Monday, May 30, 2011

trouble is on the road again

About a year ago, a very nice group of bloggers e-mailed INTERN asking if she would like to participate in a "where I write" thingy where you send in a photo of your writing space. At the time, INTERN was feeling very Secretive and declined in what she hopes was a gracious and not too paranoid-seeming manner. However, INTERN currently finds herself in a time of great reflection regarding living and writing spaces. Here, therefore, is INTERN's belated answer.

For most of the past year, INTERN lived and wrote in a 1985 Toyota pickup truck with a fiberglass camper on top. After a three-month sojourn at a friend's cabin, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend returned to their van this week:

Yes, it's beautiful. Here is a picture of the inside:

INTERN's relationship with her van is complex. Like some sort of vehicular monkey's paw, it's come to represent a host of different things to INTERN, a lot of them tied up with her convictions and fears about being a writer. If you want to talk about universal themes, here are some of INTERN's as regards her writing space:

Pride: INTERN bought her "home" with a chunk of the advance for her first book. That little flare of hope and pride she felt in being able to support herself as a writer/editor (even if it meant living in a van) was a precious thing.

Despair: Sometimes, INTERN sees the van as a symbol of her failure to succeed in the "real world" and a reminder that her last three attempts at holding down "real jobs" to pay the rent ended in embarrassing psychiatric kersnarfles.

Freedom: Living like a nomad has given INTERN the freedom to survive as a writer/editor, and provided a context in which her mental quirks don't matter nearly as much as they do in a "normal" context.

Trappedness: The longer you live like a nomad, the harder it becomes to find your way back into a more stable existence. Suddenly, the prospect of finding a place to live and paying rent feels like an outlandishly difficult proposition.

Determination: INTERN and Techie Boyfriend are determined to find a life in which they can write and create and dream and spend 99% of their time together, even if it means enduring the occasional existential freakout on INTERN's part.

On more than on occasion, INTERN has issued bitter ultimatums regarding the van: INTERN cannot live in that thing, INTERN cannot write in that thing (as it turns out, INTERN both finished a novel and signed with her agent while living in or out of “that thing” which indicates that in fact, INTERN can.) If the van has taught INTERN one thing about writing, it's that you can't be precious about it. You won't always have an "acceptable" writing space, or power for your laptop, or a stable environment/life (conversely, if you have a job and family, you might not have as much time as you want). If you want to write, you have to do it anyway.

As INTERN and Techie Boyfriend head off on their next adventure, INTERN returns to her Toyota writing room with a mixture of excitement and wistfulness. The future is more than cloudy—it's completely friggin' opaque. Writing (and writing this blog in particular) are the one constant. And that makes all the despairing moments completely worthwhile.


INTERN wants to know: where do you write? What does your writing space say about you? What's the weirdest place you've ever slept?


  1. Ha! The whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking about the Chris Farley SNL sketch where he yells, "You'll be living in a VAN down by the RIVER!"

    I think you're nomadic tendencies are both admirable and slightly crazy. I like it.

    As to where I write, it's not nearly as interesting. Usually on my couch with my trusty ol' lap top (I've named him Macchu Picchu).

    The weirdest place I've ever slept (for an extended period of time) was in a dining room.

    Long story, small house, I was a teenager, mom divorcing, yadda yadda yadda. The worst part was the lack of privacy. The dining room had two doors, one to my sisters room, one to my mom's room, and one doorway (no door) to the kitchen.

    I was inordinately happy when we moved and I got my own room with ONE closable door.


  2. I write anywhere I can... the best place ever is in the house we are currently selling, it had more rooms than two people need... so I turned one into a library/office with hanging plants, good lighting and a bed for the dog to sleep on.

    Worst place... probably in any one of numerous airports. I think LAX is particularly horrible.

    Weirdest place I've slept? If it's a one-night thing, then in the old hollowed out, rotten stump of a tree probably hundreds of years old. The interior of the stump was about 2 meters across and it was damp and oddly soft (no tent, tarp or sleeping pad). I remember trying very hard not to imagine what might be crawling over my sleeping bag in the darkness.

  3. I hope that you do reveal your real name someday, Intern. I want to read your books!

  4. Marewolf, I thought of Chris Farley too.

    Best place I've written: On the green outside the Jane Austen's House Museum in Chawton, UK. Beautiful, and very inspiring for someone who writes Austenalia.

    Worst place I've written: Starbucks. I know, people love writing there, but I cannot do it. Their music competes with mine, and all the people coming and going distract me.

    Weirdest place I've slept: In an Italian train station after wandering Venice during the wee hours of the morning. It was December 13 and absolutely freezing outside, so the room was filled with the local homeless population. My friend was paranoid we would be robbed, so she stayed awake while I slept.

  5. Hey! Congrats on signing with an agent. That must feel great.

  6. where do you write?
    Currently, at my tiny desk in my tiny triple-occupancy dorm room. Sometimes I just curl up on my top bunk and write up there -- I find I can pretend I have a little privacy that way.

    What does your writing space say about you?
    Currently, it either says that I'm a complete slob or that I'm one week away from finals. Thankfully, the latter is accurate. It says that I need more space. It says that I read a lot of books, and thanks to my small collection of sea creature leftovers (abalone shell, snail operculum, sea urchin test) it says that I lurve the ocean.

    What's the weirdest place you've ever slept?
    In a car. On an old folks' recliner in a rest home. In a nursing station on my lunchbreak. In the library.

  7. Good for you for completing your novel in your "Toyota writing room" (I love that phrase), especially because many people with fancy, expensive writing spaces don't even get that far.
    I like writing in coffeehouses, because somehow the atmosphere and the access to coffee and chocolate fuel my writing. But as a broke grad student, I can't really afford to write in cafes all the time. I don't like writing in my apartment, though, because I have issues with both spiders and my neighbors. (The spiders are less annoying.)
    When your novel goes on sale, will you include a link to it on Amazon or let us know where we can buy it?

  8. Writing: anywhere I can hide from my kids.

    Weirdest place I've slept: Airport in Santiago, Chile. They had an earthquake.

  9. Oh my God! This is totally my dream. Has been Unfortunately, I have three kids and a husband who are totally rooted to our rural space. So not in this lifetime. Probably.

    Anyway, that is a beautiful writing space-- perfect size, simply perfect. Enjoy it!

  10. I write in my orange bedroom. What it says about me is that I still live with my parents (BOO). And the weirdest place I've ever slept is.... on a leather couch maybe. I know, sheltered life.

  11. Today I wrote in the laundromat while waiting for my clothes to dry and it was pretty productive. I think I will try it again soon.

  12. I write at a desk in my little condo in Minneapolis but I'm jealous of the van and the cabin as writing space.

  13. I'm not quite as nomadic, but I'm in the process of transitioning between writing locales: Also, I am relieved to learn I'm not the only one with mental quirks and existential freakouts.
    Weirdest place I've ever slept: mentally speaking, in my ex's sister's bedroom, which was decorated completely in teal. Physically speaking, face down on the tray table of an airplane.

  14. Nancy and Marewolf: living in a van makes INTERN think of the Afroman song "I LIVE IN A VAN" Some choice lyrics:

    My name is afroman
    I live in the back of a chevrolet van
    Everynight somewhere new
    Smoking weed, drinkin brew

    Pretty, sort of....

  15. Perri: you could get one that doesn't run, stick it in the backyard, and use itas a writing room! fuel efficient, too.

  16. 1000th monkey: AMAZING TREE STUMP STORY. INTERN once slept very very very high in a tree, which was interesting when she woke up in the middle of the night and had to pee.

  17. everyone: OHHH reading these comments is making INTERN's day...thanks to all of you!!!

  18. I think the nomad life is cool. Yes, I moved to Japan, knowing no Japanese and on half a whim. I write at my desk at the office during breaks, and at the heated table at home :)

  19. I believe a lot of your equivocation would be solved if you changed the curtains. The colour is very burgundy for want of a better word. And as for the pattern - fifties floral?

  20. Oh, this post brought back memories. Not of writing in a camper – totally want to do that someday – but of the cement room in India where I wrote my first novel. Geckos skittering along the walls, my neighbors constantly screaming at each other in Hindi and Tamil, flicking ants off the keyboard of my laptop. (What is it with ants and laptops?)

    I too am waiting for Intern to out herself so I can buy the book.

  21. i have an actual "writing room", one with a door and a window and everything. unfortunately, it also has all of my clothes, many of my books, most of my board games, CDs, papers, homebrewing supplies, albums... and so much strewn around on my desktop (various manuscript revisions, candles, PeeWee's Playhouse figures) that I have barely enough room for the keyboard.

    (it also has a 4' x 6' poster of London from 1823 that i printed, taped together and mounted on posterboard for my first book... a book that for years left me with a big red "F" for FAIL on my chest. now that i'm writing other books and know what needs to be done for that book, i can look at the map again without feeling the brand of that "F" on my skin.)

    so, i tend to do most of my writing on my laptop either in bed, at the dining room table or at the coffee table in our living room. i've found the best place for doing revisions is during my daily bus ride to and from werk. it's a good 45+ minutes of uninterrupted time with me, my manuscript and a red pen that scribbles even more shakily than if i was scribbling at home.

    the weirdest place i ever slept? this is going to sound really boring, but... i got nuthin. sorry.

    -- Tom

  22. Best places: back porch of our house or in a cafe that is white-noiseful with people talking.

    Weirdest place to sleep? Apparently I haven't lived my life right.

  23. At a little desk in my rental condo next to the patio door,over looking the Caribbean Sea. No wheels under me, but we move a lot, fortunately I'm with the right guy because he's always ready to go onto the next adventure. I also write some of my best stuff, in my head, while bobbing in the water.

    Weirdest place I've ever slept: probably EL train in Chicago.

  24. Is that you in the front of the van, or a blow-up doll?

  25. Weirdest place I've ever slept was in a bathroom (don't ask how I got there, on account of my not being able to remember - must have been a good night out).

    My best writing space is somewhere where nobody else is - I'm a very solitary writing creature.

  26. Intern I just bought a 1984 toyota mirage and just stripped the whole thing. I was wondering if you would post some more pictures. I am a retiring teacher and planning on hitting the road as soon as I fix it up.....your adventure just got every fiber in my body excited.

  27. hey tom! INTERN would be happy to send you some van pictures--just shoot INTERN an e-mail and she will hook you up :)