Most writers do their writing at home or at an office. I'm more peripatetic. One of my favorite writing places is the classical-music department in a store on New York's Upper East Side. I go there on Sunday afternoons and stay for an hour, sitting on the couch listening to glorious music. Opera and symphonic music I find conducive to writing.
So much of a fixture have I become that last week the manager of the department, a great expert on classical music, came over following the conclusion of a Mozart piece to inquire, "Would an Elliott Carter symphony disturb your writing?" I assured him it would not.
An even more unusual venue for writing is the gym where I play basketball. At the gym, our rule is that the winning team stays on the floor until it loses. Despite my formidable basketball skills, teams that I play on do, on occasion, lose. Each loss contributes to the furthering of my literary career. Sitting on the sidelines, in the midst of a flurry of field goals and fouls, yelling and screaming, I toil away.
Teammates peer over my shoulder and make disapproving comments about letting work interfere with play. Since I enjoy writing, I consider I am combining play (basketball) with play (writing).
I have with me at all times a fountain pen and a pencil with an eraser for corrections. Thoreau would feel comfortable with these implements, as might even Hesi-re, a Third Dynasty royal scribe whom I encountered at an exhibition of ancient Egyptian art with his scribal kit slung over his shoulder. This sense of continuity with the past warms the heart of anyone who writes.
My other favorite place to write is a very different location - a small island off the coast of Maine. For much of the year, no one lives on the island. Here I enjoy writing, surrounded by spruce trees and the sea. I listen, not to Mozart, but to the clanging of a sea buoy and the deep bass of the lighthouse foghorn.
Nurtured as I have been in an urban environment, the island reminds me that beauty is also found outside cities. I know well the beauty of the setting sun as it casts its golden rays on the limestone faade of Fifth Avenue apartment buildings. But this same sun, as Thoreau writes, "sets on some retired meadow, where no house is visible, with all the glory and splendor that it lavishes on cities, and perchance as it has never set before."
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