“Where writers write when they can’t write where they like to write.”

From a NiemanStoryboard story by Matt Tullis headlined “Where writers write when they can’t write where they like to write”:

Tom Junod
Two-time National Magazine Award winner Tom Junod often writes from home. But not always, and especially not on deadline. In a recent Facebook post, he mentioned that when he is on deadline, he seeks refuge, places where he can’t procrastinate. He has often found that refuge in a couple of Starbucks’ cafes near his home, or at the public library.

Junod is on deadline now, for a book about his father. But under the pall of the coronavirus pandemic, his usual places of refuge are not available. In his Facebook post, Junod described what he’s ended up doing to find some quiet solitude:

“I go to church. No, don’t worry — I haven’t gone the way of those convinced that the pandemic heralds the fulfillment of the latest apocalyptic fantasy. But there’s a Baptist megachurch a mile-and-a-half from my house. It has parking lots — vast, plentiful and mostly empty. I drive there with a lap top and a bottle of water, climb into the backseat of the car, and, with the windows open, write.”
Sam Borden
There have been several changes that Sam Borden of ESPN has made when it comes to his signature in-depth features. But the biggest challenge has been location. He is used to writing in hotel rooms when he’s on a road trip for work. There, he was alone and could give his full attention to a story.


“I work in an office in my house, which is very near the kitchen and the kids’ play room. During the day when they’re at school, that’s fine. But now it’s taken on a different tenor in terms of volume and distraction. I’ve gotten very adept at being able to write while hearing music from ‘Frozen 2’ and ‘The Descendants.’” (Borden’s daughters are 6 and 9.)
Janet Reitman
Author, profiler and justice reporter Janet Reitmanthinks she is pretty lucky when it comes to changes that COVID-19 has forced in her work. For one, she still has projects to work on; she just finished an oral history, focused on the first fatal outbreak of the coronavirus in a federal prison, for the New York Times, and she is at work at another book.

So, as with the others, the biggest change for her is where she writes.

“I have, for years, worked at a different place because I like to go off to work. So I was renting space in a kind of co-working space. Now I’m working in a little home office. I close the door. My dog hangs out in the office with me all day. It’s a little bit of an adjustment. But I have a window. I’m looking out the window and there’s a beautiful garden and birds are chirping.”

Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez, a senior staff writer at Denver’s 5280 magazine and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine, Esquire, and Men’s Health, generally writes his stories in libraries. A creature of habit, he’s written at least 30 stories from the same three tables at the University of Denver library. Now he’s working on a big piece for 5280 that he knows he is going to have to write from home.

“Honestly, the idea scares me. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going to put together 5,000 words with a wife, two teenagers and a golden retriever puppy within close proximity.”

While the Colorado stay-at-home order might ease soon, Sanchez is unsure what that will look like — or if he would be willing to go where large groups of people might gather. That means he has to develop a new plan for his writing.

“That will probably mean very early mornings and very late nights, when the house is quiet. I’ll have to adjust my schedule, and I might go with less sleep for a couple weeks. If that helps my process, those changes will be worth it. I just hope this isn’t my new normal.”

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