It’s not the space that counts, but the writer in that space


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Where do you write? Do you need to have a cup of tea on the desk and classical music to write? Perhaps you need Metallica in your headphones while sitting at the local coffee shop. Does it matter where you write as long as you’re writing?

That’s the big question here. Does it really matter? To some writers, it isn’t a big deal–Have laptop, will write. To others, everything has to be in order before any writing can be done. Which type are you? I have friends who are happy to set out to a coffee shop and type away on a laptop. They love the hustle of the environment, the voices in the background and the unending supply of coffee and muffins.

I know a writer who takes his laptop to a local resort and sets up in the lobby with a Scotch. He uses the WiFi and has a night out and gets a lot of writing done. Me? I think after a few Scotches I may need a ride home, and I don’t know what I would be writing by then. Hemingway I’m not.

When I read Stephen King’s On Writing, I was so impressed at how he described his first writing desk, shoved in a hallway with the washer/dryer. And this was a typewriter, not even a laptop. He wrote some of the best stories and books there, proving he certainly didn’t need an office, or even a room, to write.

But there is something to be said with being among your books and a familiar setting, behind a desk where you are comfortable, right? Virginia Woolf had a separate writing studio, as did Roald Dahl and many others. Virginia wrote about a woman having A Room of One’s Own.

When I think of all the things I need in my office such as the printer, printing paper, printer ink, laptop, extra monitor, heater, A/C, iPod speakers, etc., I become acutely aware of the sparseness of Thoreau’s little cabin with a bed, small table and tiny desk. Or even Virginia Woolf’s one big table with paper and pens strewn across it. For a glimpse at their spaces, as well as many other famous writers and their spaces, check out this Pinterest site, and this one with photos of famous writers’ studios.

For some writers, it’s not where they write, but how they write. Rituals abound like having a drink at hand, writing only in the morning, writing longhand on a yellow legal pad, etc. We all have our routines, and our needs, and they are all legitimate. I don’t have any routine or ritual, although I prefer to have music without words to distract me. I have a special iPod playlist titled “No Words” that I update occasionally. Joan Didion said she needed an hour before dinner each night, with a drink, to review what she’d written that day. (Perhaps the drink helped.) I may start this one, couldn’t hurt. Check these out for more famous writing routines.

I used to write while seated at an office armoire tucked in the corner of my bedroom. I could “close” my office at night and hide the mess. It was small, but it had everything I needed in one neat little package. Then my husband remodeled the small shed on our property (it was there when we moved in). He added wood floors and a bigger window with a view to the yard. I added a desk from craigslist, an air conditioner (a necessity in the desert), and a small heater for cold mornings. This is my perfect space, and it even has a small refrigerator with chocolate and a bottle of Scotch. I wrote about it when he began the remodel, here.

Where do you write? Whether you find a spot at the local bar, in your own corner of the house, or even a separate writing shed like Woolf or Dahl, it’s the writing that counts. I am always interested in how others write, and in what environments. These differ as much as the books written in them. So, I guess the bottom line is don’t wait for the perfect space, make your perfect space and get writing.

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3 thoughts on “It’s not the space that counts, but the writer in that space

  1. I absolutely love this post. The way you describe each space and ritual makes it all appealing. Being a writer with OCD, everything needs to be set up a specific way on my laptop and I need the right music, but I’ve written pretty much anywhere. And since my husband stole my writing chair, I’ve begun dreaming about a bigger house with an office all to myself. Music is always a must no matter what the setting. Music and no one talking to me if the earbuds are in.

    • Well, you’re welcome anytime, but you also know how small it is. Don’t think Roald Dahl had guests either. But there is a big comfy chair, so who knows? Thanks for your kind comments!

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