Where Do You Write?

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This all Awesome Sauce, courtesy of The Rumpus:


Most often, I don't. I watch basketball instead. I check my e-mail. I cook dinner and make love to my girlfriend and read magazine articles about the financial crisis. I move constantly, from Brooklyn, New York, to the Pacific coast of Mexico, to Portland, Oregon, to the rural South, to Portland again, and now to upstate New York, all in a period of a little over three years. 

Meanwhile, my writing gets neglected. The novel I began in Brooklyn languishes on my desktop. The poems I write intermittently recede from my consciousness. Published critical essays fade into the Internet ether. The writing life I once imagined for myself seems to slip further and further away. 

What I forget, though, and what I am trying here to remember, is that the work does gets done. Not every day, like the writing teachers recommend. Not even every week. But invariably, wherever I go, I write, just as inevitably I forget about having written, and subsequently worry.

Damn right. 

Somewhere in one of our many psychology threads, the notion of separate selves came up. I'm butchering things a bit so forgive me, but the basic notion was that your brain is a "team of rivals." So one rival really wants to gorge on the Muslim Sleeping Pill. The other would really like to be David Caruso in jade. And those "selves" duel it out with the winner claiming domain over your body.

The writer self in me is quietly dominant. He doesn't like to talk much (He's a writer.) He just knifes fools and jacks their neural net. The result is that unlike a lot of writers, I don't actually have a routine. But the shit gets done. And when it is done, I often look at it wondering who the fuck wrote it, not because it's Shakespeare, but because it's finished. 

That would be "I" that wants to spend his life pumping Mobb Deep, playing NBA Live 98, and blowing trees. That "I" doesn't have much pull these days. But I miss him. Maybe he'll come back after kick the boy is out the house.

I used to write armed with a pint of Jack, and a liter of Coke. 

I wasn't very good.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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