Where I Write

Look up Writing Nook on Pinterest and you will find the most darling literary places. There are leather-bound books, ancient wooden desks, windows with magnificent views and, no doubt, Great Literature Being Composed.

Walk into your neighbourhood café and you’ll see people hunched over laptops or notebooks, soaking in the atmosphere as they write away.

Not me. I’m much more of the school of Annie Dillard who said, “It should surprise no one that the life of the writer–such as it is–is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world.”

Just as I get lost in a good book while reading it — often emerging hours later with a sense of utter dislocation (“where am I?” “what season is it?” “where is the bathroom?”)–so I get lost in the writing process. But, getting lost in the writing process is a bit more tricky for me than getting lost in the reading process, because in the latter, the book is already written; I just have to find my place again. Sometimes writing a book can be a bit like holding a soap bubble in your hand — you can do it, but it’s fragile and you need to pay full attention to the bubble or it will break. This is particularly true for me toward the beginning of writing a book. Once the characters are really well known and the tone of the book is established, it’s more like finding a familiar rut of a bike path. But still, as any cyclist knows, you can wobble out of that path and end up sprawled on the ground. And that’s why, in writing, I try to keep my distractions to a minimum.

There can be no music that ever had lyrics–or I will sing along, harmonize, get pulled into the story of the song. Often there can be no music at all, but occasionally I put a song on repeat over and over and it becomes the soundtrack to my book. There can be ambient noise as long as it isn’t conversation (so tempting) or so continuously repetitive as to be annoying. A neighbour’s lawnmower for 20 minutes? I won’t even notice it. When my kids were small, a babysitter looked after them in the house a couple of afternoons a week while I wrote. They would cry and make noise, but I knew they were not my responsibility so I completely tuned them out.

For a long time, I used a pen and paper — usually graph paper — and wrote my first drafts longhand. Writing by hand seemed to match the rhythm and pace of my mind. More recently I have moved largely to using a laptop. Either a pad of paper or a laptop can be moved around and I do. I often start at my desk (which is currently a corner of our kitchen table), but then move to sit on the floor in front of the fireplace for a while and then perhaps back to the desk/table again.

I don’t need or want a view. Probably my favourite office to write in was one that was subterranean with a view — if you looked way up — of our neighbour’s side door and wall

How about you? Where do you write? What are your necessities?


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