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? Get your Freedom on and join Luis Jaramillo, director of the Creative Writing Program for some fresh sour dough bread and a bay view that is East of Eden.
Where do you write?
I write in the living room/kitchen part of my one-bedroom apartment. The coffee pot and the refrigerator are a few steps away from the couch. The room is bright, and I like looking out the windows when I need a break.
Stand, sit or other?
I write on the couch, with my back against the armrest, and my legs stretched out in front of me. It’s a supremely lazy position, and one that provides maximum physical support for my body. One problem is that as the morning progresses, I slip further and further down, ending up with my head resting on the armrest, my laptop propped up on my belly. Not good. When I’m done writing for the day, the couch turns into my New School office.
What is your writing practice?
I write every morning for at least an hour, often longer, but never for more than 4 hours. If I’m generating new work, I usually have a word count I’m shooting for, usually 500-1000 words. I tend to get up early, 6 or 7ish. I make coffee and have breakfast while I look at the internet. This browsing is a real problem. The only way I can actually get anything done is to turn on Freedom, a program that blocks internet access. Once Freedom is activated, I feel such relief. You’d think I’d learn my lesson, but then I go through the same tedious struggle every morning.
What are your favorite procrastinations?
Looking at the news online. Shopping online. Doing “research” online. Looking at real estate online.
We live in interesting times, which book/author keeps you sane/grounded?
Over the winter break I read all of Alan Hollinghurst’s books, one after another. Hollinghurst’s prose is so good that it makes the rest of the world temporarily go away. I recently reread East of Eden. I’d forgotten what a wild book it is--Steinbeck breaks all sorts of rules having to do with structure and voice. I love to be reminded that you can do whatever you want as a writer.
What is your new skill learned during the shutdowns of the Pandemic
Like lots of other people, I learned how to make sourdough bread. It’s a two day process made up of a lot of simple steps: feeding the starter, making the dough, babysitting the dough while it rises, putting the dough in the fridge to rise very slowly overnight, and then baking the bread. The day the dough rises, my timer goes off every half hour, and that gets me up off the couch regularly.
What is your dream writing space?
Speaking of John Steinbeck, The New York Times just published an article about the house Steinbeck bought in Sag Harbor in the 1950s. The house is now for sale for $17.9 million, a bit outside my price range. I wonder if the owners would just sell me the writing shack?
Luis Jaramillo is the author of The Doctor’s Wife, winner of the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Contest, an Oprah Book of the Week, and one of NPR’s Best Books of 2012. Luis’s fiction and nonfiction has also appeared in Tin House, Lit Hub and the Chattahoochee Review, among many other publications. He is the Director of Creative Writing at The New School.