Finding the right workspace, for me, involved a lot of trial and error. In the end, this workspace turned out to be in some undergrowth.
It might not look luxurious, but there’s room for everything I need: a cup of tea, a reference volume or two, a spiral notebook and pen, and of course my IMAGINATION. I just scooch down there in the peat and let her go wild.
It has often been observed, and rightly, that a writer must be an insider and an outsider at the same time. I have never felt closer to this elusive and desirable condition than when hunkered down in some bushes.
Because most people tend to spend their time in cars and buildings and such, places like hedges and shrubbery are usually pretty underpopulated, so you can get plenty of peace and quiet. On the other hand, people walk past bushes all the time, having their conversations and arguments and whatnot—so if you get stuck for dialogue or characterization, why, all you have to do is sit tight and keep your ears open!
I won’t say there are no disadvantages down here, but, for a writer, it all balances out. The other day, some kind of groundskeeper started jabbing around my workspace with one of those litter collectors, knocked over my teacup, and almost stabbed me in the eye… and when I politely requested him to be more careful, he started yelling and carrying on as if I was the invasive one! This would have been really trying for most people, but for a writer it’s not as big a deal. I’m just gonna put him in my next book.
Elif Batuman’s first book, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (FSG, 2010), was a 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist. She writes for the New Yorker and is currently writer-in-residence at Koç University in Istanbul, where this photograph was taken. Information about Elif Batuman’s life and thoughts can be found on her blog, My Life and Thoughts.
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