A clean and clear work space

I’m always interested to see another writer’s work space. Terri Windling, who has one of the most beautiful blogs on the web, often posts pictures of the rooms or desks of creative people. I think most writers tend to lead cluttered lives. Books and papers are piled everywhere. Some keep little tokens on their desks, or inspiring quotes stuck to the walls.

I am very much a cluttered person in my day to day life. I’ve been living in this new apartment for several months now and there are still stacks of books waiting to be organized and shelved. But my workspace is different. It’s practically Spartan. It has to be.

This ... is ... SPARTA!

I can become so easily distracted when I write it’s kind of ridiculous. All those books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t gotten around to sing their sexy little songs to me, they do their saucy little dances. And I am but a man, after all. Even my old annotated copy of The Canterbury Tales, that great red brick of scholarship and Middle English drudgery, seems coyly enticing when I’m trying to get started on a cold story. Those DVDs I haven’t watched in years start rattling in their little plastic boxes. I apply a little logic to the situation: I’m writing a story about a mad scientist … so watching The Abominable Dr. Phibes will sort of be like research, right? Right?

So I have to clear everything away. I have to look at a blank wall, and I can’t have books or DVDs or even music in the room. (Music is actually okay when I’m revising, and can even be helpful then. Or when I’m thinking about what kind of story I’m going to be writing. “You Go Where It Takes You” was conceived while listening to Sarah McLachlan sing “Witness” over and over and over again.) Once I get rolling on a story, this becomes less important. But it’s vital when I begin.

I find that my mind feels cleaner when my environment is that way too. It’s as though absorbing the fact of too many things in a room takes up a degree of necessary energy. When it’s gone, I can devote it all to the task at hand. I think I could live quite comfortably in a small shack with full bookcases, a bed, and a simple kitchen.

I would just have to write with my back to the books. Like I’m doing right now.

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11 thoughts on “A clean and clear work space

  1. This is so strange because Billie noticed this about me last time we were at a writing residency—I have to have all kinds of clutter, good luck charms, Yoda action figures around but—when writing cold copy, I have to write it with my eyes shut. I can type so I know where the keys are- and I just completely close my eyes. This absense of visual input helps.
    Of course, I look like STeve Wonder…

  2. She DID look like Stevie Wonder!

    For me, change is often the key. I can work fine amidst the clutter of my desk here at home, with interruption. But when I go to Weymouth and suddenly I have a perfectly clean desk there and NO interruptions that propels my creativity way up. Then when I come back home it’s nice to get back to my “stuff” which now seems “new” so… if it’s not broken don’t fix it, but if things get stuck, change often jumpstarts the process.

  3. A

    Hmmm-Ive been in your room plenty of times and have never seen this Sparta you speak of….shall I reveal what I have seen or are you going to bring me dirty chais to keep quiet? 😉

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