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.
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.