Recently, I suggested another bookmark for you: Medium. And it was on Medium that I found Adam Lashinsky’s thoughtful take on thoughtful writing.
Like the rest of us, Lashinsky is busy. He writes for Fortune magazine. He comments on tech things on TV. He co-chairs a well-known tech conference. And he’s got a cell phone, email, meetings to attend and all the rest of it. For that reason, he sought out a writing cave.
I’ve written before about the many different environments that writers find. Because I write and read a lot, I suppose, I’m always interested in where my heroes ply their trade. There are physical requirements, of course. Most want a well-lit place, an upright chair, etc. But when Lashinsky talks about his writing cave (the local library), he’s really talking about a psychological construct – a place where he is left to his thoughts.
It’s important and increasingly hard to find. Multitasking is a myth. If you aren’t focused on the most important task at hand, you are distracted. And distracted writers rush. They don’t spell well, they bruise transitions, they write boring ledes and descend into their subject chronologically, as if falling into a cave from which no reader will ever escape. …
Look, I’m not naïve. I see you there, shaking your head. It’s hard to find a place – in your mind as well as in the physical sense – where you are free to concentrate. We are all pulled in a thousand directions at work. I get around that with a home office. It’s filled with books and old records. It just so happens there is a fireplace there. It’s where I often go to write stories and editorials for the Review. Because I can’t afford to spend my days there, I write best at night or early in the morning, before the distractions of the day.
I don’t have to write there. I also write at my desk at work, of course. And I’ve written serviceable stories from the floors of police stations, stadium press boxes, government chambers and nearly everywhere else. When I can’t get to my writing cave, I try to recreate that space in my head by letting the phone ring to voicemail and staying focused.
Another favorite place is the noisy downtown coffee shop. I’m writing this at a Starbucks in Menlo Park, Calif., an hour before I’m due at my kid’s school for career day. I’m going to tell the smart, fresh-faced teenagers that I write for a living and there is no better use of your time. I might even mention my writing cave.