| Don’t Write Alone
Where We Write Writing at Home With My Parents, Who I’m Definitely Not Fictionalizing in My Novel
It doesn’t really matter at all where I write—as long as, at some point, I have the option and availability to transition to my bed.
I write at home, and by that I mean, I write in my parents’ home, where I temporarily live right now and where I had been living for three years post-college. I wrote my first novel, The Four Humors , in various places: the Columbia University libraries, the Hungarian Pastry Shop, my grandmother’s apartment in Istanbul. For the most part, though, I wrote the majority of it here in Brooklyn either at my family’s kitchen table—a loud, chaotic, and loving space—or in the place I write best: bed.
Here’s my most recent example of how I’ve attempted to finish writing this piece in the kitchen moments before family dinner, while also helping cook dinner. | Photograph courtesy of the author
This past year, I lived in a subletted room in Los Angeles, where I had fled near the end of 2020. The reasons were many: My day job was remote, I had never lived anywhere but New York City, I had close friends in Los Angeles, and yeah, I had been living at home with my parents for three years at that point, even before the pandemic.
As a native New Yorker, you go through periods of not experiencing much awe at your surroundings. It is a devastating experience, I think, to not even feel unbridled rage at the city, as most people do, but to instead feel nothing at all. Horrendous! This emptiness was terrifying.
Although my family’s home is a nurturing hearth, it is also a place of extreme emotions and numerous distractions, which include chatting, laughing, arguing, eating, singing, drinking lots of wine, cleaning, crying, helping my mom with something, helping my dad with something, etc., etc., etc. Then there are the periodic suggestions from my dad such as whether I could just, please, maybe consider taking a practice LSAT ( It’s not too late! ), or that maybe I don’t have to go out again tonight ( Your epigenetics! Your eggs! ). I don’t always react well to these comments. Often we have numerous houseguests: My siblings, like me, have lived in the home during various periods of their adult lives, sometimes with their significant others, and many extended family members or friends from Turkey stay for weeks at a time.
Anytime someone stays in my old bedroom, I find that they’ve flipped over this exquisite replica of an Ottoman miniature which depicts a woman gracefully giving birth. I really love the way this midwife looks gentle and calm, especially in contrast to the new mother’s very realistic facial expression of pain and exhaustion.
A graceful birth. | Photograph courtesy of the author
So in Los Angeles, I experienced writing while alone for the first time. I had roommates—lovely roommates—but they were not my chaotic and all-consuming family. I thought this would make me write more. I did not write more, but my distractions and inspirations expanded. I took my love for birds to a new height, and began birdwatching avidly, sometimes sitting on the concrete shore of the Los Angeles River for hours, or otherwise working on my balcony with its view of the Griffith Park Observatory, which I call The Mosque. This balcony gave way to numerous sightings of hummingbirds, northern mockingbirds, wild green parrots, and your standard crow or the more eluding raven. Being away from Brooklyn, I found I could write about home in a way I couldn’t before, because I was missing it.
My former balcony with a great view of The Mosque. | Photograph courtesy of the author
I’m actually not sure if this one is a raven or a crow. | Photograph courtesy of the author
I’d bought a cheap desk for my room in Los Angeles. Probably I spent a total of fifty hours working on this desk in the span of a year. Again, mostly I wrote in bed. My bedroom in Los Angeles resembled a tree house. Once, while I was writing in bed, an owl sat in the big tree and watched me from outside for hours. It was a period of time so sublime I didn’t even think to take pics.
Here is my former bed in Los Angeles with a view of the owl’s temporary resting tree. | Photograph courtesy of the author
So, to be quite honest, it doesn’t really matter at all where I write—as long as, at some point, I have the option and availability to transition to my bed. For what it’s worth, I am a Taurus, and I enjoy being comfy. I lie to myself often, telling myself that a desk will change me. That a coffee shop will trap me into working for as long as possible, as the slug back home is daunting. I know myself well, though: I have never even entertained the possibility of self-improvement enough to consider a standing desk.
It is not that I’m physically lazy! I was a competitive swimmer for ten years! I exercise! I walk for miles! And I’m not always horizontal on my bed. Often, when I’m excited about what I’m writing, or need to hone in on this excitement, I fling myself forward and sit cross-legged with the computer on my lap and my neck hunched over like a great blue heron. I become entirely unaware of my surroundings and my body ceases to exist at all. In my best writing moments—the times when I’m possessed and engrossed by the story I’m trying to give shape to—I’m writing in this bodily form: that of a great blue heron.
A black-crowned night heron, which I believe resembles a Hayao Miyazaki character. | Photograph courtesy of the author
Now, I am in Brooklyn again. Currently, I’m fighting with my sister over this wooden desk that my brother had used to study for the MCATS. My sister is studying for her medical boards in gynecology, and I am working my day job and writing. We are fair in our deliberations over who gets the desk and when. And really, our deliberations are just jest, as I am, once again, writing in bed.
Here is my bed in Brooklyn. | Photograph courtesy of the author
I’ve always been a bit confused by this headboard. It’s old, and I’m not sure whose it used to be or how we got our hands on it. It feels like the exact kind of decorative orientalism I’ve always been suspicious of. Alas. But this is a culturally Muslim home. There are at least five evil eyes in different forms scattered about my bedroom and, on a really high shelf, numerous editions of the Koran that no one has touched in years. You may also spot one of my prized possessions, a stick of butter Christmas ornament that my friend CJ got me.
I will move out of my parents’ home soon. Hopefully there will be many more birds.