Where I Write

It’s different in the summer. During the school year, I write in three very specific places: the research lab which is filled with computers, a mini fridge, and a microwave; my work, where I sit next to the students I tutor and put on headphones to keep them from interrupting me during my time off; or my stuffy, not weatherproofed room. When it’s hot, my room is hot. When it’s cold, my room is very cold. It’s nice enough in the fall and the spring, but come summer and winter, my room really sucks.

In the summer, though, I’m not at school, for the most part. This summer I’m not abroad either. I stayed in California to finish my research and present at Berkeley. I’m glad I stayed, but that means one very big thing for me: I didn’t get to escape from my hot, stuffy room. I had to find other places to go this summer to cool off and write.

I found myself on campus a lot when the summer started. I was required to research there four days a week and I had a campus parking pass. Cal Poly Pomona has a lot of nice, air conditioned spots for me to camp out with my laptop or a notebook and write. On a couple of the cooler days I even ventured outside and sat in the shade of a tree to do some of my writing.

This summer I was writing more than I usually did. Sure, I am often scribbling ideas for stories or poems on pieces of paper, on the notepad feature on my computer, or heck, even on my hand if nothing else is around, but I wasn’t really focusing on any of that this summer.

This summer I was doing academic writing and finishing what would be a forty-seven page research report on the integration of technology into a California Common Core performance classroom focusing on Shakespeare. It was a fairly specific project.

I was also writing blogs. I didn’t miss a beat on this blog—check it out. I posted at least twice a week, usually more. Even while I was up in Berkeley presenting my research I had blogs scheduled to pop up and keep my voice going here while I was away.

I didn’t write in Berkeley. I had decided that it was too much of a hassle to pack my laptop and bring it on the flight to and from. But that didn’t mean I stopped writing. I had notebooks with me as well as my Kindle, which kept me occupied outside of all the networking, preparing, and presenting I was doing and watching at the conference.

I was also busy making awkward faces with my fellow McNair scholars and the McNair program advisers. I was also busy being the only one in a photograph wearing sunglasses. I think I was caught between a sneeze and a smile when this one was shot.

When I got back form Berkeley my writing habits changed. I was solely focused on editing and proofing my research report, which is much different from researching and writing. I had to put on the hat of an editor and scrutinize my own goods. Editing and proofing are part of the writing process, though—one of the most important parts, in my opinion. It’s great if you can write, but it’s better if you can make something you’ve written clear, concise, engaging, and plain old great. That’s what I was trying to do when I returned.

It was a lot harder to work now that my parking pass had expired on campus. I was now in ninety, sometimes one-hundred degree heat with no way of cooling down outside of a cold shower. Which, consequently, isn’t a very viable option during a drought nor while trying to write since paper and computers have yet to be made waterproof. But I still found ways to work on my project and write my blog posts.

I found a local Starbucks that wasn’t too hot nor too cold—it was like baby bear’s porridge. I liked this spot because it was good enough to cool me off from the extreme weather surrounding me yet it didn’t make me freeze. I found a new favorite drink—an Orange Refresher with a black tea base rather than a water base. It was double the caffeinated threat. I have to admit, with the cooler environment and the extra kick of Trenta double caffeinated drinks, my writing flourished.

I couldn’t stay in Starbucks forever and I often found myself awake in my room at night, unable to sleep because of the warmth that remained trapped within its walls. I’d open a window and turn on my ceiling fan, but my room doesn’t generally cool down until two or three a.m. So I write.

At night I don’t focus too much on my research project because I’m too afraid of making a half-asleep mistake. Instead, I work on things for the blog (because I have Melanie around to proof all of my posts, just as I am around to proof all of her posts. We take turns proofing our other writer’s posts) and sometimes work on weird short stories. And often I can be found on Facebook, making weird comments on my friend’s status because I am very strange when I am caffeinated and without sleep.

This is me (Manda) bothering one of our writers, Nicole Neitzke.
This is me (Manda) bothering one of our writers, Nicole Neitzke.

So, where do I write? I write everywhere, in every conditions, and I find some way of doing it. This summer has been especially challenging not only because of the heat, but because it was the first year-long research project I’ve had to finish. Sure, I’ve done semester and quarter long projects and I’ve written longer papers before—the longest being thirty-one before this one, I believe. But this project was huge and it took a lot of effort. I’m very proud of the fourty-seven pages I was able to write, edit, and proof (with assistance from Melanie, because we got each other’s back like that). I’ve also learned that I can focus and write anywhere as long as I can tune out distractions, that I am capable of completing long, extensive projects, and that it probably isn’t the best idea to write in a hot room because computers like to crash when they overheat.

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