Here, author Lisa Freeman shares some of the weirdest places she's ever written. In preparation for this article, we also asked our Twitter followers to share the strangest places they've penned a story or article. Find their answers below Lisa's story.
Anywhere can be my writing zone if I’m willing to give up the idea that it has to be comfortable. Writing is often a combative experience. I find myself fighting the elements, hunting down a place to work like a desperate conquistador searching for gold. I will not stop until I find it. This quest has led me to some very weird places.
Years ago in Culver City, there used to be an ice-skating rink on Sepulveda Blvd. It was a landmark in Los Angeles with a giant statue of a girl doing a layback spin, arms high over her head. Kids from all over town, including one of my daughters, would converge for lessons after school. The parking lot was notoriously famous for fender benders caused by parents rushing to drop off their car pools or trying to fit large SUVs in the last compact space.
On the typical 98-plus degree afternoon, I would be schlepping my parka, scarf, and wool blanket, dripping in sweat. I entered the rink, relieved by the icy air and stink of French fries and hot chocolate. Thankfully, my daughter was in her figure skating phase, which provided me with enough time to write my first YA novel, Honey Girl. If ice-skating weren’t such a wicked sport, I would have encouraged her to continue and go pro, just for a consistent space to work.
Once my daughter was on the ice, I donned my gear and ordered a large Styrofoam cup of hot water. It cost me $1.00 since I brought my own tea bags. To the sound of six teachers in different sections yelling to students, I carefully hiked up to the top bleacher, with nods and hellos to the cliques of moms I passed. It took me two years before I realized that the thermoses they were drinking out of were filled with hot toddies, screwdrivers, and scotch. Finally, I understood why they were having so much fun.
There was only one electrical outlet, and I sat next to it, bundled up with fingerless gloves and a wool ski hat. Once my laptop got warm, it was downright cozy. A 90-minute class and practice after allowed me to float into my story. But every half hour or so I gave myself permission to look up and wave at my fearless daughter. Then, I would fall back into my novel, dreaming of Hawaii in 1972 on a warm tropical day, leaving the frigid air far behind.
The theme of cold in my weird places continued when I ended up in Idaho one winter with some friends who skied black-diamond runs. Since I can barely snow plow, I happily opted out knowing I would have uninterrupted writing time. I searched for a table by a sun-soaked window to watch the snowfall. Unfortunately, it was Christmas Day. There wasn’t a chair to be found.
I looked upstairs, where it was even more crowded, and wandered into the women’s bathroom. It had at least 20 independent rooms that served as stalls. I quickly found an unused one way in the back, locked the door, and set up my office. The toilet made an excellent research table. The floor became my chair and the jacket over my lap became my desk. I worked for over two hours. When I finally came out of my writing stupor and heard the flushing all around me, I was so freaked out, I had to leave.
I’ve written at rainy funerals, Rosh Hashanah services, and in the Matterhorn line at Disneyland. But the weirdest place I’ve ever worked was next to an enclosed MRI machine while my daughter had a scan done. It was a precautionary medical procedure after she was rear-ended on the freeway. She was stiff, but moving, another mother’s prayer answered. Maybe that’s why I could entertain the space to write in. As I put on a pair of headphones that resembled the kind workers on tarmacs use to direct planes, I watched my daughter bravely disappear into the tube until only her toes were visible.
The voice of a technician came over the speaker into the small room. There would be five scans that would take at least half an hour. That day, I thought 30 minutes of writing time was something to celebrate, even under such sketchy conditions.
Then the sounds began.
First, a bass-y ching-ching-ching reverberated under my skin. I immediately thought, maybe this isn’t the best place to write, especially when a flashing light reflected out of the MRI machine and the jackhammering sound started. But it was too late. I was committed.
The air conditioner blasted, turning the room into a refrigerated vault. I tried to use Riptide Summer, the second book in the series I was editing, to warm my thoughts, but this time it didn’t work. Then a new sound, a da-da-da, da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da, pounded like the opening chords of The Beatles’ song Helter Skelter. I looked at what I was writing. It resembled a crossword puzzle, fragmented with gaping holes, but I continued. Come on, I told myself. You’ve been to heavy metal concerts louder than this.
And then it happened. The machine gun patter began to fade. I no longer felt like I was inside a dryer, spinning. As I wrote, I thought, is this craft or insanity? I used the noise, I used the worry, I used the agitation, and I used the fear I felt for my daughter, tossing it onto the page, unpacking all my feelings into a character’s voice, word after word. The tension in the back of my neck released as this unpredictable twist of falling into the groove freed me. I didn’t know if I’d use any of it, but it didn’t matter, because I was writing.
We also asked our Twitter followers to share their weirdest writing spots. Here are some of their answers:
Where is the strangest place you've ever written? Share your odd locations in the coments below.
Lisa Freeman is an author, actress, and teacher best known for her Honey Girl series of novels--HONEY GIRL(2015; Sky Pony Press) and RIPTIDE SUMMER(2017; Sky Pony Press). She grew up amidst the Hollywood scene and emerged as an actress in such films as Back to the Future, Back to the Future II, and Mr. Mom. She earned her MFA and Pedagogy in the Art of Writing degrees from Antioch University and now resides in Santa Monica, California, only miles down the road from State Beach, where her Honey Girls novels take place. You can visit her at Lisa-Freeman.com.