Monday, April 4, 2011
Having a good place to work
Writer Digest asked me to write down seven things I've learned as an author, for their "Guide to Literary Agents Blog." The piece should be published soon after The Jack Bank hits stores early next week. But I'll give you a sneak preview here of one of the points I made: I talked about the importance of having the most pleasant possible space to work in.
For many years I just wrote wherever there was a spare corner: my university office or high school classroom, or a desk in the corner of the bedroom. I wrote on the dining room table, next to the dirty breakfast dishes. I wrote in Starbucks.
When Peterson and I bought a house together, for the first time I had a study (pictured above). I love working in here. I enjoy the sunlight and the view of the historic town of Sunbury, where we live, and of the green wooded hills. I like being able to turn off the Internet. I love hearing birdsong in the warm months, and the music of the wind chime below. The room is full of my favorite books, artwork, and African cloths. I can't imagine myself ever going back to my old way of doing things.
Some writers do well in artists' colonies or varying their working environs. I think I do well with an ironclad routine: I like to program my own brain so that if it's the morning, I should be sitting down at my desk. And if I'm in my office, I should be working--even the wallpaper and floor rug should be subtle reminders of that fact.
Here's the point I make in my forthcoming article, though: writing takes more concentration than any other activity I can think of. There is no one to cheer the writer on. It's a task that's so easy to avoid. If you're like me and work best in stable, predictable, constant surroundings, then I think it's a good idea to make those surroundings as enjoyable, in themselves, as possible. This may not lead to inspiration in itself (an overrated thing, in my view, but that's another blog post). But if writing is going to be so difficult to do, why not do every little thing we can to make it just a little easier to get started? In my case a comfortable chair. A nice desk. Bamboo blinds, rather than the dusty-stained white plastic ones I had for years. Even though I failed to completely register the fact, I think they imprinted on my brain a mood of gloomy, discouraging dullness.