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Friday, July 30, 2010

Where do you write?

Before entering the academy, I had a job with heavy travel demands.  The travel forced me to write documents in airports, on airplanes, in hotels, hotel lobbies, windowless conference rooms, in cabs, in parking lots, on trains, the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry (too windy on top deck), coffee shops, and yes, even in a bar.  I even wrote the first half of a presentation at a Texas Rangers game until the client arrived with his family.

Unfortunately, I think these work habits have rendered it difficult for me to write in a sterile environment.  I say "unfortunately" because writing in my comfortable office just doesn't happen. Short, tidy tasks are fine, as are class prep and student meetings.  If I want to get a stretch of writing done during school hours, I sneak out to the undergraduate coffee shop. 

Also, I can't bring myself to ignoring a knock on the door of my office, even when I am on a roll.  A decaying sign scotch-taped to a prolific professor's door during my law school years blared in bold black marker, "Professor [X] writes in the mornings.  Do not disturb him."  I admired the clarity and third-person nature of the admonition, but I'm not quite as accomplished as he.  (That sign almost could have read, "Professor [X] writes a book each morning. Please do not disturb him.")

During the summer, I get most of my work done at some amazing coffee shops here in Portland, Oregon. Nobody knows me, but there is plenty happening.

On C-SPAN, one of Brian Lamb's regular questions of non-fiction authors is: "Where do you write?"  One eminent professor emeritus of history informed Lamb that he wrote in his backyard shed every morning... in the nude.  Even the unflappable Lamb broke a grin.

Where do you get your best writing done, aside from your work or home offices- or a library?  (I don't think we want to know your state of dress.)

Posted by David Friedman on July 30, 2010 at 03:20 PM | Permalink


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On trains. Trains are the best place to write

Posted by: Tim Wu | Aug 4, 2010 3:41:54 AM

Shag, the Gettysburg Address would have been completely revised by law review editors. Even the first sentence would require a footnote.

Posted by: David Friedman | Jul 31, 2010 4:02:11 PM

Someone once told me that if you want - need - something done, give the assignment to a busy person. This advice served me well over the years, making myself the assignee.

Consider if Abe Lincoln had prepared his Gettysburg Address in the comfort of his office, well prior to its delivery. Might it have started: "87 years ago, ..." or perhaps "In 1776 ,,,"?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Jul 31, 2010 7:36:23 AM

On my couch while watching tv, preferably Law & Order episodes that I've already seen.

Posted by: BS Starkey | Jul 30, 2010 11:00:46 PM

I don't know that it was my "best" writing, but I wrote a not insignificant amount of the first draft of my dissertation while at the laundromat at 133rd and Fredrick Douglas Blvd. in Harlem, washing and drying my clothes, in little notebooks. That's maybe the most unusual place where I wrote more than just a small amount of stuff.

Posted by: Matt | Jul 30, 2010 8:44:31 PM

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