Orly Assis – The Space I Write In

Note: Hyperlinks that end with an asterisk lead to Hebrew web pages.


אורלי עסיס (1)
Orly is a poet, a screenplay writer and an author. Her short story “The Tenant”* came 2nd in the 2012 Haaretz Short Story Contest (a prestigious annual competition hosted by one of Israel’s main newspapers). Her first book of poems, “Minor Disgraces”, is about to be published by Iton 77 Publishing House. She also publishes original poetry and prose in her blog Amygdala Visits Once Every 2 Days*. Orly lives on Kibbutz Barkai, Israel.




1. Space

I write in my bedroom in Kibbutz Barkai, about an hour north of Tel Aviv, in my bed. I have always written in bed. Even when I arranged a table for myself with a comfortable chair and a reasonable view – I continued writing in bed. I don’t write in cafes or other external work spaces – I discovered that the distractions are too great; I always wait for the coffee to arrive, for the scrambled eggs to be served; I listen to conversations of those sitting beside me, craving for a moment in their lives; I swat flies, pray that someone I know will pass by, order another Cola Zero so as not to write, and return home just as I left, minus 60 NIS. Bad idea.


2. Window

I need a window in order to write – a big, airy and illuminated window. This time I got lucky, my window overlooks a tree, which I stare at many times a day, when I’m stuck, when I’m reflecting (very often), when I’m bored. Through the window I hear distant sounds of birds chirping, dogs barking, the traffic passing on route 65.


3. Cupboard

On my cupboard I paste poems I cut out of newspapers. Eli Eliyahu, David Avidan, Tom Hadani, among others. I tend to look at them when the thought stops flowing and because someone once told me that when your books stand opposite you – every time you look at them you remember the tale they tell. When my poets stand opposite me – I never forget what I love.


4. Television

I am aware of the fact that it’s a nasty habit, but old habits die hard. I usually write with the TV on and the volume so low it can hardly be heard. I barely look at the flickering screen but the fact that I can feel it, the sense that it’s there, the connection to the world and the knowledge that if World War III breaks out I won’t miss it because I was just writing the 4th paragraph of my short story – gives me a little comfort (and that’s a lot). Besides, the TV is a small treasure of ideas, and despite the slander it receives for dulling our minds, I admire it and its power no less than I admire the written word. The minute it becomes possible I’ll be the first to purchase a ticket, enter the little screen and set out on a journey.


5. Work Hours

I prefer to write from 5:00 pm into the night – and not in the morning. Morning and noon are too difficult for writing and will usually be dedicated to some day job with which I can make a living. I also need a close and tangible horizon in order to write – the idea of dedicating 18 hours to writing is hard if not completely flustering and isn’t doable for me. The missions have to be dissected into small realistic portions and must include built in attractive breaks. For example, writing from 6:00 pm till 8:00 pm – Eight O’clock News – writing from 9:00 pm till 11:00 pm – movie – etc.
I don’t write every day. Not every two days either. Some periods are fertile and some are not. I try not to pressure myself or beat myself up when the pen is heavy on the trigger, and tell myself this is probably a time of ‘input’, a time to learn and take things in, and that the ‘output’ period is still to come.


6. Dog

My dog has no idea what I’m writing about (1st book of poetry, a play and a book of short stories to be published in the next 30 years), he doesn’t seem exceptionally interested either, but the sounds that he makes as part of his existence – scratching, licking, snorts, sighs – have become regular background noises of my daily routine, and of my writing routine. They give me confidence and lessen the loneliness.


7. Pajamas

I write in my pajamas – like someone who needs to be deeply planted in her home in order to be able to surrender to the experience. Not like someone who just got home, or is just about to leave, but like someone who has come here in order to stay.


Adi Hillel – The Space I Write In


Adi is a scriptwriter, script-editor and creative writing instructor. She writes film & TV scripts, short stories, long letters and casual poems. She is also the co-founder of  Hubitus – a space to write in. Adi lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.


בלוג תמונה


1. Space

My writing space is located on the second floor of a small apartment in south Tel Aviv, above a spice market. Unfortunately it has no doors, but it has borders. Going in, I know writing is about to take place.


2. Work hours

I prefer writing in the morning, when my mind is clear and my subconscious is still approachable. When the day moves along I tend to lose my concentration and my mind drifts to more prosaic places. I especially hate the afternoon hours – between 1pm and 4pm, when the sun is high and bright and there are no shadows. When the night falls, you can usually find me contemplating, not here but in my bath. If needed, I write my thoughts on the walls of the tub with erasable crayons. I envy those who write during the small hours of the night, when the world is asleep. I wish I could do that, but me, I’m more of an early bird.


3. Couch

Every day, with my first cup of coffee, I write 3 morning pages in handwriting in a designated notebook; I write them on this couch. Following the advice of the person who introduced the morning pages to the world – the writer and mentor Julia Cameron, these pages are not of an artistic nature. They are not a diary, nor a documentation of my life; they’re just what they are – bits of sentences, lost thoughts, unspeakable desires, old obsessions, random memories and broken words. I’ve been doing it now for 2 years, and I have filled 5 notebooks, leaving no margins to breathe in. When I find it hard to wake up and pull myself out of bed, they are the ones who do it for me. Deprived of any censorship or self-criticism, they are my anchor in my everyday life.


4. Coffee

I need coffee to write; it’s a life-long addiction and a daily ritual. After a long day of writing, my desk is covered with more than 6 half-empty cups. Whenever I feel I can’t sit and write, I “force” myself to go to a nearby café where I treat myself to a strong café au lait and a carrot cake, a bribe for the writer inside me, to start justifying the money she has just spent. It usually works.


5. Hourglass

When it comes to writing, I feel like time is on my side. Before I start writing, I usually determine a time quota – 2 hours for example, or a daily schedule – from 9am to 12am. I use an hourglass, and whenever I need to, I watch the white sand as it pours down. It relaxes me and keeps me focused at the same time. When I take a break, I lay it down horizontally, to better separate my net writing time from the gross. I’ve noticed that 2 gross writing hours usually add up to 1.5 hours of pure writing, and 6 hours become 3.5. I believe that better understanding this mechanism can help me manage my time more precisely and meet my goals.


6. Computer

I write on a pc laptop, using Microsoft Word 2010, with a scriptwriting program named Dialogue. I often use the internet (google chrome), mainly for research and idea hacking. I tend to have more than 10 tabs open simultaneously, and I save the most inspiring pages, like this one, as potential starters for future stories. Most of my characters’ names, by the way, were chosen from name-your-baby web sites. A few years ago, I decided to teach myself touch typing, using web apps, and since then I write in the rhythm of my thoughts. Whenever I’m stuck, I just let my fingers go with the flow, without thinking.


7. Phone

I’m not easily distracted by phone calls while I’m writing. I just don’t answer (it’s usually the bank anyway, and we have nothing to talk about). But I do use my Smartphone for time management and inspiration, with apps like Work Logger and Inspiro.


8. Board

I have a great passion for boards. Their nature – to be erased – ignites my imagination and urges me to free associate. When needed, I take a picture of the board, before I erase it.


9. Drawers

I tend to work on various projects simultaneously. Each project receives its own drawer (I can literally say I write to my drawers). Most of these drawers are filled with half-baked texts, such as: 1) A mystery novel about an isolated kibbutz in the desert. 2) A script for a feature film about a broker who ends up killing her boyfriend during a trip to Georgia. 3) Short stories, waiting to be gathered into an anthology named: All the Stories that Didn’t Win 1st prize in any Competition (or 2nd, or 3rd). 4) An autobiography which deconstructs and reconstructs my family structure. 5) Poems never to be read by anyone, semantic souvenirs from all my broken-hearted episodes.


10. Bookshelf

These are my dictionaries. I use them constantly. Among them you can find bilingual dictionaries, a visual dictionary, a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus. An unknown word is a good excuse to start an unknown story, and a fine word always opens your appetite for more. I also keep books concerning my writing themes near me, for example the Deuterocanonical books or a birds manual. Books about writing are kept next to my desk, on my bed and even in my bathroom, so that I’ll never feel alone in the writing process. They give me strength. They ease the pain.

You can find Adi on LinkedIn right here…