It’s 1:42 a.m. You’re finally finished replying to e-mails.You settle down to continue that novel that you’ve been writing for, what, six, seven years now? But now you have a headache. The faucet is dripping and you can’t concentrate. You eye the “To File” pile of papers on your desk and figure it wont hurt to make the stack smaller. By the time you’re finished, it’s pushing 3 a.m. and you didn’t write a single line. Exhausted and irritated, you trudge to your room and tumble into bed next to your snoring partner, who can’t fathom why you try writing in the wee hours of the morning.
Sound vaguely familiar? The Toronto Writers’ Centre can make it all go away.
Founded by former lawyer Mitch Kowalski, the TWC opened in May 2006 to give serious writers the ideal environment to get creative. Forget about the romantic notion of scribbling (or typing) furiously at a tiny table in a café, playing something from the Garden State soundtrack. The quiet writing room at the TWC resembles a professional office space: 28 ergonomic cubicles, each equipped with a decent sized work surface, adjustable office chair, a lamp, an electrical outlet, and wireless internet throughout the room. There is no clutter or distractions. Cell phones can’t even be set to “vibrate,” and personal music players are permitted only if no one but the listener can hear the tunes. There’s no opportunity to sort or even create a To File pile.
There’s also a small kitchen (think high school staff room) stocked with the typical beverages. The lounge is more than a place to take a break and flip through copies of The Walrus, the Toronto Star, or Maclean’s, or to browse the small collection of works published by TWC members. It’s the hub for workshops, readings, and discussions open to the public, such as when Vincent Lam read from his book Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures last May. The Centre also offers an editor/mentorship programme, one-on-one writing coaching by Jenna Kalinsky, and e-classes.
Kowalski says the TWC is for all kinds of writers who “don’t have the convenience of a home away from home.” Home is where you eat and do chores while the TWC is where you write. Members claim to be more productive at the Centre, he says. Many treat writing as a Monday to Friday, nine-to-five job, although there are the occasional night owls. Kalinsky says that being around other writers — especially when you can hear them typing away — motivates her to write as well. It’s also cool to meet people with the same aspirations as yourself.
The TWC currently has 40 members, and Kowalski estimates it can accommodate up to about 150 members. Full membership includes access to the facilities 24/7, rental lockers, and event discounts, at $175 month.
Despite the benefits, there may not be much use in joining the TWC for most writers. Some people write at three in the morning anyway, regardless of distractions, and if you really need the self discipline to resist interrupting yourself by folding laundry, a public library may be all you require. Even though it’s much less expensive than renting an office, that membership fee isn’t exactly affordable for people on a tight budget. But if you need serious peace and quiet and a writing atmosphere, and you happen to have a spare few hundred, the TWC is a decent place to pen your poetry contest submission.