There is only one place to write and that is alone at a typewriter. The writer who has to go into the streets is a writer who does not know the streets. . . . when you leave your typewriter you leave your machine gun and the rats come pouring through.
— Charles Bukowski, Notes of a Dirty Old Man
Bukowski. My ex-boyfriend of almost 30 years ago thought he was the best writer in history. But D. was an alcoholic and romanticized the whole writer/artist as addict thing–the crapish thought that you have to be addicted to drugs or drink to write well; as if the muse came out of the neck of a bottle of MD 20/20 or some expensive wine or liquor or beer that makes alcoholics think they’re connoisseurs, or floated through the end of a syringe.
Of course Bukowski went out into the streets–and right into his favorite dive to drink, or to the corner store to buy drink, or to fuck some whores or just hang out in the streets. He apparently did this a lot and his writing was based on his direct experiences. Maybe he meant that you can go wherever the hell you want but you don’t write anywhere but home, alone, at your typewriter.
If that’ s what he was thinking I have to agree. I never understood people writing in cafes or in a park or anywhere with noise and people. I need quiet. It’s very difficult for me to focus–hell, I had ADHD decades before it was an acronym.
I always thought that people who write in public are trying to show they’re writers/artists/cooler than you, just like the people who tell everyone they know they’re “working on a book.” Shit, even I have the sense never to tell anyone that, because I know there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that I’ll ever be able to write one. Short stories, poems, yes, I’ve written many. And although I know that a book is just a bunch of pages that you write one at a time, I just can’t seem to get it together.
I talked for a living for 27 years, so when it came time to tackle something long, I did it as a 13-part multi-hour podcast that one friend said sounded like “some drunk lady at a cocktail party who wouldn’t shut up about her personal life.” It was on the web for a while but I took it down because it was pretty personal. And long. And narcissistic/stream-of-conciousness-ish in only the way that decades of having people tell you you’re great on the radio can foster.
I can be a real asshole when I’m writing. Or as my sister calls it, a focushole. Because I’m one of those people who can go off point if I see or hear or feel anything other than what I’m doing, when someone knocks on the door or me a question or calls my name from another room, I yell, “Shut up, I’m writing!” as if what I’m doing is the most important thing in the universe at the moment and the other person doesn’t matter. So yeah, I guess you can say the more writing I get done the more of a jerkoff I am.
And I’m talking about writing in my office, alone, with no one else in the room but maybe a sleeping dog. And even then, snoring is an offense that results in getting kicked out. Sometimes my office gets too cold if I keep the door closed, so I write with the door open, resulting in my husband and dog having to be quiet no matter where they are in the house. And I can hear a soft fart from the far end of our very long house. It’s like I’m The Princess and the Pea, only with distraction.
But when I get what I think I want, which is a total lack of sound and distraction, it sometimes works against me. Because an overactive ADD mind alone is like one of those roller coasters that obsessive people travel the world to ride–convoluted, scary, unpredictable, and capable of eliciting very intense feelings for a very short period of time.
Ask me anything and I’ll answer it. Leave your question in the comments section.