News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (www.NobleDead.org); author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

Writing Spaces . . .

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I've always been envious of writers who can take their notebook computers and go to a coffee shop, order up a foamy latte, and then be able to actually sit there and write. To me, this image is so romantic--the fiction writer in hipster glasses pounding away in the coffee shop, able to shut out the world, and yet still be able to sit there in the middle of the world writing away.  I love to envision myself in this setting.

Tragically, my brain doesn't function that way.  I need to be able to mentally "vanish."  I need to absolutely forget my surroundings and step inside the story.  In order for me to do this, I need to work someplace that is so utterly familiar that I don't notice it.

 To this end, at present, there are only two places where I am able to write.


For years back in Colorado, JC and I shared a home office in our little condo.  We painted the room a very light shade of green.  Our desks were side-by-side, pushed up against a wall.  We wrote the first seven Noble Dead books in that office.  Back there, my desk was the only place I could write--but that was five and a half years ago, and I was working on a desk station with a large monitor.

When we moved from Colorado to Oregon, a few things began to shift.  For one, we moved from tiny condo into a three-bedroom house, and on the first try, we chose the wrong room for the office.  The light in the room we first chose proved to be awful, and the energy just wasn't right.  Plus, we tried painting it the same green as the office our office in Colorado, and the natural light here is soooooooo different that the same exact color looked liked gray mud on the walls.  Neither one of us could write in that room.  Something was wrong, and I think it's okay to admit that a certain place simply isn't working as a writing space.

We made a change and moved our desks and equipment into the smallest bedroom in the very back of the house--with a large window.  We painted the walls a shade of light cream.  This room worked well for me.  I could look at the trees in our backyard and the room had a lot of natural light.  For a while, this room also worked for JC, and we continued as we had before.  We were drafting Through and Sea, and suddenly the words began to flow again.

Another big change I made was switching from a desk station to a notebook.  After a bit of trouble adjusting at first, I will never go back to a desk station again.

The only really problem with the new office was that it got pretty cold back there in the heart of winter.  Oregon proved to be colder than we had expected, and our house was much harder to heat than our little condo had been.  I was soon writing in thick wool sweaters with a blanket over my lap.  But I quickly grew accustomed to this room, it felt right, and I became able to "vanish" and get lost inside the story.  That was all that really mattered.

The following winter, we bought a wood stove insert (with electric blowers), and JC began to build a fire every morning out in the living room.  The entire front of the house was toasty warm.  I'm still not quite sure how this migration happened, but somehow, he started bringing his notebook out to the dining room table, and I started bringing mine out to the living room couch that sits directly across from the fireplace (with its spiffy new wood stove insert).  I would write with my computer in my lap.  At first this felt strange, and in the afternoons, once the house was warmer, I'd move back into the office.  But JC started moving more and more of his things to the dining room table, and like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, he settled into his "spot."  His desk in the office was soon empty.  

I continued my practice of working mornings in the living room and afternoons in the office.

The following summer, when the air was warm and the light here lasts from 5:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night, I once again preferred the office for all my work.  But JC had settled into his spot at the dining room table.

 At times, this has bothered him, and he's tried several times to move back to his desk in the office.  But for some reason, he works better in the big open space of our dining room, near the glass sliding door.  I told him not to worry about it, that he should work wherever he is most comfortable, wherever he is able to vanish into the story and forget his surroundings.  Three years later, he's still working at the dining room table.  

I guess my point is that everyone is different, and rather than working hard to make ourselves be able to write where we think we should be, it's better to just naturally allow ourselves to settle into a place that is going to work for us.




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