Where to Write When the Lights are Out

Spilled Ink Issue 86 Jul, 2010
Text by Don Messerschmidt / Photo: ECS Media

The New Year is here in the New Nepal, and the lights are dimmer than ever. How does a writer get on under such circumstances? Where does a writer – of articles, books, poetry, love letters, or a research report – go to find electricity and the Internet and a cuppa tea or coffee to go with it? I’ve just given away the answer: to a cyber café, or a restaurant with electricity and Wi-Fi (or hotel lobby, an aunt’s house, or your friend’s place...). When your locale is darkened by load-shedding, and your laptop’s battery is running low (or your desktop computer simply doesn’t operate without bijuli), start looking.

If you can’t write anywhere but at your desk at home, you’ve got a problem. If that’s the case, lighten up, ‘Be Flexible’ (a good life motto) and ‘Be Creative’ (another).

Above all, writers need space. A table big enough for your laptop computer with room for some papers and books on the side. Or, if you have to use a cyber café’s own dedicated computer, look for enough room to spread out your notes and perhaps a few source books, newspapers or magazines, and a drink on the side.

location is next: an uncrowded space with an electrical outlet, good lighting, and appropriate ambience. If you need auxiliary information at your fingertips, you’ll also want Wi-Fi for that all-important Internet connection for fact-checking (and sending emails).

Noise is a key consideration – the less the better. There’s nothing worse for a writer who is concentrating on getting a crucial phrase straightened out than sitting amidst a lot of disruptive clamor. If you can’t avoid it, consider using an iPod or some other electronic device with ear phones and mellow music to mask the commotion.

What research supplies do you need? Writing instructors will suggest pen, pencil and pad, and reference material; but with the right software on your computer, you can easily get by without the printed versions. A digital dictionary that’s only a click away on your computer desktop is a good investment. A digital notepad function separate from your main writing software is also convenient.

Physical comfort is always important. If you are thirsty and there’s nothing to drink, or the chair is too hard, or the lighting too dim, or the crowd too boisterous, you simply won’t be able to work up to par. You may have to shop around to find the right venue with the right table and comfortable chair. And, how to dress? In a public place you’ll want to look respectable, though some writers I know appear mildly shabby at times. My best fashion advice is dress comfortably. If it’s winter, wear something warm, especially for the time you spend on the street getting there and back.

Even the view may be important, though you may not have much choice. Still, there are comfortable cyber cafés and restaurants with Wi-Fi in town that have a nice ambience, with gardens, sunny roof top venues and the like. Check them out; but be prepared to buy a drink, or lunch, or some snack (and not spill crumbs on your keyboard) if you choose a commercial venue. Otherwise, the management may ask you and your blockbuster novel, your feature article, your travel journal, or your love poems to move on.

The major downside to working outside your regular writing space is the availability of a printer. So, save it for later, when the lights are back on at home. And, truth be known, if you don’t have a computer you can write just as well with pen and paper. But, in the dark? Not easy. So, that cyber café and a hot cuppa whatever still beckons. And don’t forget to tip the waiter.

Good writing! – wherever and however ...  

Don Messerschmidt may be contacted at don.editor@gmail.com.