Your laptop is charged, you sip a steaming cup of Zen tea and Lyle Lovett and His Large Band rocks your iTunes. You’re ready to work on your newest project, hoping to rack up a thousand words before dinner. The problem: your dog is whining for a walk, the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, and you’re reasonably sure that the lawn isn’t going to mow itself. In short, life is conspiring against you; you need a quiet place to write. But where?
The first question to ask yourself, “Do I really need Wi-Fi?” The places available for free Wi-Fi access are likely to be packed with students and others looking for the ‘public living room’ atmosphere offered at both chain and hipster coffee shops around town. Plus, access to internet means the constant ping of incoming emails, Facebook conversations, and needless Craigslist searches.
If internet is a must, then be creative, look around you, and be sure to bring your mobile writer toolkit (more on that later).
- Coffee Shops: Avoid the busy chains and places with an obvious scene. These are disruptive. Be creative and look for a place where you can spend an hour or more without getting dirty looks. In Ithaca, my favorite sleeper locations are Tim Horton’s on Rt. 13, either Ithaca Coffee Company location, and The Shop.
- The library: You have a main branch in the city and smaller branches in surrounding towns and villages. Find an empty table, a carol, or an unoccupied study room. And if the noise level rises to a point of distraction, count on your allies, those steadfast librarians to jump into action so that you won’t have to. In Ithaca, try the Ezra Cornell reading room in the Tompkins County Public Library where “quiet” is a guarantee.
If you can cut the internet cord and maybe even separate from your electronics, locations to write open up into a nearly endless vista.
- Your car: This might seem strange, but sneaking writing time into the place we (sadly) spend much of our time is a practical art. Volunteer to take the kids to practices, be the carpool go-to and leave early. Keeping a notebook in your car allows you to write where you would otherwise be trapped in a time killing limbo.
- Parks and Playgrounds: go renegade. Keep a notebook with you at all times. Drive over to the playground and set the kids free. You will be surprised how quickly your thousand words fly from your pen.
- The rink/pool/soccer field: same as above. Get your kids signed up for lessons 2-3 times a week. Think of it as building your writing schedule.
Finally, every on-the-road author requires certain items in their toolkits. Mentioned above, the notebook. Buy many; buy them cheap. Don’t worry about the color or leather covers. They don’t need to be Hemingway’s Moleskines either. When working on a laptop, it is essential to have headphones. As much as we’d like, we can’t control the ambient noise of different public locations. Plug in the headphones, load up your favorite Pandora station or iTunes list and block everything else out. And if you’re anything like me, a bit of chocolate completes it. You’re ready to go now.
– Jenna Goodman