Harlan Ellison was quoted as saying, “People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.”
And the truth is it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time; time isolating oneself, making stuff up and then making the words. A proper environment is a necessary part of that, and I found myself wondering what other writer’s work spaces look like; what surroundings do they place themselves in when they write?
I’ve seen Hemingway’s writing studio in Key West and pictures of other, famous authors, but what about my peers? What do their work spaces look like?
I’ll start with my own.
This is my home office, where the magic happens… or doesn’t. Sometimes I bang those keys like I’m possessed. More often, I blow hours on Facebook or browsing.
I work from home sometimes, and the notebook computer on the desk is a company machine. Behind the chair (and out of frame) is my whiteboard, where I plot outlines and scribble little notes to myself. Right now, it’s covered with stuff from Undertaking Hartford.
I try to keep my workspace clear of clutter, but it is all around me. The shelf has a number of books on writing, grammar or references I use in my research. There are a few awards and trophies I have gotten for… whatever. I keep a baseball handy, and holding it helps me think. On it, I have written the words, “Do not stop.”
I haven’t yet.
I’m pleased to say that this corner doesn’t look nearly as messy as the rest of the room. Up the other end you can’t stand anywhere because of all the Play Mobil. With all my books and paperwork on that wooden sideboard thingy you can see, the overall effect is quite horrifying.
That pile of stuff contains lots of things – drafts of poetry/short stories and various unfinished homework from my writing class, as well as print outs of my Friday French lessons. On the top is a Mexican cookery book – not that I’ve been cooking Mexican recently – my daughter was doing her final school project on Mexico and I took it in to show her the cuisine.
The painting is one of mine I was going to sell, but decided it fitted the decor of this room so I kept it. In fact, it is sometimes good for inspiration compared to the blank wall that was there before.
On the top left hand corner of the wall, are diagrams as a reminder to my writing of a story. The ingredients to include characters, dialogue, plot, flashback(if any), theme, conflict, atmosphere, setting, point of view, as we all know.
Also on the wall is a reminder: READ LIKE A WRITER.
Yasmine, my 12 year old daughter, has another note on the wall with things like the Skype and Internet account and password, which I always forget. The password to my internet account as the internet constantly break down in bad weather. There are also little messages from my two daughters.
Three files on the table, a file containing info and correspondence to my holiday home in Malaysia, another for piles of papers and finally, one for drafts of my poems and short stories.
The big map and small globe depict my love for travelling and remind me of my home in Malaysia. I love to look up at the map, imagine or recall places I have visited, and include those experiences at those places, towns and countries in my writes.
The other reason is that every time I use Skype to communicate with my friends, I will look up at the map to trace their locations.
On the right side of the wall, there are two maps of Ireland. One shows the counties and another shows the geographical map of Ireland. I have to drive my two daughters for table Tennis tournaments and this map gives me an idea where and how long it will take me to drive to those locations.
This is a picture of my ‘more often than not’ workspace. I have a proper study area in an upstairs bedroom (my husband having stolen the downstairs one) but I like being surrounded by life things such as dogs and a kettle so usually stay downstairs. I have some health issues and find sitting in an upright chair practically impossible for any length of time. I’m sure the right chair exists but I haven’t found it at a price I can afford. The bookshelves are self-explanatory for a reader and a writer, my workstation less so. I used to have a proper laptop table but the pup’s crate usurped it (and so got transformed into a work station).
When I solicited for participants for this article on Facebook, many of my friends complied with pictures and write-ups, but didn’t send them to me, personally, so I was reluctant to use them.
What you can gather from this shows a great diversity in environments. I think the takeaway on that is, whatever space works for you… that’s where you write.