Let’s Talk Process: Writing Space
My writing space is varied and sundry. Downstairs, upstairs, coffee shop, library, front porch etc etc etc. My house is small and old. The walls are thin and if I hit the kids in the right (read: VERY WRONG) part of their sleep cycles, my first letter is my last, the very faint *click* of the computer key signaling RED ALERT, ALL HANDS TO MOMMY STATION!
There are authors I know who are more… discerning. Some are so… discerning, they have a difficult time writing out of their designated space. They need their stuff and each item must be in its place. That or they have a desktop computer (I understand those do still exist and some people do choose to purchase them), chaining said individual to a single location or forcing her to buy a very large backpack. There are others who do all of their writing on a tablet and are mobile as hell, able to go zero to whatever, wherever, crushing that shit the way it is meant to be crushed.
All of that said, most people have a few preferred places. Mine are, in no specific order other than that in which I thought of them:
The Dining Room Table: As I mentioned above, our house is compact, pretty much two stories of adjoining rooms. And a scary, smelly, gross basement. The “dining” and “living” rooms are essentially one space divided by the fireplace wall; it is also our main social space. Meaning I write here only when the kids are asleep and my husband is in the tv room or working on worky things. We have a fantastic, counter height table that, with the leaf in, can seat eight with room to breathe. I can sprawl at that table. And I am a natural sprawler, what with the pens and the notebook and the computer, typewriter, reference books, coffee, water… I don’t like piles of writing materials because out of sight means out of mind and I hate, hate, when I get to the end of a section, start to feel almost good about it, and then realize I’ve forgotten something because a note was under my arm or a print of a painting was under the cat’s ass. Negatives? Construction on the street is loud, our neighbors are loud, dogs bark, and the chick behind us wears fucking noisy heels. Also, it’s right near the kitchen. Where we keep the chocolate.
The Front Porch: Our backyard is just a patio and it’s maybe five feet wide. Across it is our neighbor’s deck and living room. She of the loud shoes and even louder porch phone conversations. And let me tell you, while overheard conversation is sometimes a boon to writing, hers make me want to squirt the sink hose through the screen door at her. I tend, thusly, toward our front porch which, while on the street side of the house, is quieter (yes. She is that loud). There’s car watching, squirrel watching, bird watching, and occasionally a neighbor walking of shaming or drunk assholes from the bar watching. There’s a little table with tap lights that provides no space for sprawling (plants, toys, the electric smoker), but there is room for coffee and a notebook if I keep my computer on my lap (which is fine; something is going to kill me, it may as well be writing-based radiation). It’s my favorite spot but is weather limited, being as I live in SW PA. And in the summer, citronella is a must. Or industrial mosquito netting.
The Car: Note taking only. Either in the parking garage at work or in my street spot at home. Because once I get into work people are always bugging me to, well, work. And once I walk into my house, my awesome kiddos need hugs and kisses and cuddles. My memory, unfortunately, is a sieve made of Swiss cheese and the extra moment behind the wheel, albeit in park, has saved me from many an incident of forgetting an important idea.
A Coffee Shop: I like writing in random coffee shops. There were more of them in Lawrenceville then there are in Shadyside and the L’ville ones are all quirky and fun and provide for great people watching. And have better coffee. I still go down there from time to time, and I’m planning to start going more frequently as the weather gets nicer, but it’s a bit of a haul when my writing period is limited (aka: I have a day off, our wonderful nanny is here, and the kids are sleeping but I don’t want to loose too much time with them). Writing at the local, independent chain (yes, there is one) or at the closest Starbucks (yes, I slum it when the local place has no seats, which is often) isn’t as inspiring as 720 or as groovy as Espresso a Mano, but the time alone is nice as is being not at home for brief periods. Writing out, headphones are a must, as is my own soundtrack (the above being exceptions because they play great music) because, while I make an effort not to spy on people, their conversations are sometimes so damn interesting and can give the writer part of me such great insight I forget to actually write. Also, sometimes people are so fucking irritating that, if I can’t drown them out, I’d probably throw my ten dollar coffee on their white, cashmere sweaters. Or something. There must also be free WiFi because, damn it, if I’m paying ten dollars for a latte, those assholes better be giving me free internet. The coffee shop is, of course, more expensive (some times very much more), especially if I’m there for a while and feel obligated to make purchases in order to retain my spot (due either to barista glare, which is a very powerful force or out of a sense of moral obligation to the more indie places because I like the owners and I’m taking up their space). I often find myself taking reading breaks in these locations. Mostly because I can.
The Writing Cave: A relatively new location for me. I’ve had a writing area in the bedroom (no spare for an office) since we moved into the house but haven’t used it much until the last month or so. Alternating between day and night shift at that other job (the one that pays me a living wage), I find myself experiencing frequent sensory overload — I’m easily overloaded to behind with what with the OCD, the anxiety, and the residual from a concussion that blanked out some of my processing capability — and the more tired I am, the worse the overload. It’s not that the TV is distracting; the lights and sounds sometimes set of panic attacks. Add the washer, the fridge, running water, toilet’s flushing… I know, it sounds extreme, but when one has lost a chunk of the ability to filter, everything is LOUD and it gets LOUDER and LOUDER and LOUDER the more I try to focus. The writing cave is quiet. The desk is full of books; I sprawl out on the Queen sized, which has plenty of room for writing paraphernalia (shockingly, I don’t fall asleep that often). Overhead lights go off, bedside lamp goes on. Shades closed, doors closed. Cats out. I even forgo music/podcast which I never did prior to the advent of the cave. I love my cave. It’s lonely and I don’t spend as much time with my husband. And have given up my last residual give as shit about television. Mostly. In the cave, though, writing gets my total. And holy shit, the words appear.
That’s how I do it, baby. How about you?