A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 18: Shhhh! Writers at Work

July 14th · 5 Comments

Today I reported for my first session at Paragraph, a haven for writers that sits above a funky lamp store near Union Square. New York is a city of extremes and Paragraph occupies its own special niche: It is a very, very quiet place.

Many writers rent space here, novelists and screenwriters and journalists who climb a steep flight of stairs to the third floor at all hours. They silence their cellphones before entering the writing room. The door glided open under my hand – no latch to make superfluous noise – and it closed behind me without a sound. I found myself in a long room with a lounge area in the middle and rows of cubicles at either end. Someone read in an easy chair and a couple of others worked with their backs to me. The hush was so complete that I couldn’t tell if the room was empty or whether a small army of writers were huddled behind the high cubicle walls, toiling like monks under a lifetime, wordless oath.

I tiptoed across the wooden floor, wincing when the floorboards creaked. At a cubicle by the window, I unpacked my bag with slow, painstaking care. I pulled out the apple I’d brought but hid it when I considered what a racket I’d make by chewing.

The air conditioner whooshed. Once in a while someone released a fusillade of clacking at a keyboard. Across the room, a coffee cup clonked to rest on a table. By the middle of the afternoon I felt drowsy and considered taking a nap on that couch, as I’d seen some others do, but I was afraid that I would snore and create a reputation for myself.

Contrary to what you might think, the denizens of Paragraph are not uptight librarians, but a society of friendly people who abide by some common rules (rules that, recently updated, drew some ribbing from the gossip website Gawker). At lunchtime people gathered to chat in the common room, though they did so, as you might expect, in a rather hushed way.

One of the surprising benefits of working at Paragraph is that it fields a softball team that takes on the staffs of local magazines. Next Thursday we go up against the scribes at Harper’s. I can’t wait to sit in the bleachers and yell “EYYYY BATTA EYYY BATTA EYYY BATTA EYYY!!” at the top of my voice.

Tags: Schmoozing · The Rat Race

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Patti Mesquite // Jul 15, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Hi David!
    Was I happy to hear from you! I had no idea what had happened or where you were. I think what you are doing is extremely adventurous and exciting. You are quite the writer. I had no idea. Thank you so much for sharing you new life. Who is Joo, by the way? It sounds as though she makes you happy. I have been lucky enough to find a wonderful man, after all these years, so life is good for me as well. I’m enjoying reading your stories so very much. Best of luck! Patti

  • 2 Gary Rizzo // Jul 15, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    This location sounds like absolute Paradise compared to the noise tunnel I work in!

  • 3 Kimberly Winston // Jul 22, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Wow, how cool! And literally cool – it’s air conditioned in NYC – good for you. Okay, now I am jealous. It’s not hot here, but you know how we freelancers toil in seclusion. Wish I had a place like Paragraph to go to. Good for you.

  • 4 harley // Nov 21, 2008 at 12:04 am

    when I move New York early this coming year I’d truly love to engage with you fellow wordsmiths…I’ll have a novel ready, titled “i am hitler”.

  • 5 Jade Park // Jan 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Love it! I am so glad I found this blog. I’m from San Francisco and just moved to NYC…to spend 6 months. I visited Paragraph and the Writers Room, and have landed at one of them to write (it’s Day 8 for me). I have a feeling I’m going to find your blog and documented experiences very handy.

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