Country Craft: Parking Your Writing

By Stuart Phillips

My friend, Susan Muaddi Darraj, is a proselytizing member of the five a.m. writers’ club. Frankly, not a club I’ve ever had any interest in joining. Instead, I have contented myself by building my “writing life” on the fringes of my “real” life. And there’s the rub. I tell myself I will take half my lunch hour to write, knowing that I am as easily distracted as a dog watching a butterfly. One new Korean place, and I’m off.

I do this despite knowing that writing is a process that requires craft and imagination, but above all else it requires writing. Just sitting down and doing the thing. And that’s where the real writing life comes in.

Recently, I rode Amtrak down to Manhattan to spend a couple of days walking around, see our daughter at college, and attend a premiere of the new Flannery O’Connor biopic (all three highly recommended activities). I reckon it’s a sign that my subconscious has been percolating that as I walked around Central Park and looked at the skyscrapers towering over the water and the trees, and stone bridges and I suddenly got an epiphany.

Central Park is only 843 acres on the island of Manhattan—a pittance of the island’s 15,000 total. And yet it is the beating heart of the borough. And it was built through commitment, hard work, and dedication, a testament to the idea that carving acreage from a metropolis was equally as important as another brownstone, factory, or luxury boutique.

And that’s the crux of it. I hadn’t convinced myself that I needed my own Central Park. I was too busy running around the Manhattan of my life that I didn’t stop to think about how unsatisfying it is to see an occasional tree in the median of a road. Likewise, I’m not satisfied trying to somehow fit my writing around walking the dogs or taking out the trash. So, I need a park.

Just like the architects of Central Park, though, I have to be deliberate. I have to plan how large a park I can handle. What I’d like to see there. What I’d like to be there. Then, I can slowly start tearing down some buildings, grading the land, and planting. I’m not saying I’m going to be setting my alarm for five o’clock, but once you find what you love, do you really love it if you only do it on the weekend?

Read Stuart’s other work here at Reckon.

author Stuart Phillips
Stuart Phillips

Stuart Phillips is an expatriate Mississippian, former Army officer, and recovering lawyer who now lives and writes in the Mohawk Valley of New York. A graduate of Ole Miss, Pepperdine (JD) and Fairfield University (MFA), Stuart is slowly driving himself mad with revisions on The Great Southern Novel. You can follow his descent at or on Instagram @deltawriter12