Four Ways To Live Your Writing Life In The Twin Cities, By Sonia Johnson

by Jan 31, 2019

In my first semester at Hamline’s MFA Program, the poet Gretchen Marquette came to visit one of our classes. During a Q&A with our class, she was asked about her writing practice. The student asked whether she wrote everyday, and if she did, whether her requirement was based on amount of time spent writing or amount of work produced.

I don’t remember Gretchen’s answer in its entirety, but the essential point was that she didn’t write everyday, but she did make sure to live her writing life everyday, which for her meant things like taking walks and conversing with friends. I remember being really struck by this, so here I’ve listed four ways to live your writing life in the Twin Cities (although these ideas could broadly be implemented in any town or city).

1. Like Gretchen said, try going for a walk. Experiment with listening to music during your walk, then not. Calling a friend, or walking in silence. Observe the scenes around you. Attempt to brainstorm ways to describe what you are seeing and what moments you are finding. I highly recommend walking in Summit Avenue’s Historic District in St. Paul (and maybe finding yourself at Nina’s Coffee Cafe to write afterwards).

2. Visit one of the city’s great bookstores. Visiting places like Magers & Quinn, Milkweed Books, Moon Palace Books, Common Good Books, or one of the many other bookstores in the area is an act of engaging in a conversation with both literature and our community. Many of the stores also regularly host authors or events. Rain Taxi provides a wonderful and thorough calendar of literary events throughout the Cities.

3. Try reading when you’re wishing you were writing. Grab an old favorite or reach for a new release. Consider your reading experience both as a reader and a writer. Additionally, get out of your typical reading/writing routine by reading/writing outside of your home. Try reading or writing outside by one of our many lakes, like Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun), Lake of the Isles, or Como Lake. Or visit a coffee shop such as Groundswell in Midway, Spyhouse on Snelling, or Botany Coffee in Powderhorn.

4. Interact with art outside of literature. The Twin Cities are home to some exceptional museums. Take advantage of the fact that the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s permanent collection is completely free. Wander through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden by the Walker Art Center, where you can encounter Jenny Holzer‘s Selections From the Living as well as a John Ashbery poem strung across the bridge that connects the garden with neighboring Loring Park. Go to a concert at Turf Club or 7th St Entry. Try to consider these forms of art and how they can inform your writing.


Sonia Johnson

Editorial Board Member

Sonia Johnson has just finished her first year in Hamline’s MFA program. She mostly writes poetry and creative non-fiction. Last spring, she worked as part of the editorial board for Water~Stone Review. She lives in Cathedral Hill in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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