Taken from the Miami Herald with absolutely no permission! (It’s the same as providing a link, right?)
I thought this article was very interesting and had to share it with you. If only there was a similar place for writers in the UK to go! And cheap, or preferably free…
Writers share the same roof — and save sanity
At the Grotto, which provides offices with low rent, freelance writers have found a way to break writers’ block. They work together under the same roof.
Fear. Isolation. Loneliness. Ah, the writer’s life.
A group of freelancers in San Francisco believe they’ve found a way to help remedy writer’s block, share advice, get feedback on a first draft and keep from driving their families crazy. They call it The Grotto.
Strip away the pretentious moniker and their strategy is deceptively simple — shared office space.
”Staying home is a path to madness,” explains Ethan Watters, author of Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Family, Friendship and Commitment and a founding member of The Grotto. “The work itself is introspective and, in a way, working by yourself is a constant fight with whatever demons you have. . . . Whether you’re prone to napping or you want to turn on the TV to check out CNN. It just becomes a harder demon to fight when you don’t have a sense of group momentum.”
Watters, along with Po Bronson, bestselling author of the dot-com era-defining The Nudist on the Late Shift, and Ethan Canin, emergency room physician turned award-winning author of The Palace Thief, founded The Grotto in 1994. They rented an old Victorian with space for six writers.
Their criteria for leasing a space? Be serious enough about writing to be willing to pay rent.
Two years later, it was the height of the dot-com boom and their monthly rent tripled. They found a new space — in a former animal hospital on one of San Francisco’s seediest blocks — and quickly filled former exam rooms with 21 inhabitants, as they call themselves.
Rents are back where they were in 1995. The group pays $1.50 per square foot, which comes to about $150 to $200 a month for each renter, depending on the size of their space, Bronson explains. Each Grotto-ite also has chores to do each month, from changing toilet paper in the shared restrooms to taking out the trash to recycling. Everyone pitches in for a cleaning crew.
‘The vibe here is, `Come do your chores, do your work,’ ” says David Duncan, author of the newly released book, The Geneticist Who Played Hoops With My DNA . . . and Other Masterminds From the Frontier of BioTech.
“There’s not a lot of messing around.”
Everyone has a key and sets his or her own hours at The Grotto.
Lunches are usually shared on the roof.
As The Grotto has aged, so have its inhabitants. Most are in their 30s and 40s. Many are married. There are now eight children among them. Family photos are prominently displayed on desks and walls.
The kitchen and the rooftop are the only true common areas. News clippings, press kits, lists of bestsellers and other advertisements of each others’ success cover a large bulletin board.
There’s no waiting list or application process for a spot at The Grotto. There’s little turnover; writers rarely leave. The founders encourage fans to set up their own communities. They even offer to help. But there’s also no room for big egos.
Watters, in an interview from Las Vegas where he was working on an article for GQ about golf hustlers, explains: “You can take fairly strong personalities into a place like The Grotto . . . because you don’t have to work together every day. . . . No one’s your boss, no one’s going to tell you you did a bad job. . . . The only interactions are positive. Because of that you can get strong personalities that not only survive, but it’s a really good place for them.”
Bronson, who shares his office with Sammy, his golden retriever, agrees and says jealousy and envy are poisons.
”Learn to set that aside and realize someone’s success does not take away from yours,” he says. “You can be driven, you can be ambitious without being competitive against each other.”
He proudly announces he gives his agent’s name and number to anyone who asks. (Later, he does.) He also offers a reporter an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Why Do I Love These People. (It’s fascinating.)
Journalist and playwright Rodes Fishburne, in a conspiratorial tone, offers to share the secret of The Grotto’s success. He’s working on a novel called Going to See the Elephant. There’s a San Francisco map on his wall with push pins marking the spots where his characters live.
SOLITARY & SOCIAL
”This is the technology that makes this place work,” he says.
He leans forward from his chair to reach his office door. ”If I’m here, and my door’s closed, I’m working,” he says. “It’s solitary because of the door and communal when you want it to be.”
Most inhabitants acknowledge that when someone’s up and wandering or playing hoops on the roof or fumbling around in the kitchen, something’s wrong.
”If you left your office, it’s because you’re stuck,” Bronson explains. “It’s the little creative challenges we face. . . . Someone’s right there to deal with you if you need it. It’s just the sense that you’re not alone.”
Nearly every one of the 10 people sitting around the table nods and chimes in.
”If I stay home and write in my kitchen, I may not see anyone else for 48 hours. It’s just the office,” says novelist Noah Hawley.
Fishburne uses short story master John Cheever — who dressed every morning in a suit and tie, kissed his wife goodbye and headed to the basement of his building where he undressed, hung up his clothes and wrote in his underwear — to illustrate his point.
”For us, coming to The Grotto is putting on our suit and tie,” he says. “It’s a psychological state of mind.”