This article is my Atomic Essay #1 in the January Ship 30 for 30 writing challenge.
I used to think writers wrote in silence
Before I went off to college to “become a writer,” I had a very specific image in my mind of what it meant to write.
- I thought writers wrote by windowpanes sipping coffee.
- I thought writers had classical music playing softly in the background.
- I thought writers wore chapeaus and smoked cigarettes and waited for inspiration to strike them over the head.
For many years, I tried for this to be my definition of “a writer.”
I would go to great lengths to hide myself away in a room somewhere, undisturbed. I would get frustrated if someone walked in on me halfway through depantsing my subconscious. I would deem any writing not done in silence “sub par,” because I believed it was impossible for The Holy Spirit Of Creativity to flow through me unless I was stuck in a trance.
I equated writing to magic.
It wasn’t until I graduated college, moved into a small studio apartment in Chicago with no AC, and stepped foot into the working world that I realized a terrible truth:
The world wasn’t going to be quiet while I tried to write.
The only way I was going to get any writing done was by embracing the noise.
I started reading and writing on the noisy, homeless-stenched train to work. I wrote in espresso-hissing coffee shops and silverware-clanging restaurants. And later, after I had quit my 9–5 to become a full-time writer, I wrote in megaphone-filled airports, bouncing cabs, and even on my phone in the bathroom drunk in the middle of fancy dinners.
I wrote everywhere. And instead of seeing the world’s noise as a distraction from my spell, I listened — and used it all as inspiration.