Summer can be the perfect time for a change of pace and a change of scenery as you focus on writing projects that may have fallen by the wayside during the academic year. This may be especially true as we begin to emerge from the restrictions of pandemic life. To this end, the FWC staff have compiled a list of writing sanctuaries in and around Cambridge that we hope will give you fresh energy for producing prose. If you are not around campus this summer, you might keep these spots in mind for later and consider similar options in your area.
The light-filled atrium of the Cambridge Public Library’s main branch was one of my favorite writing spots when I was working on the first chapter of my dissertation. I often set up at the workstations hidden behind the stacks on the main floor with very handy plugs and a view of the lawn. The proximity to Harvard (and to the Starbucks across the street) was convenient, but I also enjoyed the feeling of being surrounded by families and community members. On pretty days, I loved being able to alternate between reading in the grass and writing inside. If you like a historic feel, the same location also has a beautiful wood-paneled reading room built between 1889 and 1902.
Although it’s currently closed during the COVID pandemic, the Fogg Museum boasts not only an incredible art collection but an ideal spot for writing, holding office hours, and the like. The lobby is open and bright. It’s buzzing but not loud, which is perfect for people like me who sometimes find complete silence a little unnerving. There’s a lovely café staffed by some wonderful people (though watch out for the museum prices). People-watching and finding inspiration from the spectacular collection are both ideal ways to spend the breaks between pomodoros in my book. I’ve been living far from Cambridge since before the pandemic, but this is one of the places I most miss! Hoping for a safe and successful reopening soon.
This well-lit courtyard, inspired by the style of an Italian piazza, can be found right when you walk into the main art museum building on Quincy Street. You can write at small tables close to the café, with views of the galleries and some of the museum's masterpieces. There's ambient noise, and few accessible outlets, so this location may not suit those who like a more library-quiet, outlet-abundant atmosphere to write for long stretches. However, it could be a great place to check out for changing up your routine and gaining fresh inspiration from the setting.
This small campus west of Cambridge Common features winding paths between buildings and a patio outside the Sherrill Library that feels tucked away without being too isolated. If you choose to work for a few hours in the early evening, your writing companions will likely be dog walkers and rabbits! Although the weather (and your laptop battery) will dictate your ability to stay for very long, working for a while and then walking up Brattle Street a few blocks to admire the historic homes and returning to campus along the Charles can be an excellent way to clear your head and recharge.
Harvard is a wonderful place, but we tend to forget that there is a world beyond the wrought-iron gates that frame the campus. Sometimes a change of scenery can be beneficial. On pleasant days, I often venture over to the nineteenth-century McKim Building of the Boston Public Library–a beautiful, museum-like space–and seek a table, and some inner peace, in the arcaded, open-air courtyard, modeled after the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. It might not be a place for intense focus, but the colonnades provide pleasant shade, while the buzz of the central fountain allows your mind to wander just enough to inspire creativity–an ambiance that helps infuse my writing with a poetic style. If you get fidgety (as I do), you can take a short stroll to the Boston Public Garden and do some reading beneath one of the old willow trees, draping their fronds in the cool of the lagoon.