Where Do You Write?

Today’s article over at Copyblogger is exploring writing rituals, and I was so entranced with the questions it raised that I decided to talk about the topic here as well.

Author Kelton Reid says, in part,

  • Much like athletes that hope to one day make it to the “big show”, good writers all start out studying the basics and slowly work their way up to the more complicated techniques.
  • Writers have always been a superstitious bunch, relying on their own pre-game rituals and psych-up methods to allay the dreaded content slump (AKA “writer’s block”).
  • Many successful writers seem to have a reverence and a respect for the game that borders on worship, not to a deity, but to the daily pursuit of seeking out the truth in spilling ink (virtual or otherwise) on the page.

That daily pursuit happens, I should think, in as many ways as there are writers. But I wondered about how Reid’s thoughts apply to my situation.

For example, I’m probably the least superstitious person I know. Oh, I have a few talismans about, of course, including a small blue woolen lamb (don’t ask) and a matchbox filled with tiny Guatemalan worry dolls, Chinese scrolls, and yin/yang stones; but by and large, I use these objects as touchstones, as reminders; I certainly don’t believe that they influence events in any way.

Or do I?

If I’ve been learning anything over the past decade or so, it’s the dawning realization that thought influences behavior—and behavior influences events. So if I’m focusing my thoughts when I touch these objects, if I’m using that physical act to slow myself down and concentrate, then perhaps these objects, and the ritual of touching them, do work. Does that make me superstitious? I don’t know.

I do know that I write best when I’m in a calm, tidy, visually pleasing environment. I’ve worked hard to make my study/library my favorite room in the house, painting the walls a soothing dark green, filling the shelves with books I love and use, putting objects around that inspire me, surrounding the whole with living things—plants, my lovebirds, a place my cat loves to snooze. I’ve done all of this not because I’m enamored of interior decorating, but because it provides me with a space apart, a space where I feel organized and creative and safe.

When the impulse and ideas are flowing, I can write anywhere. But when I have to write and don’t feel like writing, then the environment becomes very important.

Space is meaningful. I don’t just create my own space; I’ve long been a voyeuse into other people’s spaces. Among other books I keep close to hand are two extremely voyeuristic ones: Jill Kremetz’s The Writer’s Desk, a lovely book filled with photographs of writers’ working spaces and comments on them, and Francesca-Premoli-Droulens’s Writers’ Houses, which opens up other rooms as well. Place and space are important to those of us who live much if not most of our lives inside our heads, and so place is an important part of any writer’s rituals.

Space is meaningful. And we all like to see how others do it. At one time or another, several of the internet writing groups to which I belong encouraged members to post photographs of their desks, offices, studies. And no, it hasn’t just been about stealing ideas (“Wow! I have to try out putting my desk on that side of the room, like he does…”): it’s this sense, perhaps at the end of the day very superstitious indeed, that if we can just get the space right, then the ideas will follow.

As for others? I don’t do incantations or exercises before I sit down to write; I do occasionally light a candle, and if I’m writing a sex scene then wine replaces my usual coffee; but I’m really very uninteresting indeed when it comes to writing rituals.

What about you? What does your space need to do for you before you can write there? How do you decorate it? What has to happen—or has to not happen—before you feel the time is right to write? Share it all here, and then you’ll be … beyond the elements of style!

One thought on “Where Do You Write?

  1. When I built my house, I created a writing dungeon. It’s mostly underground, with a small tiny window, that reveals when the sun has come up. It’s below the level of my plumbing system, so in the corner I keep a chamber pot. It’s not as bad as it seems. It’s in a small box, so the smell is not bad, besides, it is cool down there, and I enjoy the coolness year-round. I’m surrounded by books: my library of writing books on the left and books about the occult, magic, and sorcery on the right. The door locks from the inside and out. During NANO, I have my wife lock me in there in the morning when she leaves for work. I have to slip out the 2,000 words before I’m let out to eat. Just don’t let her know about the secret stash of Little Debbies and diet cokes in a small hole behind the removable cinder block. It’s quiet here. I can’t hear Sydney’s screams in the kitchen, or bill collectors pounding on the door, or relatives letting themselves into the house, “Yuohoo are you business.” Yes, damnit I am; I’m writing. The computer is a laptop. The chair is wired so I only can sit for 45 minutes at a stretch, then I stand at a podium and write, march in place, or read. Everyone writes somewhere. I suggest dungeons. I do my best light-hearted romantic comedies there.

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