Nine Brooklyn Writers and How They Work

Meghan O’Rourke, The Long Good-Bye

How long do you spend writing each day?

Unfortunately it totally depends. I’ve been in a getting-things-done mode which means small amounts of time. But I try to write a little every day. When I’m trying to get started on a piece or project or poem, maybe just an hour of writing… but at least two hours of reading. When I’m deep in a project, I get obsessive, and then it can be many hours. Especially with prose. Poems are more mercurial. You don’t need to be at your desk in the same way.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

Morning and late at night.

Do you set yourself a time limit or a word limit? No limits?

I try to set a time limit, which varies depending on the day and other obligations. This can be extremely painful.

Do you write with music on? If so, what music do you like to write to?

I used to. Not any more, except, yes, sometimes the Glenn Gould “Goldberg Variations.” For some reason that turns the tap on.

How often do you check the Internet? Do you fall into Internet black holes? Or turn off your WiFi completely?

How often do I check the internet? All the time, if it’s on. I use Freedom and/or Self-Control (not my own; it’s a program) to turn it off. It’s hard when I need it for research, because you can really find ways to procrastinate.

Are you a basher or a swooper? Kurt Vonnegut characterized writers into these two camps: “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter any more, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

I’m more of a swooper. But even swoopers can get stalled.

Do you eat when you’re writing?

I try not to, but I do, especially when it’s going badly…

What snacks/drinks do you go to?

Coffee, tea; water; there’s usually a kind of ring road of drinks around my desk. Rice cakes and almond butter are my big comfort food while writing. I know, a big indulgence.

What’s your biggest procrastination tool? Or are you a freak who never procrastinates? Freak!

If I can look at clothes online, I will. Or Twitter. Twitter is the worst. Because around you people are posting interesting links, etc, about Pussy Riot’s trial, or Syria, or Romney’s latest gaffe, and you can look at your poem or fiction and think, ‘What does this do for the world?’

How do the people (roommates/partners/children) who live with you fit into or around your writing schedule? 

Pretty easily…

Do you find yourself tied to the place you’ve grown accustomed to writing? Or can you just pick up and go?

I can write anywhere; in fact, it’s sometimes better not to write in my office. My office also holds all the mail to be answered, my books, a soft couch, and a big window… Hotels are among the best places to write. And beautiful, quiet rooms in other people’s house are my secret favorite places.

Photo David Armstrong


  1. I was wondering if there were any African American, Latino, or Asian writers in Brooklyn?? Doesn’t look so based on this article.


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