Writing spaces are as varied as the individuals who occupy them. The range of “space” we enter for our writing practice is a wide, wild field from tidy to random, from Maya Angelou in a sparse hotel room to Marcel Proust in bed, from Jane Austen at the kitchen table to you: what does your writing space look like? Reset your timer with third year MFA in Fiction / Nonfiction student Alex Vara for a bike ride through strange worlds.
Where do you write?
I write lying in my Murphy bed. I live in a small studio, hence the Murphy bed. I started writing in bed last fall after Luis suggested to our workshop to find a place to write where we feel supported. I thought, What’s more supportive than my bed? It was great for this school year but lately, my body has been rebelling. Too much of anything isn’t good.
Stand, sit or other?
Lately, I write mostly lying on my back in bed with my knees up to support my laptop, and a pillow or two under my head.
What is your writing practice?
I always wish for a more rhythmic writing practice but something that has been helping recently are pomodoros: timed writing sessions. Elissa Bassist introduced me to them in her Humor Writing Master class my first year. I set my timer for 20 minutes (Bassist suggested 25 but that was far too long for me;) and I tell myself “20 minutes, that’s nothing,” and I write or stare at my computer for twenty minutes. By the end of the first pomodoro, I usually want to reset the timer and do another. It’s a trick that gets me writing. I need to trick myself to write.
What are your favorite procrastinations?
I have many. Some of my latest favorites are scrolling through StreetEasy apartment hunting, watching performances from The Voice (I became a fan during lockdown last Spring), or silly videos of animals or babies on Instagram. Here’s a one of my latest favorites:
We live in interesting times, which book/author keeps you sane/grounded?
During this thesis semester, I’ve read mostly history books but during winter break, I binge listened to the audiobooks of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, and The Hunger Games Series. After taking Shelley Jackson’s Strange Worlds, Strange Words seminar in the fall, and finding myself oddly comforted by the dystopian lit we were reading, all I wanted to read/listen to were stories about dystopian worlds. They’re both distracting and feel more relatable during the pandemic. I’m excited to get back to dystopian novels post thesis.
What is your new skill learned during the shutdowns of the Pandemic
It’s not a new skill but a new love. I bought a bike in the fall, a shining silver single speed, and I’ve become a bit obsessed. Love riding around the city adventuring to new places.
What is your dream writing space?
A porch in Brooksville, Maine, a small town on the coast. I moved to New York for the program from Brooksville. It’s is one of my favorite places in the world. Summer in Maine is pure magic. There’s a reason it’s called Vacationland. I wasn’t able to visit last summer due to the pandemic but plan to drive up after graduation. I can’t wait to write outside, barefoot, and with a cup of coffee looking out on this view.
Alex Vara is a third year Fiction/Nonfiction student originally from Mill Valley, CA. She’s the host of TNS After Hours, a WriteOn Fellow, and public speaking teacher. She’s damn sad to be graduating. And she could use some more biking buddies.