August 20, 2006

My magic table.

I've got a little table -- I've written about it before -- that seems to have a magical capacity to concentrate my mind. It's all the way in the back of a Madison café, not a normal place for me to sit. I like the front, where people move around and talk and give you that real feeling of being out in the world, which seems to be the point of not working at home. But there's something about this table by the window, where the view when you look straight up is a bulletin board: "Stop Israeli Terror Now!" "Help Defeat Bush and the GOP," "Demand Zero Emission Cars," "Demonstrate Against Hate," "Womyn's Coop," "Lay Low and Glow," "The Power to Heal Is In Your Hands," "Depression and Brain Changes Research Study." Something keeps me focused. I sat here once and wrote an op-ed on a 3-hour deadline. Last time I was here, I ran into a colleague who had a writing project spread out on a table. A novel, he revealed. Are all the lawprofs writing novels these days? A week ago, I checked out lawprof Jed Rubenfeld's new novel and noted how he said his agent steered him away from a law book: People want to read novels. But I'm not here to start a novel, even though once, a long time ago, I wrote a novel, I was kind of inspired by an essay today about those summer camps for writers, and I even had a dream last night that I was writing a novel. What was the novel about? I can't remember! And I'm at my little magic table here now because I've got another little law essay to do.

12 comments:

PatCA said...

Your little table sounds like a good writer's habit, the thing that gets you in the zone. You should try a writer's retreat--you never know what wonderful ideas lie waiting to be discovered under the thin ice of everyday life.

I was a member of a very productive writing group, and many went on these retreats. However, 9/11 and the following blood feuds over politics destroyed it. Maybe we need a centrist retreat?

Ann Althouse said...

My whole house is already a writer's retreat! I was reading that article, wondering what I would get that I don't have. I think it's: a more confined space, someone else getting my food for me, and other writers in the vicinity.

PatCA said...

And an absence of routine! When everything is new, it upsets the comfort level, and that opens up one's creative process.

One writing teacher recommended we break up our comfort level in order to open up--something as simple as stopping the newspaper.

I'd like to try this one. http://www.all-story.com/belize.cgi

Rick Lee said...

I have had many such places that I go to concentrate on a project. I find that I have to keep changing the place. As soon as I get used to one place, then I can't concentrate there any longer.

ignacio said...

You've spoken several times about how you don't like to read or wish to read fiction -- or, at least, contemporary fiction. But you once wrote a novel? If it was published it seems like you would have mentioned it.

So when you make broad pronouncements about contemporary fiction, it does make one wonder, just a little, just a tiny bit, exactly what might be going on.

Ann Althouse said...

Ignacio: I never published it. Anyway, I don't say that I never read novels. I say that I usually read nonfiction and tend to prefer it and that I'm very picky about which novels I want to read. I think most of them are bad. I don't read novels just as an amusing way to pass the time. I'm terribly bored by most of the crap novelists put in novels and I don't think most of the people who become novelists are very astute in their observations. A lot of them are depressed, too, which means they have distorted perceptions.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

"Womyn's Coop,"

Is that where they keep the hens?

David Walser said...

Okay, so you never published it. That's far more than most of us have done.

How about self-publishing it as a download? Your many fans would love a chance to read it -- even if it makes us appreciate your non-fiction writing all the more.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, but I don't stand by it. I don't believe in self-published fiction anyway. Certainly not something written long ago (in the 80s). It really doesn't represent me at all. I'm probably lucky it's not out there. I'd be embarrassed.

Christy said...

Now where did I read that having finished a novel, published or not, makes one a true writer?

What excited me in the Sunday Book Review was news of a good bio of Science Fiction writer James Tiptree, Jr. and a new translation of The Three Musketeers."
For us sci-fi reading girls, discovering the popular Tiptree was actually a highly competent woman whose life included real adventure was delicious beyond belief. As for The Three Musketeers, what can I say? I know it came from a novel factory, but I love it.

Maxine Weiss said...

"I don't think most of the people who become novelists are very astute in their observations. A lot of them are depressed, too, which means they have distorted perceptions."----Ann

Like who?

Can we name names?

Uh-oh.

Peace, Maxine

Frank Borger said...

"Stop Israeli Terror Now!" "Help Defeat Bush and the GOP," "Demand Zero Emission Cars," "Demonstrate Against Hate," "Womyn's Coop," "Lay Low and Glow," "The Power to Heal Is In Your Hands," "Depression and Brain Changes Research Study."

Hey, take all the above, mix in some gratuitous sex, and you too can write the next NY Times top book. (At least it would surely sell in NYNY CA, and Madison.)