Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Odd Spaces for Reading and Writing?

Random thought: 
Where do you write? If you don't write, where do you read?

I was thinking about the two years I lived in Hong Kong working as a teacher. I had a 30 min train trip to and from school everyday and used the time to consume a number of novels. More than once I missed my stop because I was paying absolutely no attention to the stations flying past. More than once I missed my stop AND had no extra money to buy a return ticket to the stop I should have exited at. I discovered I knew enough Cantonese and sign language to bum money off perfect strangers. I thank you random Chinese strangers. 
I also managed to miss getting off the lift in my apartment building because I was reading. I traveled all the way to the 39th floor and right back down to the ground again, barely noticing others getting on and off. I got some strange looks from the door man in the basement. But I was used to that. He was my favourite person to practise my Cantonese on.

We did a heap of flying in and out of HK that year, I wasn't a massive fan of Hong Kong, it had about 7 million people too many. But I now look back on all those flights and wish I had the same amount of uninterrupted reading time. Cathay Pacific probably still have a number of my books. I never could remember to take them with me when we landed. 

When we later moved to Denver I no longer had train trips or so many flights; flying out of the US proved a bit more expensive. But I did have snow storms and tornadoes. Coming back over the Rockies late one evening at the end of a ski weekend, my husband and I were stuck in the kind of traffic that makes you wonder if you are ever, ever going to see the car move again. A snow storm was forecast and every man and his skis were trying to make it back into Denver before they closed the Eisenhower Tunnel. Yep, plenty of time for reading. That little trip took eight hours!

The school I taught at in Denver was once placed in locked down due to a tornado that had touched down some miles from us, but looked to be heading in our direction. Thank God it never did head in our direction. Those things can be heard miles away... anyway, myself, my teaching partner and the 45 kids we taught were huddled under desks (God only knows what good they think desks are going to be if a tornado hits!) and needless to say, we were all quite anxious. I could reach the class book rack from where I was huddled and began reading. It seemed to calm everyone's nerves, not to mention mine. I thought Denver was far removed from tornado valley, but apparently they get there far share. I read through a pile of books in the two hours we were stuck in that room. When we were all allowed to come out and the threat of being blown away had passed, the kids turned to me and said, "Can we do that again, Mrs. Bird?"  
Yeah... Nah!

My life's not quite so exciting anymore... but I have read a number of picture books to my toddler from the floor of the bathroom while trying to encourage him to stay put on the loo and go potty. Mmmm... how things have changed. 

Now that I write I have been known to curl up with my laptop just about anywhere comfy. The couch (although, when the toddler thought he have a play on my computer I quickly abandoned that idea), my bed and the backyard are some of my favourite spaces for writing. Occasionally, I take a note book and pen (remember those?) and actually make marks on a page (shock!)- then I have freedom to move around a bit more without fear of destroying the computer. I have written on trains, by the beach, in the park, in the car waiting for school to get out. But really no place is safe. Like most writers I stuff paper and pens in lots of places, so I can get those begging, pleading nagging thoughts down on paper and move on with life. The trick is to not let those scribblings go through the wash. Not so readable after that happens!

This got me thinking about the spaces writers use to craft their words and the places readers go to read them. The Guardian did a whole profile on writer's rooms.  I know, I know I should be writing not wasting time,  but I found this site and the photos fascinating. But then people's lives fascinate me. 

So, I was wondering , where are some of the more unusual places you have read or written? 


  1. I'm just like you with writing. I can write anywhere. I take my laptop and curl up whereever feels comfortable, or whichever room in the house is most entertaining to my son at the time. Right now, I'm on the couch in the living room. :) Fun post!

  2. My favorite place to read is in the tub, and I always keep pen and paper there too. (Maybe this is a side effect from having three kidlets in 36 months plus two step-kids? It was/is the only quiet place in the house.) :)

  3. Hey, I got stuck on the west side of the Eisenhower Tunnel two weeks ago coming back from climbing a 14'er! I can't read or write in the car because it makes me nauseous. Oh well. Some of the more unusual places I've written...In the box office at a movie theater (when I worked there years ago), on a scrap of paper at church :D (sorry, but when you get good ideas, you just have to write them down), and many pages on a plane to Vietnam. I can pretty much write anywhere! Cool topic!

  4. I don't have any funny places that I read, just whenever I can but a lot of the time I am breast feed one child have another one climb over me while the 3 child is asking me to find a toy. Don't they see I'm busy reading... I'm not a writer so I get this great girl friend of mine to do the writing for me... LOL she is great..

  5. Katie- I know what you mean about writing where the kids are! It may not be quiet, but at least you get something done, hey!
    Angie- I never thought of writing in the tub. That may become my new obsession...
    Cindy-bummer about not being able to write in the car. The Eisenhower Tunnel often provides heaps of 'spare' time, hey :) And I agree, when you have good ideas they have to be written.
    Shelly- Thanks girl. You rock too! :) And I think kids are blind to parents with books in hand! VERY blind :)