Cara/Andrea here, This month is my turn to host our regular "Ask A Wench" feature. Now, as many readers are very curious about where writers meet with their Muse, I decided to answer that general query by showcasing where all of us write. (As we shared the photos on our private loop, they provoked much humorous debate on the virtues of Neat versus . . . um, Not So Neat.) So, here's a a peek at our private spaces (click on the images for a larger view). . .
I write in several places — my office, my local library where I write by hand, and in bed sometimes. The main one is my cluttered (and messy) little office, lined with books — behind my computer you can see several shelves of some of my childhood books, including a shelf of Georgette Heyer novels. It started off as a temporary "bricks and planks" bookshelf of the kind I had in various student houses, and I intended to have proper shelves built, but the bricks and planks have been there for many years now.
Above the shelves are the various story collages I've done for my books, a bit like photos of old friends. There are also some "muse" kind of things — a little gemstone tree made by a friend, with lapis lazuli, amazonite and jasper "leaves," a little "writing altar" that dates from a course I did with Barbara Samuel, various crystals, a salt lamp and other bits and pieces. Really, it needs a good clear out.
My official humdrum writing space is a desk buried in papers and surrounded by books, computers, and filing cabinets. It is seriously Not Pretty, just functional. But my real “writing” space is outdoors. When I’m working out plot, stuck in an intense scene, trying to spur my recalcitrant Muse, I go outside with pen and paper and occasionally, laptop. Usually, I chase the sun and have lounges and rocking chairs scattered all over the yard. But the loveliest, most convenient area is this one right outside my front door. Since our door doesn’t face the street, it’s a private, quiet haven. I can watch hummingbirds flit, admire whatever flowers are blooming, put my feet on the table (it’s stone, after all), and just let the creative juices flow.
If possible, I only write in my writing room, in the set up I've had now for over ten years — moved to 4 houses so far — using my DOS computer that's had it's 20th anniversary. Resistant to change? Moi? In this case, yes. I have however, upgraded to a modern monitor, though it was tricky to get a square one. A rectangle just wouldn't have worked with my word processing program, XY Write.
Simply, I write best when I'm not distracted by change, updates and all that stuff. But clearly, I don't mind a fair amount of mess.
I'm very boring. I do not work in the garden or the coffee house or the library, or even the living room. I only work in my office. But there are two work zones. One is my desk, which currently looks like an explosion in the Library of Congress with papers all over and count them, not one but two foot high stacks of research books because the current book is a high research story.
The other work zone is a comfy yellow chair and ottoman in which I sit and draft story for 15 or 20 minutes at the time on my Dana, an electronic keyboard. No wifi, no email, no fancy formatting, just a straight shot at generating words which I then upload to the desktop and edit into place. This only works if I have some idea where I'm going, but it's useful at putting a lot of mental distractions out of the way. There are still physical distractions, of course. Note the cat. He likes lying on the desk by the keyboard, too. Though I like to think that he's channeling creativity from the astral plane, if the truth be known, mostly he's in the way. But charmingly so.
My office is a back corner bedroom, a quiet spot that overlooks the yard. I have an oak desk along one wall that's very handsome but is just too big for me, so I use the smaller extension for most of my keyboard writing, and the other desk gets piled up with stacks of research stuff, notes, pens, files, lotion and phones and all the flotsam and jetsam that goes with marathon book writing. Two walls are lined with bookshelves, which several years back I painted white, and found that the whole room brightened up and the bookshelves seemed less oppressive (so then I went around painting all the bookcases in my house white, which really opened up the house!). The books on the office shelves are mostly research volumes collected over the years. Around the room, which doesn't show in this view, are favorite and special things, gifts and good luck charms, angels and crystals, stained glass lamps that give a lovely warm glow at night. Every now and then I rearrange the office furniture and redo the space, as I get a bit bored with the same old surroundings. For now I'm quite happy with my view of trees and a back hill–and gazing into the distance, they say, is very restful for computer-weary eyes.
I've taken over another guest bedroom as a reading and study room, with a comfortable chair where I read, take notes, scribble on paper or work on a laptop. It's lined with bookshelves too, and that room can get pretty wildly cluttered with the research du jour — but inevitably someone will stay the night and I'll have to clean up my writing mess. But the back office is all mine, where I can be as right-brained creative and cluttery as I like!
I used to have
the shelves in both of these bookcases crammed with books, but now I keep the main book collection on the other side of the room and use this side for just my reference texts and my office supplies. Keeps 'em right close to hand.
I am so glad to have this space to work in. I look out the window and see my hummingbirds and my goldfinches. My flowers in pots. Sometimes a rainbow.
Welcome to my new office. I've only been in here a couple of months. Previously I had a room upstairs with a view out across the village to the hills a few miles away. Now I have a view of the tree on the village green and the 17th century cottages beyond with their climbing roses. It’s lovely.
I haven’t quite settled in to my new space yet. There are three bookshelves that need sorting. The rest of my books are still in boxes or on bookcases upstairs. There’s a comfy armchair for reading in and a sofa beneath the window where Angus sleeps. In front of my desk I have a huge print of London as seen from the Memorial to the Great Fire. The original engraving was made in the 18th century and there is so much historical detail in it that it often distracts me from my writing!
Okay, I’m going last since I put this post together . . . and I have to confess, after seeing all the other Wenchly work spaces, I am hugely embarrassed to post mine. It’s . . .way too neat! But I have an excuse. I moved not long ago, and many years of cheerful clutter (ie. Personality) got relegated to the dumpster. Plus loads of books and important papers are still in boxes, waiting for more bookshelves to be added. (What can I say—I am a slug.) Adding personality is a work in progress . . . in my defense, the photo doesn’t show the huge table on the right, with my printer, wi-fi stuff and PILES of books stacked l helter-pelter across the scuffed pine.
That said, I do like a fairly organized desk. I have a row of tattered paperback keepers in front of me (a close-up would show many Wench titles among them!) along with a drawing if a Regency-era gentleman done by a friend that makes me smile. The books have been liberated from the boxes included key research tomes, along with art and sentimental favorites—handmade books by my mother and my Maurice Sendak children’s books, with little drawings and notes to me on the flyleaves, are among my special treasures. (And my bear and fox hand puppets from childhood, which still make me smile.)
So what about you? I'm sure you all have a special place that is yours and yours alone. Do you favor neatness over cutter. And do you have a special treasure that makes you happy to look at? Please share!