The Most Comfortable Chair In The Room

Jane Austen wrote at a small walnut table set close to a window for the best light. Pen and ink, of course. Diana Wynne Jones started first draft in ‘the most comfortable chair I can find in the sitting room, in everyone’s way’, and went on to the second draft in her study. Truman Capote supposedly wrote lying down, with a pencil in one hand, and a glass of sherry in the other. Flannery O’Connor would write facing the blank wood of her dresser so as not to be distracted.

I’ve talked a bit about styles of writing, and a bit more about process in writing. Today I want to talk about where to write.

I have an actual writing room. It has a desk with drawers down one side and a bookshelf on the other, and is surmounted by a green bankers lamp, a big fake book of Lord of the Rings (the real one is in the bookshelf), and a couple of knick-knacks. You don’t have to imagine what it looks like because I have a picture of it in the header of my blog.

Now that you’re back after scrolling up to see, would you like to know where I write?

If you guessed in my writing room, at my desk, you’d be wrong. Well, you’d be wrong about 95% of the time. Sometimes I do actually write at my writing desk. It has a planning board and everything, where I pin up all the tiny notes I write myself when I can’t get to a computer, and the reminders that I write myself as I’m revising- for example, notes to remember to tie off this loose end, or that character’s story.

Unfortunately, my study rarely remains clean for more than a week at a time. When it’s messy, there is literally no room for me to sit at the desk with my laptop, since every conceivable place is taken up with piles of stuff. When it’s neat, I sit tapping my fingers on the desktop, unsure where to start in all this sparkling cleanliness and afraid to mess it up by moving.

So where do I work? The most comfortable chair in the house (a recliner) at the centre of the living room. I can see out the front window to where the tiny birds with blue tails chip at each other. I can see the telly. I can see if anyone comes up to the front door. I am not able to see the washing up that hasn’t been done, and the dog is in view (when she’s not, it means trouble). For some reason, I need all this to be able to do my best work. If the cricket is on, so much the better. I do not use pen and ink. Well, not seriously; not when I’m on a roll. When I’m on a roll, I can barely keep up typing at 80 WPM.

Obviously, I am not Jane Austen.

I can write in most places, but that’s my favourite place. What about you guys? Where do you write? Do you have to be in a certain place? Does it matter? Let me know.

4 thoughts on “The Most Comfortable Chair In The Room

  1. I ‘write’ in my head while running lately (specially for putting sermons together). Then when I get home I madly scramble to try and get it all on paper before it disappears! Apparently desk writing is good for linear, logical thinking, but movement (e.g. walking, running) is better for spontaneous thought. Next time you’ve done a bit of thinking and got an idea, go for a walk, deliberately think about it, and see what happens…

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    • Yeah, used to do that when I was walking 1/2 hr to and from work: I’d arrive with a scene or a partial scene or a conversation right at the front of my brain and ready to write down (if I could get it down quickly enough). When I was doing night-fill it was even better; stocking shelves is a bit of a brainless job, but the bright side is that it leaves your brain free for other things. By the time my lunch came round, I’d more than likely have 1000 words or more to write down. Not neccessarily in order, or in the book I was working on, but there nevertheless 😀

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  2. If I’m stuck in for any length of time, I like to write at my office table. It’s long and wide and holds all the pictures and research material I spread out in front of me while I write. But if the muse hits while I’m in the kitchen, I jot things down on a piece of lined paper I leave on top of the microwave. If I’m reading or watching television in the living room, I grab a journal I keep under the coffee table, flip to the last clean page and use that. That’s good for a half an hour or so and then I’m back at my office table.

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