I can write anywhere. I proved that when I was a journalist. But the kind of writing I do now — fiction — deserves its own dedicated space. Fortunately I have one in our home.
Recently, I reread Stephen King’s book On Writing in which he talks about his writing space, a desk shoved in the corner of a room beneath the eaves. He traded in his grand desk for something handmade and smaller.
Years ago, a friend gave me the book, The Writer’s Desk, which contained photos by Jill Krementz of where 56 famous authors wrote. Published in 1996, many of them are no longer with us although their writings certainly are such as Ralph Ellison, Katherine Anne Porter, and Kurt Vonnegut (Krementz’s husband). Many have spaces filled with paper. Most have windows. Their computers are antiques by our standards.
Each author offered a short essay about their writing space. Here’s one I can relate to from Amy Tan, “I surround myself with objects that carry with them a personal history — old books, bowls and boxes, splintering chairs and benches from imperial China.”
My space is situated in our second bedroom, where through the windows I can see our large deck, the neighbors’ homes, trees, and beyond, a high wooded hill with a fire tower on top. (It is certainly not the view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains I saw from my office when we lived in Taos, New Mexico, but this is New England village life.)
Most of the time I don’t bother looking. My attention is on my computer screen.
I am fortunate to have furniture hand-built by Hank. Or I should say Hank-built. The desk is Shaker-style, when he was into that style of woodworking, with the top made from black walnut he salvaged from a job long ago — the homeowner told him to get rid of it. It has enough space for my laptop and on either side, the tansus Hank built with drawers and shelves to hold paper, writing and tech supplies. On the top of one is a collection of odds and ends I’ve collected or have been gifted over the years — from a hand-carved, painted Japanese couple I found in a library yard sale to interesting rocks, a bar of soap from Portugal, and pieces of driftwood. A clay vase resembling an Aztec relic, which I bought at TJ Maxx, strange by true, holds writing utensils.
Hank also built a trashcan I use to recycle paper and a filing cabinet that holds my printer. Yes, I am lucky to be married to a skilled woodworker.
The office chair, which I bought for five bucks at the church’s annual tag sale next door, is kind of crappy. I have a nice oak office chair I got at the same sale last year, but I need to make some cushions.
On the walls I have a bulletin board (yes, built by Hank), photos, art and Native weavings.
I keep the space neat and don’t let the paper, coffee stains or crumbs get out of control.
No music except from the birds outside.
Sometimes I bring my computer onto the front porch of our bungalow or to the deck’s table to work. Usually it’s to catch up on email or do research. Sometimes, I will print a few chapters to mark up. But nothing too serious happens in either place.
When I sit down to write, say around 6 a.m. (a far more civilized time than 5 a.m. when I had a job), I feel this is my place. Here, I am at my best channeling whatever’s in my brain into the book I am writing. Right now, I am several thousand words away from finishing the sixth book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. This is the exciting part where all the pieces fall together and fortunately, I have just the space to do it.
IMAGE ABOVE: That’s my writing desk.
MY BOOKS: Here’s the link to my books on Amazon and thanks for your interest: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG