On the wall opposite my writing desk hangs a large watercolor painting by an unknown artist which gives me the sense of peering down a long, white stucco corridor. The pathway, constructed of irregular sized brown pavers, is flanked by cobalt window shutters. Atop the last archway visible at the end of the corridor sits a small charcoal cat observing the comings and goings from the street at one end, and open courtyard at the other, both out of view of the painting. I like to imagine the image is set in Greece, probably seaside. It’s what I see when I look up from my computer at my writing desk, which is often.
Because I work from home, and because the space in my house accommodates it, I have a room to myself set aside as my office. I nearly hung a white board in that space that now looks toward Greece, and thought better of it. I realized having a jumbotron-style to-do list in my line of sight would be unhelpful for nurturing my creative work. My desk, an antique library table, is sturdy oak and fits my high-backed leather desk chair. (I’m cognizant of the dangers of too-long sitting, and work in this space for shorter bursts; the bulk of my work hours are spent at an adjacent standing desk where I carry out my day job.) To my right is a large bookcase, the shelf at my elbow lined with poetry titles, including Neruda, Hoagland, Szymborska, Jones, Barkat, Malone. From the top of bookcase, a brushed silver desk lamp illuminates the desktop. I prefer not to have an overhead light so as to mute the background. There’s little noise, other than the sound of key taps and the cooling fans of a couple of computers, unless I turn on Spotify, usually the Bob Dylan channel.
This space works well for routine writing assignments and design work. It’s where I’m sitting to write this piece, occasionally gazing off down that cobalt and white corridor when I’m looking for the next right word. One evening each week, I edit a segment of a fiction series from this space. Most Saturdays, I write my weekly columns here.
In explaining the space her office holds in the dining room of her home, Ann Kroeker reminds us, “This writing life is not an afterthought; it is who I am and what I do. As a result, I occupy a prominent room on our main floor.” Kroeker and On Being a Writer co-author Charity Singleton Craig consider the adjustments that must be made to accommodate family schedules, social and physical needs, and the things that keep a writer inspired to write. Says Craig, “As the years come and go, I continue to make adjustments to schedules, adding or subtracting commitments, letting the writing lead me in how much time I should spend. But always, always, I am attempting to arrange my life in such a way that this writing life is more than just a dream.”
Though my space is designed to suit my preferences, I’ve learned it can also become too routine. Because I do all of my work here, it can mean 10 hours a day working from the same space. A fatigue of familiarity can squelch creativity and my ability to focus. Several months ago I began going out once a week to spend the morning writing in a coffee shop. The lighting is different: fluorescent on dark wood. The chair is hard and does not recline. There’s background music and cups clanging and espresso machines roaring and milk frothers hissing away, not to mention the level of conversation that has to rise above all the racket. I don’t bring a computer. I write longhand on smooth paper using a roller ball pen with fast flowing ink. This is where I do my most focused writing, for three hours or so at a time, only looking up occasionally to see that Greece is nowhere to be found.
We’re reading and discussing the first three chapters of On Being a Writer together this month. The book offers several discussion questions following Chapter 2 • Arrange. Perhaps you’d choose a question or two to answer in the comments as part of our discussion.
- To what extent have you arranged your space and time to honor your writing?
- How does your schedule support or challenge your writing life?
- What are your challenges and successes in the area of time management? How about project and task management?
- What tangible arrangements can you (and your family or roommates, if applicable) make to allow you to pursue the writing life more easily and productively?
- Do you think it’s necessary to write every day? Why or why not?
- If you do write daily, what do you feel it accomplishes in your writing life: improvement of the craft? Adding to your body of work? Professional discipline?
Join us as we explore topics related to the writing life in this helpful book.
Our schedule will be as follows:
October 14: Introduction & Chapter 1 — Identify
October 21: Chapter 2 — Arrange
October 28: Chapter 3 — Surround
Photo by Ashton, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by LW Lindquist.
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