How Does a Busy Person Write?

Many writers say they need a place apart: an office, a room, a café . . . somewhere away from the bustle of daily life. I’m no exception. I briefly mentioned the Writers’ Room of Boston and the Boston Athenæum in an earlier post, two wonderful spaces where I’ve worked.

It didn’t take me long to learn that when I have my head in the nineteenth century, even the tiniest interruption—someone asking a question, say—pulls me back into the twenty-first. And then it’s close to impossible to go back to the nineteenth. (Unlike Katie Lennox, I have no London Stone to transport me to a different era.)

When I work at home, in my top-floor aerie, I’ve been known to have a sign on the door—aimed at my family—that says


Sometimes it works, and then there are the other times. Often, I’ve packed up my notes and laptop, and decamped for one of two places: the Writers’ Room, which features camaraderie, members’ books, and a bulletin board in the anteroom, and the Boston Athenæum. But once you’re in the writing room itself, no one talks. No one. Ever. Blessed peace and quiet. Both the Writers’ Room and the Athenæum have served as my sancta sanctorum. In the latter, however, even tea is not allowed in the library.

Getting into the habit of writing is crucial, of course. Even when I didn’t feel like it, I knew I’d have to sequester myself and keep writing. If we’re not present at our desks (or at Starbucks with a laptop), the words are not going to come.

To see what treasures these two sanity-saving places are, click on the links to visit them in cyberspace:


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