Thursday, June 28, 2012

Writers' Spaces

What does the perfect writer’s space look like? 
Remember those old black and white movies? The ones that showed writers toiling over a manual typewriter in a dingy office, with a cigarette wasting in the ashtray and a cup of joe sitting ignored on the desk? That’s a romantic image, but it’s no longer a realistic view of the space a writer uses in 2012. That's my office on the left. The photo was taken around the holidays--can you see the decoration on top of my desk?
What’s necessary for a writer to work productively? It used to be you needed a research library at your fingertips or at least a bookshelf with reference books. I think that because of the Internet, an author’s writing space has become more manageable. You can do so much research online now that you don’t need that cumbersome reference library. Personally, I don’t have a large reference library, other than books on craft, and I can’t even tell you the last time I cracked open a dictionary. I’m not saying I don’t use a dictionary, I go online now instead of using a printed book.
Have you ever seen photos of David McCullough's writing shed? He’s written in that little structure on Martha’s Vineyard for years. I wonder how many writers have daydreamed of such a writing space.
There’s a cool blog called The Plot Thickens that’s all about novelist’s spaces. Take a look and enjoy the gardens where novelists work and find their Muse.
So, where do you write? Is it the same place every day? I write on a laptop, so my office is wherever I want it to be. I’ve written in the kitchen, the dining room, and on my bed propped up by a huge pillow. Lately I’ve been writing outside. As soon as temperatures hit 80 degrees and stay there, I work outdoors on my patio or in my Adirondack chair set in my perennial garden.
JK Rowling revealed in an interview that her ideal writing space  is a café with a window seat. Part of Ms. Rowling’s cachet is the story about writing her first Harry Potter novel in a café while her baby slept in a stroller.
I don’t think the location matters quite as much as the dedication of the writer. What you really need to write is determination, a grasp of the craft, and a good story. Anything else is just extra.
As for dedication, when my children were younger my husband set up a desk for me in our unfinished basement to write. He placed it under a heat vent, but still it was a bit chilly. On cold evenings I wrapped a scarf around my neck, wore a fleece jacket, and used a space heater.
A writer friend was visiting one day and asked to see my space. After I showed it to her she shook her head and said, “Man, you must really want to write.” No truer words were spoken. After her appraisal, I thought I’d dress up my space, and I took apart a pretty calendar and hung the pictures over the desk on the concrete wall with packing tape. I liked it, but when my daughter saw it she said, “You know what? This reminds me of those movie scenes when the cops go into the mass murderer’s apartment and all the freaky photos are hung on the walls.” Well, at least I tried.
What does your space look like?

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