It’s no accident Seattle is full of writers, and now that I’ve lived here a few months I’ve narrowed down the key reasons.
The weather is sad. Summer is pleasant, with long days and low humidity, but in fall, winter, and early spring the rain, wind and early darkness are like an Adele song, perfect for crafting serious reflection and sad love scenes. The other day I revised a critical moment where Michael, my protagonist, despairs over his relationship with Shelly. He senses she is moving on. As rain pelts from the pewter colored sky and wind chills the air it’s easy to slide inside Michael’s nadir.
Coffee. During winter, when sixteen hours a day is spent in darkness, the caffeinated warm beverage is a portable happy light. When I was still teaching in Ohio I kept the ubiquitous morning brew on my desk, but I barely tasted it. My morning cup of Joe provided rocket fuel to jettison my night owl body into being awake and functional in the deadly dawn. Now that I am retired and choose my own hours, I savor my coffee at a leisurely pace. It warms my palette and hands and aids the creative process.
Because coffee is a necessity here, coffee shops abound in Seattle. There is a either a Starbucks or an independent coffee shop on each block of the city and its environs, and every grocery store hosts a coffee shop. (Except for WinCo. What’s up with that?) Coffee shops are nirvana for starving writers. We can spend as little as three bucks and occupy space for several hours as we create our masterpieces. Most coffee shops also provide food, plugs and free wifi.
Coffee shops are filled with other writers. Being in the company of writers is essential because we writers tend to live inside our own heads. We tolerate friends and family but prefer to spend large blocks of time in solitude. Yet writers periodically emerge from the darkness to commune with like-minded souls. As I write this I’m sitting across the table from my friend and fellow writer Cat. We ignore one another as we peck at our keyboards, yet we transfer an invisible thread of energy, like musicians jamming together, except our tunes are silent, the notes appearing on the page.
Because writers live near or in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest hosts several writers’ conferences every year, and is home to the Hugo House, which holds frequent readings and workshops .
Seattle has bookstores and libraries. Writers are readers, and Seattle has the largest percentage of library card holders in the nation (80%) along with 1.5 bookstores per 10,000, people. Almost any spot in the city is within a fifteen minutes drive to a library or bookstore. No experience can replicate a physical bookstore. Even Amazon, the online behemoth, discovered this, which prompted them to open their own brick and mortar store in the university district. Sending a book directly to your device is convenient and cheap, but it doesn’t replace the experience of a book falling open in your hands, emitting its old or new book smell.
Seattle has its drawbacks. It's ridiculously expensive to live here, and unless your name is Stephen King or James Patterson, you ain’t making money off your words, so your favorite stores become Value Village, Goodwill and Grocery Outlet. Traffic is miserable, especially if it rains. There is public transportation, but it hasn't kept up with the exponential population growth. In cities like NYC and San Francisco one is better off without a car, but here, you still need a car. And yeah, the weather often sucks.
I haven't even mentioned the endless distractions, on how a good day it’s hard to resist jumping on a ferry to visit one of the nearby islands, or take a walk through Sculpture Park along the waterfront on Elliot Bay.
One can write anywhere, but I have chosen to write here. As long as I have my writing tools: laptop or pen and paper, coffee, and noise canceling headphones, I’m all set.
Where do you like to write?