by Ethan Cohen
I was recently taken aback by a friend being taken aback that I do not write creatively on the subway. “I do it all the time,” he said. “There are so many people around. It is invigorating.” And, in any case, he explained, the ride from anywhere downtown to his summer apartment in Harlem is too long to waste.
The location of the act of writing is often a cute little topic that writers and readers chuckle about. While it is not the most important factor in the act, it is highly underrated. If you challenged a writer to write on the same idea or feeling in two different locations– say, a park and a basement– you would simply receive two different works of art. But the greatest misconception is not the denial of that, but the belief that “good writers” will inherently write well, if differently, wherever they are. But in reality the act of writing is like an Internet connection– in different locations, it is either strong or weak, not different.
If you put me on the subway to write I would produce lamely repetitive, dry, lousy prose. First of all, I cannot write without clean hands – that is, free of grime and sweat. Second, I have trouble thinking creatively with the distraction of marking the stops and remaining aware of my surroundings. Third, the superiority complex irritates me– a writer doing zir work in the midst of urban passers-by, the possible roots of stories, seems uncomfortably colonial.
I prefer a library with schoolmates or a solitary room, clean and during the night. Most importantly, I demand an extreme of lucidity– either complete clarity of emotion and thought or complete misunderstanding of my mind. The in-between is banal, and it is here that the naïve writer falls under Eliot’s immortal warning:
“The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him ‘personal.’”
Black Lotus by Lita Lepie
"Possibly one of the most artful colloquial narratives of the past decade."
- E. Cohen
"My only criticism is that it wasn’t long enough..."
"...film noir in a book..."
"Awareness of race, gender and sexual orientation shades [Black Lotus] with great depth..."