Having just moved into New York, I’ve been scouring the city, quite frantically, for safe places to rest my weary backpack and laptop, if only to work on social media projects and optimistically fill out resumes, but mainly to write.
When I lived in Georgia I had the comfort of home. I had a backyard if I ever felt like I needed more space. I had a hammock if I felt fancy. I had a dog if I needed a hug to get me through a terrible writing block. But in New York, I have a small apartment in the middle of a building with opaque windows and middling wi-fi. I have a mattress that I absolutely refuse to spend the day in. I have an unlimited Metro card and a smart phone to guide me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the apartment. It’s the sweetest thing and is kept tidy, but with my jazz saxophone neighbor and the tiny windows, spending a day inside can get cramped.
Maybe my Georgian roots just want fresh air.
Before I left for New York, I watched American Masters, where Philip Roth spoke about the difficulties in writing in a building with families and nannies around. He said how discomforting it was to be in a building, trying to write, knowing that there were people in there too, which was why he chose to live in the woods practically.
I thought about him when I started the quest to find a place to write. I thought about how well that projected my current predicament, and I dwelled on how I should’ve listened to Philip Roth.
Then again he writes standing up.
He’s also a writer I’m worlds away from being, so I guess that’s where my impudence ends.
I decided to be optimistic. I started exploring the city, getting lost on subways for hours on end to find the places that are perfect for lingering. It’s like recon, how I hit these places up. I look at Yelp for reviews, I search for bloggers with similar predicaments, I talk to people with a calculated, careless edge about finding places to work (is it so wrong that I want to look like I know what I’m doing?), and I get a few suggestions to just find a nearby Starbucks, which is pricey, or just to settle where ever, which I’m a little too unsure of to do, especially when I have to be online working on social media projects during certain times.
I have, however, found a handy list on one of the blogs, Cuaderno Inedito, which listed a few places I tried, like the New York Public Library, a favorite for me and for tourists; Scandinavian House, which was a little too intimate of a space, it made me self-conscious; and Poet’s House, which was a little too far from my place in Queens, so I can’t visit too often. It, however, is really nice and is near the Hudson River, so it’s a great place to feel inspired and get work done, especially with its free wi-fi.
In the end, I started just jumping into cafes and bakeries when I went out walking, scoping out the seating, because if there’s a good amount, then I feel less guilty taking a spot for two hours, and scoping the clientele, because if there are other people writing on tablets or laptops, then clearly it’s a regular thing for them and the staff have seen if before.
On the bright side, I’ve had an excellent array of pastries and coffees, on the other side, I’ve been gorging on pastries and coffees as if I have money to burn. Yes, I know that I can always just purchase a small coffee and stay for hours, but a little part of me feels guilty at doing that, even though no one really seems to care in New York.
I just need that place I had in Georgia, and before you ask, why didn’t I just stay in Georgia, let me stop you right there, because I’ve thought that countless of times and the only thing I can honestly say with conviction about it is, “I got too comfortable in Georgia.” I wanted change and new inspiration and, yes, a little more experience, because most of the worlds I wanted to create for my stories were just stuck and imagined. I needed something to jolt me into action, and I figured why not fulfill that life-long goal of trying to live in New York?
Granted, I made that goal when I was nine and obsessed with Felicity and the New York Yankees, but it’s always been an “oh darn, you never did” in my head. So here I am, looking.
Right now, I’m a haphazard explorer, walking down a sidewalk and dodging into bakeries that at least have lots of seating. Sometimes I take it as a sign if I like the song on, and I stay. Sometimes, I take it as a sign if I see a car I remember from home, and I stay. Sometimes, I take it as a sign if they have exotic cupcakes, because then I have to stay. I haven’t hit the same place twice at least, and I’ve gotten to see more of the city than I thought.
So, I continue my quest in trying to find the right place to write, a place for me to feel settled and at home, but at least I get to enjoy a few cupcakes along the way.