaxing distractions, and I realized the sweet tragedy of not being able to write well while my husband is around, or in the space that we consider ours, shared, and special. Even moving my desk to a different spot in our office did not fix my problem. It helped with the average homework, but not a writer’s homework for her own writing. If I write at home, I use time while Jordan is at work, or out for the evening. 

But often, even then, I need a completely different location and aesthetic. The same kind of aesthetic that my imaginary writer was seeking. I’ve taken up writing at Starbucks or Picasso’s. Libraries are dangerously quiet locations where my thoughts will run away with too much before my fingers or my pen can even begin to keep up. I need the annoying music that my fictional writer friend hated. I need it to keep my thoughts in check, yet steadily moving forward. I need the comfort of knowing people are around me. Everyone is human. My writing is human, made by a human, and I can be more comfortable sharing the humanity that forever lives in my writing. 

I wrote this essay from the comfort of a friend’s home, in the living room, while in the kitchen just beyond my “relaxing writing playlist” were the hums of my husband and his best friend recording a podcast.  Tonight would have been date night, but I knew I needed to write, and not just for a class, but for myself. Both my husband and I got to spend tonight near each other, but all the while doing the different things that we love and that we ever crave to complete. And yet my husband was just another person in the “coffeeshop” while I put on my writer fins and waded into a world of rolling words, earbuds in, music whirling around me, music of my choice. 

Always be a poet, even in prose.

– Charles Baudelaire