This morning, I am sitting at my desk, tucked into a tiny alcove, by a window in my little townhouse. There’s a scarf, a modem, a stack of student papers, and miscellaneous post-its, binder clips, and pends cluttering the space. Above me, my inbox looks like it will explore, and the printer doubles as a record keeper for to do lists. The bulletin board hanging on the wall sports a Messiah College calendar (free courtesy of the Alumni Board) and postcards of my favorite works – the hands of Michelangelo’s David (which to be photographed had to include a rather less than appealing image of his “package), a Rousseau painting, Caravaggio’s “St. Jerome,” and one of Fra Angelico’s frescoes from the San Marco Monastery. It’s not a glorious writing space, but it’s mine.
Virginia Woolf wrote a whole book about the need for a writer to have a “room of one’s own;” Anne Lamott once said that she longed for the day when her writing space had a door on it; we collect photographs of writer’s studies and writing desks. We know that serious writing takes a special place, a place where our minds shift into a different attitude, where the things that surround us are conducive to creation or contemplation.
One of the first things I tell my creative writing students is that they need to find a place where they write. A desk, a room, even a spot on the lawn. And if such an actual place can’t be carved out, then they need to do something to make an ordinary space like the dining room table special – light a candle, remove everything not related to writing, put on a specific kind of music. Writers need physical spaces from which we can travel into our mental worlds.
My writing desk is not ideal at the moment. It’s a little too cluttered and small for me. Plus, my window looks out on the alley between my house and the neighbors. But it’s a space. And someday, I’ll have a second story office that has at least three windows out of which I can stare mindlessly while I let words come. It will be in a house out of easy range of other houses where I can wander the fields and think. It will have lots of candles and maybe some actual art (not just postcards). It will include a really soft couch and a great rug. My cats will love it there. It will be mine entirely.
Sometimes, it seems, our writing places are in our dreams as much as in our homes.
What is your writing space? Real or ideal?
– Office of Valery Larbaud – This doesn’t look too bad.