Thursday, December 11, 2008

Writing Spaces

The "Distractions" post made me look around at my little writing space, the odd little corner of the world that's become my writing home. It's a physical place, but it's oddly connected to a bodiless interior space as well, the world I enter when writing.

What's your writing space? What's good and bad about it? How does it affect that interior space, if at all? And what would be your ideal writing space (if anything were possible)?

I'm in the back of my shop, sort of cut off from the world. My sales counter (dark wood) is on my right. My desk is an old one, something I've stripped, stained and refinished myself (dark wood - note the emerging theme). It varies between cluttered and clean, somewhat randomly based on my mood. My laptop sits on the desk, though the keyboard is broken and so I have to use a plug-in keyboard. A little laser printer, a phone (and my cashbox - shhhh!). Above the laptop are a couple shelves (yes, dark wood...), mostly filled with books. Reference books for a writer (a Word Menu, a Synonym Finder, my lovely and huge Penguin Dictionary, and two Slang Dictionaries), as well as a number of others: Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life, The Withdrawal Method (a book of short stories written by a gradeschool friend - motivation?), a few books on writing and editing, and a bunch of books on my To Be Read list (History, Memoirs and Fiction, both Literary and Fantasy). A couple shelves (of, you guessed it, dark wood) on my left for filing, and for my ipod and speaker. And, of course, I have the bookshop spreading out beyond my sales counter, bookcases (made of... need I say it?) stuffed with books. Mostly fiction in the main room (Literary, Classics, Mysteries and Popular Fiction, with a bit of True Crime thrown in). Above the bookcases are framed pictures, all of them photographs I've taken myself on various travels.

So this is my space, this is where I write. Customers interrupt me. I can't really see outside, except through a fragment of window far to the front that shows three metal poles and a small panel of the grey building across the street. Yet I've become used to writing here. It feels somewhat enclosed, a little more private than a place in a shop might be, and that's good. I like the illusion of seclusion if I can't have the actual thing. And I have books. Books are good, as books are what I'm trying to do. It's a nice frame for writing. I can usually focus here, though I dream, sometimes, of a place solely for writing. A place that has no other purpose in the world than to exist for me to write in.

I think that ideal place would be at home, or an offshoot of home. Home, but not too caught up in the web of the family's activity. Just enough separation so that I can think. It would be quiet, unless I occasionally wanted to play music. It would have a view of the fields and trees. Nature, something still. Something without people and cars. My eyes would be able to focus in the distance as I dreamed of things to write, and dreamed of things for nonexistent people to say. A pool table would be nice... something I could get up and play by myself when I wanted a moment to think. The geometrical movement of the cue ball reflecting the angles of my thoughts, the slanting roll of the words in my head.

Though a view overlooking a Norwegian fjord or the mountainous coast of Ireland wouldn't be too bad either...

So what's your space, or would-be space, and what does it mean to you?


Bookworm1605 said...

Writing spaces are important to me, too. I have what I call my wrtiting niche. In the back of the house, in the back of the master bedroom, I've taken two bookshelves and put them together in the form of an 'L' in a corner in such a way that I can barely fit into it. I have a laptop on one of the lower shelves that lines up about desk height. Around me are my books, my hoary collection of 20's era pulp fiction. Burroughs, Howard, Saberhagen, Zelazny, Herbert, etc. A few odds and ends thrown in. Assimov's Foundation. The Lost World. Adventures of Robin Hood. And of course, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I have an old office chair wedged up in there so that I have barely enough room to squeeze in and get into writing position. My skull candy (head phones) hangs close by for plugging into Media Player. All I can see is my computer and the books I grew up reading. It's pretty insulated and suits me well for now.

My perfect writing place, if I had a much bigger house, would be part writing niche, part studio. Three walls would contain bookshelves. On the fourth my many guitars would hang, so that I could easily move from playing to writing. Also, I'd have one of those big drawing boards close by. Some of my 'characters' can be unusual and drawing helps me get a better visual.

I guess I'm more inwardly focused and so panoramic vistas, such as mountain overhangs and such would probably distract me more than inspire.

So that's it. Pretty standard stuff. Anybody else?

Ms Kitty said...

Hi guys,

My house is my space. I switch rooms depending on the time of day. My favorite place is in the den. You enter from the dining room, via french doors. It has kind of a western theme. There is the fireplace, the rough walls are off-white, the bookcases are white. I have two large windows that look onto the back yard and the barn. The floors are bamboo covered with a big white, red and green wool Indian rug. The walls have a strip of buffalo boarder around the walls.

There are pictures of my horses on the walls. A photo of myself holding newborn filly Tanamara for her first steps.

Not a very girlie room. The couch is big enough for all three dogs and I to curl up while the fire burns in the fireplace. I plug my split keyboard into the laptop, set it on the slate coffee table with the print really large.

There is no tv in this room. I listen to my mp3s via the player, or via laptop.

Some day I want a desk. But for now it is plenty cozy on raw winter nights or sunny winter days.

That's my space.


Wanu said...

There are only two places that I write, one is at work. Like Ink, I work in a shop which can get pretty quiet (unlike Ink, I'm a grunt, rather than the proprietor!), and there is a PC, I'm often logged into FM while at work, but the office and counter are a little removed, I can only access the PC in very short bursts. When I write at work, its by hand, using a clipboard, some paper from the photocopier and a biro.

At home, though... the guy who previously occupied this house did something a little strange with the garage: he converted two thirds of it into a little downstairs room (leaving an unusually small space on the other side, complete with garage door, to store the lawnmower and select bits and bobs to do with the garden). He didn't do a proper job, really, and there isn't a radiator in what is now 'my office', and I share the space with the electricity meter and the boiler, and some exposed brickwork, the vacuum, the 'outdoors' garden furniture (during colder/wetter times of the year, like now), spare duvets, and a labcoat (not sure why that's in here)and the general messy malaise caused by me being in a confined space for long hours. But there are also bookshelves, complete with books, the PC, a little fan heater, a window (woo-hoo!), and my writing head.

Like with music, I don't really notice the environs when I'm in writing away. I think my office is very suitable and I'd never thought to question whether it's a good writing space or not, so I guess it is.

In terms of the ideal, though, I have absolutely no doubt about this: I'd be with a laptop, at a posh patio set, looking out across a sunny vista complete with ocean and beach.

I'd probably never get anything done, and being in such a situation could only mean that I'd already won the lottery or sold a million books, so my motivation would be absolutely zero.

Still, I could add in a hammock and some tasty treats to that scene and I'm sure the urge to write would make itself known sooner or later. Perhaps!

Ink said...

I think a writing space is a bit like a writing time, in that it can help get you into the zone, into the right frame of mind to see stories. I think it's a familiarity that breeds unconscious mental cues: this is the time and place to write. It's sort of like an automatic "writing" charge for the brain, a bit of added juice for the task at hand.

Which makes me interested in Ms. Kitty's reply. Do people who move around a lot prefer it that way? What does the moving around add to the process? Or is one place preferred, but others are used sometimes for practical or creative reasons?

I think part of the reason I like the idea of a "pure" writing space is that the triggers will only be for writing, rather than surfing, work, etc. In there the brain would automatically be tuned to writing, to telling stories. Ideally, there'd be another computer and room for extraneous stuff. Checking NBA scores, looking up photography or music, etc. And then a writing place for just writing (or writing related things).

Ellsea said...

I have two spaces, depending on what I'm doing. Editing, blogging, critting and general twittering is all done on the laptop on the dining room table, a short hop from the kitchen hatch where it (the laptop) normally lives. This is a clean, clean space with no clutter or distractions, and can be totally silent unless I choose to play music in it. No view, no clutter, no distractions. Perfect.

But I can't write on it.

For writing, I need my big desk and all my stuff around me, so I have a desk in our office/attic with a decrepit pc that has (importantly, I think) NO INTERNET CONNECTION. It's the one place where chaos is allowed to exist in my house. Every other place is tidy (obsessively so), but here, there is no system and no rules. There is stuff piled everywhere, all related to whichever of the projects I'm working on. It's perfect, and it's the *only* place I can write.