I like writing in places that hold secrets. I don’t need to know what those secrets are necessarily—I just like knowing they’re close by.
Mostly I write at home in a house that was built in 1934. It’s been carefully restored by my husband (he rebuilt each window) in a way that remains true to the era, but also incorporates modern design features like the addition of a second-floor loft. Plus, it came with a few things from the previous owners like photos from the 60s and a library stool. In theory, I have an office that I share with an IKEA wardrobe of dance costumes, but it’s too dark and I need light and motion. So I write at the dining room table, on the sofa, in the corner of my bedroom at an antique drafting table, shuffling from place to place with my food-splattered laptop and a mug of tea. At home, the only background sound is my fingertips tapping on the keyboard, like Morse code.
I also do a fair share of writing in cafes when I want to absorb the sounds of life other than my own. Lately it’s Calico Coffeehouse, which is in the lower level of a Finnish temple about four feet from a national historic site. It has its own rich history along with a stamped tin ceiling, a well-worn tile floor, wooden tables, bright teal chaise lounges, and an old safe from when it was Lauri’s Hardware and Pawnshop. It was a meeting place then and it’s a meeting place now. The booths are great but my preferred spot is the table that faces the entrance: a glass door and windows that offer an L-shaped view to the street and courtyard. It’s excellent for people-watching and I enjoy the cacophony of sounds: the open and close of the cash register drawer, jingling change, scraping chairs, the tapping and grinding and hissing of coffee being made, background music, snatches of conversation. Even when someone’s voice is too loud, or I find what they’re saying to be disagreeable, I try to work with that, too.
And I write when I walk, bike, dance, and ski. Moving my body loosens up ideas. Sometimes I’ll hear a voice in the trees or in the rhythm of my movements. Last summer, when I was writing “Dreamcatcher,” I walked to Shoppers Drug Mart several times a week, because that’s where it was set. One day, in front of a house a few doors down from the drugstore I noticed a smattering of star stickers on the ground—the exact stickers that Elsie used to make her Dreamcatcher. I love those kinds of moments. Incidentally, as a result of my weekly walks, I bought a lot of wine gums and lipstick.
I’ve found that when it comes to writing, it really doesn’t matter where you are. Write in the scraps of time before or after work or school, in your car, on public transit, at midnight sandwiched next to a snoring partner or dog, at 5am, in a notebook, on a typewriter, with music, without. Wherever you are, so are the words. Just write.
Rebekah Skochinski is a freelance writer and assistant editor with The Walleye—an arts and culture magazine in Thunder Bay. She has been published in various literary journals and recognized in contests both in Canada and the United States. She is working on a collection of short fiction and a novel.
Photos courtesy of Rebekah Skochinski.