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.