Probably because I come from a big family in a small house or because I’m an actor and well-versed at finding privacy in public, I can write almost anywhere. I do have three favourite places to write: the open road, hotel or motel rooms, diners or bars or pubs, and my workspace at home.
The open road: I hope that you appreciate that I keep my eyes on the road because, trust me, I pay for it later when attempting to decipher what I’ve written. It’s probably because my body and attention are otherwise engaged that I get a great deal of writing done on the open highway. I’ve learned to take quick notes of thoughts that will return more complete ideas to me later when I’m off the road. I almost always have a big legal pad or at least my notebook open with a pen handy when I’m on the highway. So so exhilarating and productive.
Hotel or motel rooms: there is something about the anonymity of the place. That there is nothing personal there. Nothing that reminds me of me that, paradoxically, allows me to access my own voice. As long as it’s clean and there’s a decent table or desk and chair, I can work there until the cows come home.
Diners, food courts,, bars, pubs; TV/film sets: it’s that privacy in public thing. These places are usually quite busy. I prefer busy. Food courts are definite favourite writing places. It’s so much that I write on sets but before or after getting called to set to shoot. There’s something about the imminent interruption that is endlessly provocative. In other public places, I love to eavesdrop. If you want to learn how people speak, go to an emergency room. Usually, the worst day of people’s lives and wow are they deliberate in their speech. Not that I care what the content of a conversation is, I don’t really. It’s the incredible way that all of you construct your thoughts into sentences. Endlessly fascinating. Overhearing all of you has been and continues to be, so instructive. I did get busted once for eavesdropping and taking notes. On a New Jersey Transit train. I swore it was the people’s syntax that I was snatching but that did not prevent a flood of stink-eye from the eavesdropping police.
My own workspace at home: where do I start? Long before we left Los Angeles, my partner and me learned that I need my own space. I just do. I make a lot of noise. I listen to jazz, classical music, electronica, Weimar, chanson francaise. Or utter silence. I do dance breaks, push-ups. But mostly my attention is not drifting to others like my partner. In my current workroom, there are floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with fiction, poetry, plays, theory, reference books; a printer. I have a rocking reading chair we got a hundred years ago in Toronto from Ikea (I think). A cheap reading lamp with a very good bulb. A big Persian family heirloom rug that my partner lugged from Zimbabwe in his backpack for me. He had a day layover in Paris and the rug visited Pére Lachaise cemetery with him. He’d never been to the city before and watched the sunrise by Proust’s grave (where I have done sitting practice many times) with the rug on his back. It’s special. I also have my work desk and art-making table in the room. My work desk is where I am writing this and where I teach a number of writing classes and spend a lot of my time. I can see out the window here and watch the folks mosey by on our sleepy little street in our sleepy little-ish town. On the other wall is my art table. A few years ago, I began making sculpture poems built around medication bottles. In their small way, they speak volumes about what it’s like to live with HIV, trauma, and the rest. They seem to capture what I don’t think I ever could in words.
These spaces reflect what the constantly flowing and evolving river that writing is in my experience. I’m always slipping off the bank into the current and these spaces, even speeding down the highway or perched at a table in a public space, or here in my workspace. These sites are doorways that I enter.
vernon, thom. Two Years. Box series. Copper, polymer, steel, paper.
Les Immoralistes. Box series. Cardboard, polymer, steel, wood, paper. vernon, thom. Angel Climbing In. Boxes. Stone, copper, wood, plastic, polymer, steel, bamboo.
thom vernon is a writer, actor, and academic. Guernica Editions published his second novel, I Met Death & Sex Through My Friend, Tom Meuley in 2024.