Monday, May 4, 2009

A Writer's Native Habitat

One of my things this season is to recreate my writing space. Right now, I'm tripped out feng shui-style, but it's an o-so-far cry from inspirational. Has it helped my productivity? Sent the universe's ju-ju vibes my direction? Yes and no. My goal board doesn't need a complete overhaul for all the stellar accomplishments since my desk migrated, but the flow was there and good writer-ly things did come to me this year. Hard to say if it was because I faced the doors to my writing space and moved the rejection pile away from my career-focused north-east corner or if it was just plain hard work, but who am I to fight the universe's pull?

All these thoughts of change sent me fleeing from the IKEA and Pottery Barn catalogs that clog my mailbox. They look perfect, don't they? The glossy layouts of home office space with juicy lime colors, organized with every overpriced do-da known to man. At times, I find myself falling into the notion I could create a thousand Pulitzer-prize winning novels there a year if only I had that kind of space/storage/picture-perfect setting. Why wouldn't an artist-rendered push pin that cost more than a 100-count box of pencils translate into beauty on the page?

Then I catch myself. Those spaces are as unimaginative as they are nonfunctional (Don't you love the way they use laptops without cords and designer chairs that would leave us all crippled by day's end?) My quest for something real took me to some amazing writer's spaces. Check them out:

This space is rumored to be where Jane Austen crafted most of her novels. No doubt, it's the smallest desk ever used by a writer. Truly a playground of the mind. Just for you, Marilyn.

This is Graham Swift's space. I included it because it spoke to me in two ways. Though orange would be dead-last in my paint options to inspire dark romance, the color shows courage, depth of thought, emotion. And to me, Ye-of-Sixth-Grade-Desk, the real estate he has to spread out his pages and thoughts looks like heaven. He has the trashcan at the forefront. I know he's keeping it real.

Simon Armitage's writer-space has the full-length, floor to ceiling bookcases that make my heart palpitate, but I also love that even the structure of his desk (foreground) is comprised of stacked books. Keeping it real: the slippers.

My absolute favorite from The Guardian's on-going photo collection is Kevin Crossley's writer-space in Holland. View on three sides and enough ceiling to channel the creative gods. Just out of the photo, crossbeams painted in "marsh-green, sea-lavender, duck-egg, woad ... colours of contemplation," according to Crossley.

More telling than any photograph, though, are the stories of their space, narrated in most cases by the writers themselves. Details essential to creation. Mile markers of their own literary journey. And the ever-present trash can.

Paige Cuccaro's Writer's Cave displays writer-spaces from Kim Harrison and Laurell K. Hamilton to Jim Butcher and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Would that I had a fireplace in my writer's space like Lisa Kleypas. A girl can dream, right?

Stay tuned for pictures of my writer-space. Think there will be a clock?

Post a link in the comments to a photo of your writer-space, your favorite space or let us know what is essential in your surroundings to tap into your creativity.


the walking man said...

In perusing the pictures I tried to associate one of them to the space I write in...not unexpectedly I could not.

Although if you put a desk and sideboard with computer tower, monitor, extra hard drive, speakers laserjet printer,bubble jet printer (for color), a couple of reams of paper, a book of "forever stamps" (so named because that is how long it will take me to use them)and a table lamp, all surrounded by a dozen or ten books waiting to be read covered with effluvia of the hour and coffee stains abundant and an overfull ashtray inside of a dark green trash can you may get an idea of my idea of feng-shui.

Jim said...

What about my desk, surrounded by hundreds of venomous snakes?

Charles Gramlich said...

I have a very nice writing space at the moment. I definitely have to have books around me, or I want them for sure.

Robin said...

Jim Butcher is one of my most favorite authors ever! Thanks for posting that link! He's got red walls! Red walls. And he's lying down? I've got sit at a desk. Maybe take my laptop and recline for a few, but ultimately, I like my desk. It's pretty big and it sits right in front of a window on the second floor of our house where I can see the tops of trees. Occasionally a hawk comes by. And oh, a monarch butterfly just went by.

Now I just need to turn off the darn Internet and start writing. :)

L.A. Mitchell said...

@walking man...only a writer would use "effluvia" in place of "crap". I have some effluvia today, myself.

@Jim...fear does not inspire creativity. Knowing one of those could kill me would suffocate my process :O

@Charles...I'm with you. Books inspire books.

@Robin...Red! I know! He was ALL pimped out, wasn't he? I couldn't stay awake if I had a bed nearby. Sleep would be too tempting.

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Hi LA, thanks for stopping by my blog.

Great blog. I've looked into feng shui for my office, too, but am somewhat limited to where I can place my desk due to size constraints. At least I've learned not to put my back to the doorway, LOL.

But I do have a nice view of my backyard and the trees, flowers and outdoor critters, so that's a big plus.

Love seeing other writers' spaces, though. A girl can certainly dream!

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I really like the orange one--great space and organization--and the Holland one--just lovely.

Sue L said...

I can write just about anywhere, it's more of a frame of mind for me. Sometimes, if I'm 'stuck', what's needed is a *different* space or place. Like going out to the porch swing with a pencil and notepad. I usually do well and can churn out the drafts anytime I'm forced to wait somewhere, Dr's office or whatever. Or during the downtime in the evening at one of my events.

I do have a problem sometimes because my writing computer is in the same office with my work computer. If I write in the morning or afternoon and work all evening, that's a lot of hours at one desk in a small space so sometimes it takes a more focused effort to 'chill' and be creative.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog! I do the feng shui thing too. I have my historical books lined up in order of era and try to keep things organized. -Laura Hogg

Todd Wheeler said...

We have an overstuffed office space in the house. After much negotiation, I turned the desk perpendicular to the wall. It takes up more space in the room, but now I can watch the sunset over the pond in the evening.

L.A. Mitchell said...

@Nicole...nice to see you here! Your view sounds perfect. Beyond my irises, I see only the geriatric neighbor wearing his boxers and black dress socks visiting his mailbox three times a day. :O

@Alyssa...Welcome :) I thought it was really smart to make his own desk from file cabinets and a wood surface.

@Laura...hey there, TT girl ;) If/When I actually get bookcases, I'm sure I'll go on an organizing spree, too. Right now, it's crazy. Thanks for stopping by. THAT sounds like heaven. Lucky man.

Marilyn Brant said...

L.A.~LOVED Jane's little table (but you knew I would :-). Thanks, hon. Kevin Crossley's space is just beautiful and is pretty near my ideal. On one of Susan Wiggs's blog posts, she had a photo or two of her office, and it's spacious and lovely also. (Of course, the RITAs on display are inspiring parts of the scenery, too!)

Leigh Russell said...

When I received my first advance from my publisher I bought a new computer, desk and bookcases and ensconced myself in a spare bedroom. I ordered the desk from a catalogue and miscalculated the dimensions. When it arrived it was about twice the size I was expecting. It's huge! Needless to say, it's now covered in piles of papers... but I do enjoy having the space to spread myself out.

The view from my window includes a road winding out of sight between gardens and trees. I watch cars and pedestrians disappear round the corner, and wonder where they're going.

I'm no more prolific than when I used to write on my lap in the living room, but I love my new set up and feel lucky to have it.

Jen FitzGerald said...

Looking forward to seeing your new space, L.A.

Right now all I have is one of those computer armoires in the corner of my-semi finished garage. I'm looking forward to one of my children moving out!


Pamela Cayne said...

I love seeing other writing spaces, so thanks for a great post! (And, can't wait to see yours...ahem.) I redid mine about a year ago (though still only 85% finished) and had a wonderfully productive year. Coincidence? I think not.

Vesper said...

I'd love to have Kevin Crossley's writer-space from Holland, but, I wonder, would I be looking too much out the window?... :-)
A couch, or my bed, and my laptop are what I often use. Notes scribbled in the car, at work, or just about anywhere are also a part of it.

Barbara Martin said...

I have a bit of a cluttered writing area at the moment, but will soon fix that. I have current reading books, DVDs, CDs and a thesaurus close by while the majority sit in a bookcase across the room. There is one window to glance out to get a glimpse of greenery to rest the eyes.

Its interesting to see the areas other writers work in. Thanks for poting, L.A.