On Writing, Sietsema Style

Robert Sietsema is a James Beard Award-nominated food writer. He was the food critic for The Village Voice from 1993 to 2013, and is now a New York restaurant critic at Eater.

This is not Robert Sietsema.

This is not Robert Sietsema.

Some writers write in coffee shops. They pull out their silvery laptops the minute they arrive, put their cell phones beside them, and center their flat whites on napkins. They stay all day, punctuating the stray sentence with a self-conscious look around the room, a visit to the water jug on the window sill, or a selfie launched into cyberspace.

Other writers write in professional writers’ spaces, occupying a carrel along a row of carrels, or sitting at a long table where they can labor long hours among appreciative colleagues. There’s a guy at the end of the table who works for similar publications, and you can ask him if the editor prefers ital or roman for your little bio at the end of the piece. He’s got the answer. A gal just across the table is a wizard with words, much better at finding a substitute for “crispy” than any thesaurus on earth.

Still other writers write in their own home offices, outfitted with fetishes and gee-gaws, like that bird that pecks endlessly at the cup of water, or the series of metal balls on strings that will knock each other back and forth in a row almost forever. Or they write in the boiler rooms of publications they’re freelancing for, cheek by jowl with full-time writers and even their editors.

Me? I sit at a table cluttered with papers facing a blank white wall. I never look at the wall because there’s nothing to look at. I sit and type for hours at a time. Is my work a species of loneliness? You bet it is! And there’s nothing better than feeling lonely while you’re getting work done.