In October of 2011, I became a renter at a writer's cottage. There are five of us here most of the time. It's a shared space which just means (for us) that you need to pack up your junk at the end of the day and that you should try and take your phone calls on the porch. It also means you're less alone, and less likely to sit around in your pajamas.
I like being alone in the cottage, the almost total silence and coldness of it first thing in the morning and the satisfaction that a boiling kettle gives to a woman alone in the winter. I like to stare at people out of the window -- cars slowing down, children walking to the park, mothers pushing strollers, people waiting for the bus.
Now and then I drift off to times that I worked more formally, when I had official bosses, places where there were no cats dropping by and crying at my window. Moments when I'm struggling to stay focused, to not be sad, to not Google "ADD symptoms", I feel a painful urge to go buy coffee, to go interrupt a friend, to go run an errand, to go eat. I'm not alone. Other people want to bail, too. If I'm smart, I'll just sit right here and watch the chimney smoke from the house next door and I'll keep writing.
A teenager walking home from school is so much happier this afternoon than he usually is. His shoulders back, almost lunging with his steps. I need to know why this Monday was so much better than the other Mondays.
I like having company in the cottage, the sound of other people typing, their children in the corners working on math and wearing headphones, singing lightly.
At five o'clock or six o'clock or sometimes seven, when I'm hungry or I've just gotta go, I wash my dishes and pack up, turn the heat down. When I think I should've gotten more done, I feel my chest bind up like fists, and then I turn off the lights and lock up. Last night I smelled pipe smoke when I was leaving. I looked around in the dark at the porches, but couldn't find the smoker.
Thinking that I, too, better get home for some relaxing moments with vices, I get in my car and drive off.
Other spaces similar to this in Charlottesville include Open Space ,
Shared spaces for creative types are becoming more and more common, such as this group in Austin, TX, in New York City, and this article listing lots of shared spaces in cool cities. If you need a shared space, find a cool house that needs renting and get a bunch of writer/artist-types to share the rent!