Virginia Woolf wrote about women writers needing a room of their own—she meant it figuratively, but she also meant it literally: they actually need somewhere to work. In New York City, writers—of any gender—face a similar real estate conundrum. When living with others in a crowded apartment, what’s a writer to do?
A modern solution: outsource your needs. Write somewhere else. And this goes for non-New Yorkers as well. Companies like WeWork are going gangbusters offering communal workspace. And in Manhattan on West 14th Street above a lighting store, there’s Paragraph, a workplace for dedicated writers.
Joy Parisi started Paragraph in 2005, and since then writers like Helen Simonson, Edmund White and Leslie Jamison have written here. Joy offers five good reasons why productive career authors gather at Paragraph.
1. A distraction-free space boosts productivity
A lot of writing is about avoiding writing, and at home that could mean vacuuming, cleaning out your refrigerator, feeding your fish, or being very available to go out to lunch.
Writers spaces cut out the distractions.
At Paragraph, you can opt out of the wifi if you choose. And there’s a wonderful side effect when you join a space that is all about your writing, when you give yourself that gift. You have a guaranteed quiet place to work, and suddenly you see your productivity spike.
Too bad your apartment might have to be a little dirtier for a while.
When you join a space like Paragraph, you tap into a vast network of writers. At Paragraph, that includes thousands of alumni who have written here over the last thirteen years, as well as an active, supportive community of writers who you bump into in the kitchen every day.
Everyone at the space is a writer and is struggling in a similar vein.
There is something very comforting in being surrounded by writers while you do your own work. And then you’re able to take a break and gab about books and publishing and craft or life in general.
It’s networking, but natural and pleasurable.
So many friendships have been born at the space, and that’s a wonderful thing to see.
Our workspace tries to be supportive to writers in all ways. The space gives a practical and quiet place to get words on the page, a kitchen where writers can meet and talk, and we also provide professional connections and bridges into the publishing world through events and programming.
Our roundtables are an intimate way for writers to meet and talk to literary agents, editors, coaches and other writing professionals, and get a toe in the door of a world that can feel very intimidating when you’re alone with words on a page. Oftentimes that one connection makes all the difference, and many writers at the space have met their agents through our events.
4. You become part of a bigger thing
Writers rooms are special places. I won’t say hallowed, because we’re still a third-floor walkup, but when I recall all the writers who have written here, all the words and articles and books that have come out of this space, I think any writer who joins our community becomes part of that wonderful literary fabric. It’s a special, indescribable thing, and I hope that somehow it gets passed into the work.
5. Free coffee, tea and candy
You can only stare at your laptop screen for so long. We keep the candy bowl full, and the coffee pot brewing around the clock (we’re open 24/7). Writers need to take a break some time. Alright, you get fifteen minutes.
Joy Parisi is the founder of Paragraph, a workspace for writers that opened in Manhattan in 2005 and in Brooklyn in 2018. Contact: [email protected].