So as I may or may not have mentioned, I have spent the month of July WRITING EVERY DAY…. just about. My initial goal was to write six days a week, and then take a break on either Saturday or Sunday, but then I started devoting my days off to blogging, and/or research interviews, etc, and then I found myself working every day and taking the occasional Wednesday-afternoon burnout break after like two weeks straight. In total in July so far, I have sat down for extended writing time on 24 out of 28 days. Written documentation of this is 2 full notebooks, and 2 more notebooks just begun.
This has meant that progress on the book manuscript is actually moving at a decent pace, and that I am re-reading and analyzing a lot of the research I have done in the past 11 months! I hope to keep working in this way for my last two months here, since it will be a whole heck of a lot easier to go to a Taipei library and look up an unanswered or new historical question….when living in Taipei. I do have some new people to meet and final sources to check out, but suffice it to say I have changed phases and am now putting writing first, so as to focus and optimize the rest of my research.
And this means, of course, that I need to find places to write.
Why, might you ask? Unfortunately, I have been a library and café writer for as long as I’ve been writing– I really need a room to work in, preferably with a door, my own music, and COFFEE, which is not also the room that I sleep in. And that’s that. Public spaces don’t bother me at all, in fact, I often find them more productive– the energy is nice, the presence of other people adds social pressure and makes me feel like a jerk if I spend hours on facebook or other internet surfing, and you can only drink so many cups of coffee before it is just time to call it a day (or night). Also, there is no bed, so I can’t “recline,” and inevitably, “nap.” I find that I can write at my desk in my room late at night, read and annotate sources, or to type up, edit, and scrutinize the day’s longhand-produced prose; but these are all different kinds of tasks from the daytime work. (My ideal full-time writing schedule is one daytime writing session out of the house, and one night session at my desk. But this is tricky, what with reality and life and all that jazz. And all this considering I am currently the freest I will be with my time for a looong time to come! End of writing schedule tangent.)
So here are three of my favorite places in Taipei for writing this summer, and this past month:
1) Xinbeitou Library, Xinbeitou MRT station, Taipei
I recently discovered the Xinbeitou Library, which is a branch of the Taipei Public Library System, so I have a library card and can take out books and DVDs. But even more importantly, I have a great reason to go up there early in the morning to hammer out my next round of pages: it is one of the most peaceful and beautiful workspaces I have ever seen! Photos below– nestled into the rolling mountains of Beitou District, the Xinbeitou Library is one of the first completely green and sustainable buildings in Taipei (with in theory, the highest rating of energy-saving and renewal of resources possible for a green building). It’s also gorgeous– all in wood, with breezy outdoor porches, windows everywhere for natural light, and its very own WATERFALL, cascading mineral water from the natural hot springs through the stream that runs through the Beitou Park where the library is located. I think of it as a fantasy treehouse, a lovely place where I can write, far from the distractions of noisy downtown Taipei. The other day when I was sitting on the porch outside writing in the warm wind, some squirrels traipsed down a nearby branch, and it reminded me of sitting in a tree, at home on Long Island!
2) Salt Peanuts, ShiDa Night Market, Taipower MRT station
Some awesome local and farther-afield cafés have also allowed me a place to nestle into this month’s writing habit. Both have excellent coffee, and terrific food and other drinks. One, Salt Peanuts, is about the most hipster café I have seen in Taipei, located near the ShiDa night market– but the coffee is divine, and served on wooden block coasters, and the egg panini is basically the best egg sandwich I may have ever had. The other day I had to do some synthesizing of old and new writing together, cannibalizing my Master’s Thesis from Emerson and butchering it for parts, as well as writing those parts back into the new chapter structures. Salt Peanuts was the perfect place to throw down my stack of papers and make sense of the mess!
3) Orange Café, Shilin MRT station
Finally, Orange Café is near and dear to me, and I am becoming more and more of a regular there– since in addition to having great coffee and mango lassi (a healthy fruit yogurt drink that originally hails from India), they have delicious food, and also serve booze! So I’ve gone there to work for hours on a deserted Sunday morning, to write a few pages before dinner on a weekday late afternoon, and to relax over drinks with friends at night. Versatile, a little funky (but don’t let the beads fool you, it’s also more hipster than hippie), and always playing GREAT music, Orange is the new neighborhood standard of awesome writing (and hanging out) space.
To fellow Taipei-ers, where do you like to write/read/fantasize about treehouses? To fellow writers, and kindred spirit café or library workers, what do you require of your writing space? How do you get into the mood to lose yourself in your work and push the boundaries of your imagination? Please share your thoughts below!