John Hersey once wrote, “To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone -- just plain going at it, in pain and delight.”
Well, you might as well be comfortable since you have to go through all that.
Where do you do what you do? As editor Rand Brandes -- also director of the Lenoir-Rhyne University Visiting Writers Series -- notes in What Writers Do, our writing places “provide a glimpse” into “where the magic happens.”
Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Ben Franklin wrote in the bathtub. So wrote Alexandra Enders in her article “The Importance of Place: Where Writers Write and Why” (Poets & Writers, March/April 2008).
Most of us have a special nest where we can let our imaginations flourish. For some it’s in a room, or the whole second floor, in a farm house with an expansive view, in the woods, even on an ironing board.
Here are brief descriptions of some more distinguished scribes’ writing spaces:
Liza Ketchum’s writing room “is in a converted attic on the third floor” in a “tall, skinny house” near Boston. From up there “I look into the lush, productive gardens in the backyards of our neighborhood” with a morning cup of hot tea or water in the afternoon, her beloved turtle collection keeping watch by the stairs.
Deborah Hopkinson’s “most common work space is sitting on my bed using a portable ironing board as a desk for my laptop” near Portland, ORE, with a cup of mint tea and a view of the snowy landscape “that looks like a Japanese print” in the winter.
Lois Lowry has two -- in Cambridge, Mass, that has “floor to ceiling bookcases across one entire wall,” and in Bridgton, ME, in her elegant 1768 era farm home where she’s warm, has her cup of coffee beside her, favorite photos and prints around her, and her dog Alfie at her feet.
Ron Koetge’s work space “is the second story of a big, old house in South Pasadena, CA.” The house was “used in the early minutes of the original Halloween movie.” His work space has “lots of room to roam around. Lots of places for Buddy (his poetry cat) to sleep, though he likes to be close enough to see/hear me.”
When I was young I wrote on my grandmother’s front porch or on my bed in our bedroom that I shared with her and my older sister in Missouri. When I gained my first apartment in Iowa I bought a typewriter and crowned a corner of my tiny living room to be my writing place. You all know what a typewriter is, right?
In our first home I proudly claimed a “writing room,” with windows, door, lock,begonias, books, a couch, lots of sun, and a long metal table donated from the Des Moines Tribune newsroom.
Now, in my writing house, I’ve an upstairs writing room crammed with bookshelves and metal file cabinets. Downstairs on my kitchen table (surviving from my Missouri childhood) sits my laptop, where I write when I’m really serious.
I love to lie on my futon in my living room, laptop on my belly. TV and radio remote controls, my cell phone, a bowl of fresh, raw red cherries, and my dog Shaka Zulu are nearby.
Now it’s your turn! What’s your favorite writing space? Why there but not there?
(For full writer interviews go to Jennifer Bertman’s “Creative Spaces” interview series: http://writerjenn.blogspot.com .)