Friday, February 11, 2011

The Perfect Writing Space

Originally published on my website on 11/10/10

When I was in high school I had this desk that was built into one of the walls of my bedroom. As I recall, I chose that bedroom because the desk was built into the wall. It was pretty cool. It was a decent size too. I wrote two novels at that desk. Crappy, young adult novels that actually dealt with some pretty adult themes. (I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could finally start writing about adult stuff.)

If you’re the single person who reads this blog (hah hah) then you know from my first post that between 18 and 22 I had a “crisis of confidence”. Those were college years for me. Well they were college/stop to work/go back to college/stop to work/go back to college while working years. I lived in a number of places and during that time I always, always had a desk. It was usually in my bedroom. I never used it. Not to write anyway. I piled lots of stuff on it. The ubiquitous desk was always good for holding my stuff. But I didn’t write while sitting at the desk.

Since I was eleven and started writing I have always—with the exception of a few scenes from Finding Claire Fletcher—written my fiction longhand and typed it up later. I’m just more comfortable that way. So during the crisis of confidence years I wrote most of my stuff sitting in bed. Later on when I had my first grown-up apartment with a spare room I set up an office. Someone bought me a great desk. I set it all up.

And then I piled stuff on it.

It was shortly after I got that desk that I started writing The Space Between which I consider my first complete adult novel. It will forever remain under my bed. It was quite long and very much all over the place with far too many characters and too many subplots but geez, it was fun to write. Did I write that book in my brand new office at my brand new desk? Nope. I wrote it sitting on the couch, sitting in bed. I was completing my undergrad at the time and to supplement my income I would house/dog-sit for friends. I wrote a great deal of that book sitting on other peoples’ couches or their decks or in their backyards. Sometimes by their pools. I wrote that book on pieces of looseleaf paper that I kept in a folder.

After I finished that book, I moved into another apartment and I moved my great desk into a new room that got lots of light. I set it all up and then piled more stuff on it. I bought myself a “writing chair”. It was quite comfortable but not so comfortable that you’d fall asleep in it. I set it near the desk and that’s where I wrote the beginning of Finding Claire Fletcher.

Finding Claire Fletcher was such a pleasure to write and the words came so fast and so furiously that I often couldn’t wait to be seated in my writing chair. At the time I was working as a Certified Nurse Assistant and a graduate assistant as I made my way through grad school. I had to work a lot of doubles which meant time away from my writing chair—time away from Claire—so I kept pieces of scrap paper in the pockets of my scrubs along with a pen. Whenever I had a break, even if I was just waiting for a resident to come out of the bathroom, I’d whip out my scrap paper and start writing. On my breaks (15 minutes before lunch, lunch and 15 minutes after lunch) I’d write on my scrap paper. I eventually did start sitting at that desk. As I said, Finding Claire Fletcher came to me so quickly that I could barely get it out fast enough so I was able to type many of the scenes while sitting at my desk.

I moved just after completing the first draft of Finding Claire Fletcher and my new space wasn’t big enough for me to have an office but I did still have a desk.

And I piled stuff on it.

I wrote the first hundred pages of an as-yet-unfinished project on a legal pad while sitting in bed or sitting on the porch. Then I went to work on Aberration. Much of that was written in the same fashion. I had to take a break from writing when I got pregnant because the pregnancy was a bit difficult. After I had my baby and established a routine I returned to Aberration, determined to finish it. After all those years of abandoned projects I am very serious about finishing whatever I start—at least getting one finished draft down on paper. My fiancĂ© and I bought a house that needed a lot of work so there was no desk this time and certainly no office. But by that time I thought “desk schmesk—I never use it anyway!”

I wrote most of Aberration in my car. If I got to work ten or fifteen minutes early I’d sit in my car and write in a small notepad that I always keep in my purse. My fiancĂ© and I would drive to the store and the baby would fall asleep in the carseat so I’d stay in the car while he ran into the store. Again I’d pull out my notebook and get to work. Even later, when I typed up what I’d written I did it sitting in bed with my laptop after my child fell asleep. That’s how all my revisions were done.

I’ve read a lot of articles about having a good writing space or writing room. Writers’ Digest did a piece a couple of years ago about it. I remember the section about Lisa Gardner’s writing room because it was really nice but also because I love her work. I would love to have an office again—a writing room—and one day when my life is less hectic and I have a little more space I will have one.

But there’s no point in having a writing space if you’re never in it. My life is busy. The writing time I get is usually time I have to steal—writing while my child is asleep, writing in the doctor’s office while I’m waiting to be seen, writing in the car if I have five or ten minutes before I have to go into work, writing well into the night after my family is asleep, after I should be asleep. I can guarantee that as things stand now even the most beautiful writing room would go unused. I think if I placed too much importance on a writing space right now, it would be too easy for that to become an excuse not to write. I can’t make it to my writing space today so I won’t be able to write. Pretty soon, a year would pass and I’d have written nothing. But I have ideas, so many ideas floating around in my head. Whole scenes, whole novels. They are in there. I just need the time to put them down on paper.

If I wait for the perfect space, it will never get done. So I don’t have a space. I make a space out of wherever I am when I can get a few uninterrupted moments. It’s not as fun as it was when I had a space and a little more time to devote to writing but it’s still exhilarating. It still keeps me sane.

The other night after my family had fallen asleep I broke out my little notebook, settled onto my couch and started writing. It was hard at first. The words didn’t seem to come very easily. It felt awkward, wooden and uncomfortable but I pushed through and after about 10 minutes it started to feel better, the words started to flow more easily and I began to enjoy writing. I would say to other writers like me not to wait for the perfect space or even the perfect time. Don’t wait for your life to get less hectic. Make the time, steal it if you have to and don’t be concerned with the perfect space. Sure, it’s fabulous if you have it and have the time to use it but if you’re unpublished and unproven and you just love to write like me, make your own space and make it wherever you see an opportunity to put some words down on paper.

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