-In the morning. Never at night.
-In cafes or libraries. At home, only when I have no choice.
These are my answers, words more, words less, when someone, individually or during a public reading, asks about the right time and environment which I need to do my writing; about the favorable when and the favorable where to write my stories.
Questions follow an order that seems predetermined. First when, that perennial human anxiety. When do I write? Preferably in the morning or early in the afternoon. Because it is during the early hours that, like T. S. Eliot, I feel that I'm looking at the world for the first time. I need that kind of fresh eyes and light spirit, without the burden of triumphs and defeats, joy and sorrow that in a modest version each day brings with the passage of hours.
Then comes the question about place. Where do I write? Although it is not always asked as if the work space was less intriguing, less relevant than the overwhelming when. However, even if I am not asked about it, I invariably talk about the kind of place I need to do my work.
I could say that a la Einstein (yes, I know, it is a bit hyperbolic) I always have the space-time duo in mind. They enable me to create, to imagine comfortably. It is this combination of early hours and places away from home that enables me to explore worlds at liberty, diving into them, one may say.
Why not writing in my nice apartment, with its light-colored walls and big windows overlooking the sky and, at a distance, the Hudson River? I feel that in my apartment the daily chores fill every room. There is always something urgent -at least, that is my pretext– that forces me to get up and leave the notepad or the computer: Calls that can not be delayed; a visit to the market not to be put off; a bill to pay; the beloved dog to walk. As I read once in reference to another novelist, it could also be said of me that "she was a true writer for she constantly found excuses not to write."
My characters are exclusivists. They require my undivided attention. The sancta sanctorum of a library is usually perfect for them to develop, particularly in the silent morning hours when mothers and 'nannies' haven’t yet arrived. And though at times it is intimidating, the bookshelves are reminders of what I want to achieve with the job in hand.
Cafes are equally conducive to introspection. I do not require an attractive décor, much less a hipster environment.
Certain conditions should be fulfilled, though: wooden tables (not formica), warm lights, music at a tolerable sound level. At an almost perfect cafe, baristas would not be mesmerized by their cell phones and they would not have the air of suffering from deadly boredom. They would be kind without being obsequious and they would not be supercilious either.
Many pages of the stories of the "August" collection were written in a cafe in Brooklyn, with a friendly owner and friendly staff. "BoCoCa" was its name and it fell victim to the relentless rise in rents.
It is on the shelves and counters of these places that I find the key to the door that opens to images and stories. The one that opens to the mind palace, as Sherlock calls it.
However, I don’t quite think of my mind as a palace. I rather imagine it as a kaleidoscope, multidimensional, 'pluriuniverses.' Or even better: as an Escher drawing. Vertiginous spaces, stairs that swing over the abyss, truncated stairs at the edge of nowhere. It’s there now, in one of its landings, that I see an apartment in Budapest, beautiful Budapest, where two lovers are immersed in adance of goodbyes, simultaneously defeated and victorious, for they have loved each other so much.
Mónica Flores Correa is a writer. She is currently working on a novel tentatively titled ‘Reunion’, one of whose segments takes place in Budapest.