‘Write Here’ takes us into our authors’ writing spaces across the globe, where they tell us about how they go about their craft. We mark each location on the map at the bottom of each post. Today we travel to Manhattan, New York, where Imbolo Mbue writes from the living room in her apartment.
Where do you write?
I write in the living room of my New York City apartment, located in a midtown Manhattan neighborhood.
Why midtown when most writers these days seem to be living in Brooklyn?
Well, Brooklyn is actually where I was hoping to live, not midtown. I’d asked my real estate agent friend to help me find one of those quaint Brooklyn apartments with oversized windows on a tree-lined residential street, but she urged me to give midtown a chance. I was incredulous that she would find a place considering the challenge but amazingly she did, and I quickly grabbed the apartment.
Were you already writing back then?
Yes, but only as a hobby. If I’d known my writing wouldn’t remain a hobby for long, I might have insisted on Brooklyn, mostly for the quiet and the opportunity to live around other writers. Then again, I got the inspiration for my novel from walking home one day on a midtown street, so I’m delighted my friend urged me.
But midtown is such a noisy area.
It is. I live on a heavily trafficked street, and there seems to be an ambulance going by every minute. There is usually a neighbor upstairs or downstairs or across the hall doing some sort of construction that makes for deafening noise from morning to evening for weeks and months. It still amazes me that I was able to write a novel amidst all the drilling and banging.
How do you deal with the noise?
It takes a lot of mental fortitude, but I sink deeper and deeper into my writing and before long I forget the noise exists.
Why not go to a library or café?
That would be a good solution, wouldn’t it? I’ve gotten so used to writing in my apartment I’m not sure how I’d adjust to writing in a new environment. Besides, outside of the noise, writing at home works great for me because of the convenience.
Where specifically do you write?
I write at the dinning table in my living room, sometimes surrounded by family and friends watching TV, chatting, playing, laughing, asking me questions I seldom respond to. Next to the dinning table is a side table on which I keep the books I’m currently reading and the notebook in which I sketched my novel and write ideas as they appear to me. Behind my chair is a photo of me during a sunset at Coney Island.
So there’s noise both inside and outside your writing space?
That’s correct. I’m not sure if I remember what it’s like to write in quiet.
What do you do when you need to take a break?
I stand at the window and admire New Yorkers walking east, west, north and south. If that isn’t sufficient, I do errands and chores—one of the perks of working at home—or I go for a walk around my neighborhood. Because this is New York, inspirations abound on virtually every block and intersection.
Imbolo Mbue’s novel Behold the Dreamers is published today.
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