Writing! In! Spaaaaace!

"Stupid folding desk. Why is this so hard, gravity? Geez, where are those instructions...?"

“Stupid folding desk. Why is this so hard, gravity? Geez, where are those instructions…?”

Okay, so I’ve never really written in space. Or been in space. (Outer space, anyway.  I’m pretty good at taking up space.) But! Like many other writers, I’ve found that location makes a difference in productivity, even room to room within my own house. I’m not sure what the psychology of it is, but there are certain places where my muse, that fickle beast, is more likely to hang out with me.

So what makes for a good writing space? Writing spaces are as varied as the writers who use them. For some people, the noise and movement of a subway station is inspiring and energetic; to others, distracting and hectic. Some like a cozy library nook in a back room of their cabin retreat, while others like the open air and sunshine of a public garden. But personal differences aside, there are a few universals when choosing your own writing space.

Comfortable Writing is hard as is. Why compound the difficulty with discomfort? ‘Comfort’ can come in many forms. For me, it’s less about physical comfort (although my whiny spine has lately insisted on extra pillows galore), and more about mental comfort. I have a hard time writing when there are other people in the room with me. And having someone behind me makes it downright impossible. Some people can’t write in a messy room. Some just can’t do it without their pressure stockings. If your butt’s been wedged in a desk all day, a comfortable writing chair can be vital. And kudos to anyone able to write while shivering, or roasting. So whatever it is that makes you most comfortable, physically, mentally, spiritually, whateverally, make sure you have plenty of that in your writing space.

Inspirational Inspiration… not to be confused with distraction. Let’s face it. We writers are a distractible lot. Why write when you can: organize your pencil drawer? assess the rapidly disappearing Oreo* collection? complain about movie castings on Twitter? check the mirror to see how wide you can flare your nostrils? etcetera ad infinitum? Remember that impossible-to-write-in messy room from the previous point? Writing time can definitely feel like the best time to clean it. And wash the dishes. And try that fabulous new yogurt method your sister-in-law told you about. And become Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, and Jillian Michaels rolled into one. It’s not that writing is boring. It’s just that it can be an elusive state of mind, especially when we have so many other worthy pursuits vying for our time. That’s why it’s so important to have an inspiring writing space. Some like music, others white noise, and others still only silence. Some like a fish tank, a window, a wall covered with magazine clippings of movie stars who look like their main characters. Know your own distinction between inspiration and distraction and lean toward the inspiring end of the spectrum.

Practical Cancun, Mexico would be great for my writing, I’m sure. But if that’s the only place in which I feel I can write, but I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, I’m not going to have much a writing career. Choose a writing spot that you can easily access on a daily basis. For some, this is the corner coffee shop. For others, a corner desk at home. Maybe a study cubby in the library you can sneak off to between classes. Whatever you go with, it should be close, affordable, and easy to deal with, or you risk burning yourself out with unnecessarily expended energy. Pick a place that will minimize your excuses for not visiting. (Note: it doesn’t necessarily have to be a place. Writing on a crowded bus on your iPad en route to work could be your perfect ‘spot’. Like everything else in this post, it’s what works for you.)

Okay, so real quick, I’m going to show you my own writing space and talk about why it works for me. Prepare to be dazzled:

writing spot

Yep. Gorgeous, isn’t it? This is a million year old rocking chair in the corner of my kids’ bedroom. Sometimes I hurt my feet on legos getting to it. And sometimes it smells like pee. And it’s only really accessible when the kids are sleeping or elsewhere. But here’s why it works for me.

Comfortable Years of rocking, nursing, lullabying, and bedtime storying have perfectly molded this half-broken chair to the discerning contours of my bony butt. As the children’ room, this is the warmest room in our otherwise chilly house. And its location, wedged firmly between a bookshelf and a wall (and, yes, a very full laundry bin), guarantees no shoulder-lurkers. Plus, even if they could sneak out of bed and finagle themselves behind me, the only people in the room are illiterate little ankle biters.

Inspirational I sure hope this doesn’t sound completely creepy, but I find something deeply satisfying in listening to my children sleeping. The deep breathing, coupled with the occasional snuffle and snort and the melodious fountain of the fish filter, make the perfect writing soundtrack for me. Bonus: since my kids are sleeping/falling asleep, I very rarely allow my phone, or any other outside distractions, into the room. Plus, the lights are off, so I can’t see what a mess the place usually is! Huzzah!

Practical In my house. Free. Win.

So that’s it! A rocking chair in a corner. So elegantly simple, yes? Tell me about your writing space- and what makes it work for you!

* Current count is four kinds of Oreos. Yeah. Seriously, were there four kinds of Oreos in existence when I was a kid? Birthday cake Oreos? Mint? Where does this stuff come from? And how does it keep finding its way into my cabinets?