WRITING LIFE: Deadlines > Doors: Writing Can Happen Anywhere by Annabelle Tometich

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I am sitting on the short end of our sectional couch, a dog to my right, my hard-of-hearing mother to my left, a kid and her iPad on the chair across from me. A rerun of “Modern Family” plays on television, its volume set to barely audible. The closed captions tell us what Gloria is saying to Claire, not that anyone’s paying much attention. My mom is snoring.

It’s late Sunday morning on the last day of my childrens’ spring break. We all stayed up too late last night, and none of us wants to get this day going. Not even the dogs. They are also snoring.

I would be better off writing in the office, which is also the laundry room (my husband calls it The Lauffice). It houses the washer and dryer, shelves of linens and a flimsy rack dripping in leggings, bras and the no-wrinkle pants he wears to his actual office. It also houses a desk and a large monitor into which I can plug my laptop.

The Lauffice, most importantly, has a door. I cherish that door. Most days, that door is all that separates me as a writer from the chaos of middle age. It blocks, for upwards of minutes at a time, the distractions: the dogs who must be fed; the kids who must be fed; the hard-of-hearing mother who yells “ANNABELLE! I AM HUNGRY!!” when she, too, needs food.

Most days, I live in The Lauffice. Most days its flimsy door is all that guards my sanity. But some days, days like today, days like this late and lazy Sunday morning, I let the door go. I try to remind myself where I came from — that writing can happen anywhere.

* * *

I did not learn to write at quiet desks behind closed doors. I learned to write as a journalist for The Fort Myers News-Press, my hometown newspaper, which means I learned to write under pressure.

  • In fall 2007, I sat outside the Riverdale High School football stadium in my Volkswagen, a clunky Dell laptop glowing under my hands. I triple-checked the Raiders’ stats against the Lightning’s. I had 20 minutes to deadline; 20 minutes to write, edit and send a story, assuming I could get my wireless hotspot to work.
  • In fall 2008, my VW and I sat outside a McDonald’s near the elections office waiting for the polls to close. I had to send a recap for Precinct 216, and I had 10 minutes and a wisp of fast-food WiFi to do so.
  • In spring 2010, I sat under the fractured light of disco balls and watched numbered paddles shoot into the air. An auctioneer rattled off however many tens of thousands of dollars the evening’s final lot, a luxury safari through Kenya, was going for, then whipped the wine-soaked crowd into bidding more, more, more. I had my story written, I just needed to add the fundraising total for the night. There were three minutes to deadline.

I never planned to be in these scenarios. In college, I studied medicine and mostly wrote research papers. After graduating, I skipped out on medical school and worked in restaurant kitchens. I prepped, cooked, fried, cleaned. Writing? Not even a little. When I started a small daytime catering company, I needed a night job to make ends meet. The only one I could find was at my hometown newspaper as a clerk on the sports desk. I was about to become a writer, and I had no idea how much I’d love it.

The beauty of journalism is that there are always stories to be told. If you sit in a newsroom long enough, these stories will find you, as they did me. And then work became a big bag of potato chips: Once I started writing, I could not stop.

Learning to write as a journalist felt like being tossed into a raging cauldron. Not only did I have to swim, I had to swim fast or be boiled alive. Through journalism, I learned to identify the story quickly, and to write it even more quickly. In that world, this is a great and necessary skill. When I started writing a book, it became more of a hindrance.


I  needed  to  slow  down.

Unlearning this write-or-die style is something I’m still working on. I love deadlines — this story, for example, is due tomorrow. Deadlines push aside the noise of my brain and allow me to find the words, the sentences, the story at large. I thrive on deadlines. My best writing does not.

It has taken me years to understand the importance of revision; the art of walking away from my writing and returning to it with fresh eyes and honed intent. In journalism, I learned to type and send. I am now learning to write, digest, rewrite, revise, then write, digest and revise some more.

It’s not that my 18 years as a journalist all had to be unlearned. That time forged me. It allowed me to be an awful writer, and then a writer, and then a writer who won awards, and then a writer who wrote a book, and now — as of April 2 — a published author.

Journalism taught me to write anywhere, everywhere. I do not need peace and quiet. I don’t need muted light or mugs of tea or soft music — though I appreciate those things when they’re available. I just need a laptop and a bit of time.

* * *

It is now Sunday night, and I am back on the couch. My mom has gone home. My kids are long out of screen time and prepping for bed. The dogs have been fed, watered, walked and are prepping for their beds, too.

Between the long, lazy morning and now, I wrote at the kitchen counter and on the porch. While my son and his friend shopped for soccer shorts, I sat on an outlet-mall bench, opened this very document and wrote on my phone. When they wanted to visit more stores, I went to my minivan and wrote in the front passenger seat (aside from The Lauffice, the minivan might be my most productive writing space).

I walked away from this piece to eat dinner, and now I’m back, trying to trim here and add to there. Trying to make this funnier, but not longer. More flowy, but not more wordy.

I will walk away from this again shortly. I’ll pick it up tomorrow morning, hours or maybe minutes before Hippocampus’s deadline. I may even take it into The Lauffice, so I can close that precious door, quiet my brain and find the words.

That door, I realize, is a luxury. So, too, is the life beyond it.

Meet the Contributor

Annabelle TometichAnnabelle Tometich went from medical-school reject to line cook to journalist to author. She spent 18 years as a food writer, editor and restaurant critic for The News-Press in her hometown of Fort Myers, Florida. Her first book, “The Mango Tree: A Memoir of Fruit, Florida, and Felony” came out April 2, 2024, from Little, Brown.

Tometich’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, Catapult, the Tampa Bay Times, among others. She has won more than a dozen awards for her stories, including first place for Food & Travel Writing at the 2022 Sunshine State Awards. She (still) lives in Fort Myers with her husband, two children and her ever-fiery Filipina mother.

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