It is of vital importance that a writer should have a good place to work. Fortunately, since I've moved to Baltimore, I've been able to afford the space to have two. I have a study on the second floor at the back of the house (more on that room in a later post,) but I also have a window in the bedroom. The bedroom - also on the second floor - faces the South and it gets more light than any other room in the house, and so is naturally the nicest place to be during daylight hours. When Sara leaves for school in the morning, I often carry my little writing desk into the bedroom to sit at the window and work.
The small, cozy, somewhat dark study is perfect for reading, reflection, and research. But I've found that for actually sitting down and writing, nothing is better than a second-story window.
I first discovered this when we lived in Jersey City and the bedroom window looked out onto a nice, lush tree. That street was narrower, which meant a bit less sunlight, especially with the tree in the way. But it was still a pleasant view: the light was dappled as a result, and I could watch the birds in the tree and listen to the heavenly sound of drops on the leaves when it rained. I wrote a good amount of my first two books looking at that tree.
Here in Baltimore we have a small tree growing outside the window. Barely thicker than a stick, it's topmost branch just comes parallel to the level of my knees when I'm at my desk. The street is broader, though, so there's plenty of sun, and there's a row of four very handsome fully-grown trees across the street, including one with big pink blossoms on it. They're not close enough to watch the birds playing in them, but they make a nice background to the scene.
And that's the main point of sitting at a window when writing: having a scene. There are just enough little bits of life happening for it to be interesting without being distracting. Children used to play across the street at our old apartment. Occasionally one of our disgruntled neighbors would come outside to chain smoke and swear into his cell phone or threaten his landlord with racist slurs. Here in our neighborhood in Baltimore, Canton, we often hear people drunkenly staggering home from the sports bar, and the sounds of bros saying frat-boyish things like "team" or "score" or "jalapeño cheddar," fill the air regularly.
One of East Baltimore's charming traditions are the often crudely-painted window screens, usually depicting some idyllic pastoral fantasy a universe away from the Old Bay-colored row houses of Canton. One of the purposes of these screens is to allow the resident to look out of their window without passers-by being able to see in. I can see the utility. I have been the subject of many inquiring glances from men in shorts or women in shorts or various baffled blondes when I've sat at the ground floor window in a three-piece suit working. They spend nearly as much time speculating as to what I'm up to as they do the cat in the window across the street.
On the second floor I don't have that problem, of course, although when I'm hammering away at my typewriter people occasionally look up in bewilderment. I usually just smile at them and they trundle off to watch sports or drink lager or make love to their cousins or whatever it is they do. Some day I'd like to have a bay window to sit in. Beau Brummell used to sit in the bay window at his club passing judgement on the people walking below. A nod from him would be an affirmation of style and status, a deliberate ignorance would be a sign of crushing disapproval. There's no word as to whether he ever spat or threw things at people, although at windows there's always a temptation.
I'll leave you with the poem High Windows by Philip Larkin, which isn't especially relevant apart from the imagery of the window:
When I see a couple of kids
And guess he’s fucking her and she’s
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise
Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide
To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That’ll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark
About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds. And immediately
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.