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7 inspiring spots for aspiring writers in Chicago

Written by
Jessica Berson
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New York's got legions of brooding playwrights, and LA's got gaggles of manic screenwriters, but Chicago's got everything from budding novelists to street poets to future sitcom writers wandering its sidewalks. Take a look inside any coffee shop in any neighborhood and you can bet at least one of those people with their head bent over a laptop keyboard is working on their masterpiece. If you're one of these aspiring wordsmiths, we say ditch the Starbucks and check out these seven spots sure to get your creative juices flowing:

The Art Institute of Chicago

So you're working on an epic time-traveling drama about an 18th century Persian king, a priest from 13th century Germany and Joan of Arc? Cool story, bro. Instead of Wikipedia-ing every tiny thing to get the history nerds off your back, immerse yourself in the art of the time period and country of your choosing at the Art Institute. Bonus: Sitting on the steps outside the museum makes for some of the best people-watching in the city.


Museum of Science and Industry

Alternatively, if you're working on your next sci-fi trilogy, wander around the "Fast Forward" exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry to find out what the future of science actually has in store for us (hint: it has sweatshirts that can hug you, food you can print and furniture you can play music on, none of which has ever appeared in any Terminator movie).


The Garden of the Phoenix

Just behind the Museum of Science and Industry is the beautiful Phoenix Garden (also known as the Osaka Garden), which was originally built, like the museum itself, as part of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. It's hard to believe such a tranquil spot exists in a bustling area, but this breathtaking garden hosts tons of beautiful flora and fauna as well as Japanese-style bridges perfect for rambling over while composing a sonnet or haiku.


Graceland Cemetery

If you're trying to get in the right mood for writing a ghost story, why not take a stroll through Graceland Cemetery? Sure, there are lots of famous industrialists buried there with their gigantic monuments dotting the landscape like Roman ruins, but if you really want something creep-tacular, check out the Eternal Silence sculpture (also known as the Dexter Graves Monument). This thing depicts Death himself as a shrouded figure in front of a slab of black granite. Supposedly if you look into his eyes, he'll show you a vision of your own demise.


The Chicago Cultural Center

A lot of writers who move to Chicago are inspired by the city's own history and rich culture, so a good place to start on that historical novel might be the Cultural Center. Even if you're not there to take in one of the hundreds of performance events held throughout the year (which you absolutely should because they're mostly all free), just taking the time to wander around this gorgeous building and appreciate things like its signature Tiffany glass dome will give you the sense of grandeur you've been looking for.


The Fountain of Time

If your fantasy novel is going to give George R.R. Martin a run for his money, it better have an impressive cast of characters. The Fountain of Time in Washington Park will help give you a sense of scale, as it depicts 100 figures parading through different stages of their lives, a la Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage," while Father Time acts as the conductor. As all of these figures are meant to be generic representations, you can literally consider them a blank slate for you to paint your barbarian warrior or sly sorceress.


The Wreck of the Silver Spray

When someone says "shipwreck" it immediately conjures up images of swashbuckling pirates, treasure chests laden with jewels and sass-talking parrots. So if you are working on your latest seafaring adventure, head over to Hyde Park for a view of the Wreck of the Silver Spray. Even though this boat's passengers were less Long John Silver and more UIC students returning from a tour of Gary steel mills, you can still marvel at the five feet of rusted steel from a ship that sunk 100 years ago sticking up out of the water and let your imagination run wild.

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