My Writing Space

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

The My Writing Space queue is empty! If you like this series and want to see it continue, send in a photo of your space. You don’t need to have a dedicated office or desk—we’d love to see your writing space, wherever it may be.

My Writing Space: Janet Caplan

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

caplan

This is my writing space or cubby. It occupies a corner of my bedroom. A long skylight sits over the desk. Through it I can see the tops of some very tall cedar trees and of course I can experience all sorts of weather at close, but dry range. The window provides distraction or inspiration as the mood strikes.

The furniture is intentionally small in scale in order to fit the space—it works, but I could definitely use more writing surface since I often start out with pen and paper before moving on to my laptop. Close at hand are an old dictionary and thesaurus, long forsaken for their online versions, but still part of my landscape. A variety of books on writing reside in the bookcase along with collections of short stories, novels and memoirs. Storage under my desk houses writing magazines and copies of journals in which some of my own work has appeared.

In looking at this photograph I am so aware of all of the knickknacks—some might say clutter—around my space. It really doesn’t feel that way and in many ways these items, all meaningful and to a large degree, of a theme, provide some stimulation or spark. Place is an important element in my writing and these rocks and seashells, nautical figures and photos of boat docks all represent my favourite seaside locations.

I love my cubby. It’s small and personal and mine. There is no door but when other members of my household approach there is just the slightest hesitancy, as if they are knocking first before entering my sanctuary.

My Writing Space: Adam Prizio

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

prizio

My writing space is an oaken standing desk that I built for myself over the holidays. It stands at the end of our narrow bedroom, where I can see the snowy side yard.

I do my best thinking, and my best writing, standing up, and before I built this desk I’d write at the kitchen table, pacing to think of the words and hunching over the back of my chair to get them down. I switch between standing and sitting at the stool whenever I feel fatigue, but writing standing up is the way to go for me.

Our apartment is chilly, which somehow befits an unemployed writer in winter, but the radiator beside the desk breaks the chill enough that I can think to work and my fingers don’t freeze. The mug beside the desk is filled with tea or, more rarely, coffee. On the radiator, a bowl of Lego that I use to help me think-without-thinking and undo the logjams.

I’m a big believer in changing your physical activities in order to get unstuck. I’ll switch to pen and paper if I can’t type my way free: the body of the desk is filled with journals half-written. I go back to where it’s still good and rewrite in pen until I see the problem or have written past it. I’m a big believer in accomplishing small tasks to silence the internal editor—build this thing out of Lego. There, now suddenly you have an idea how to proceed. Where did that come from?

My Writing Space: Marilyn Hammick

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

hammick A sloping ceiling, a limestone wall and some temporary bookshelves give my writing space in my Le Gers Farmhouse its shape and size at the end of the long living room. Further in is my sewing table and quilting frame, a sitting room and further still the terrace with views of the Pyrenees.

I’m privileged to have this space for thinking and writing on the page and screen, though often I put pen to paper out on the terrace and use my laptop with my feet up on a sofa. If I’m in the writing space, perhaps looking for a note I made about a new magazine to send my poems to, I can see my Bargello quilted wall hanging. This is a lot smaller than planned. I became tired of sewing small pieces to even smaller pieces about halfway through the project… a reminder that often less is more in patchwork and, of course, in writing.

The books are randomly organised. There are plans to build shelves in the walls of one of the yet to be finished rooms of the house but for now books are piled where there is space. I found some mice-like nibbles in one the other day—a mouse with taste!

hammick2The desk has been part of my life for many years: it first came to live with us when we restored an old vicarage to a wonderful family home. I like its divided spaces, ideal for stationery, slim volumes of poetry, and the small drawer that keeps safe those really useful things you can never find when you want them. I find putting stuff in its place a settling activity: an antidote to the first and vital any which way writing process that launches a poem or piece of prose.

I’m at home surrounded by words—others and my own—on paper, in books and magazines, in my workshop notes, pages torn out because I spied a writing idea. All this and more is on the wide table—a gift from my father-in-law after we moved into a large house with very little furniture. Its gate-leg arrangement means it wobbles so it’s not good for sitting to write at but it holds many memories and suits its present purpose.

A wooden wine box keeps poetry magazines upright, a plywood butter carton stores pens and pencils and the plethora of chargers and leads that technology produces live in a cut glass bowl that my mother once served fruit salad in. There are places for candles, a lamp that was once by my bed and sparkly cushions from an Iranian bazaar bought when I visited in 2010 to use up local currency I knew my bank would not exchange into Euros.

I have to be careful to dip under the beams and a stack of unused floorboards is all that stops me falling over the edge of the stairs but I feel like a writer when I’m there. I’m there now, writing this.

My Writing Space: Peter Clarke

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

Peter-Clarke

My writing space overlooks the foggy edge of San Francisco with the Pacific Ocean on the horizon. When the fog clears, I can see in the distance a miniature, toy-like structure that is the Golden Gate Bridge.

This million-dollar view is found in a rather humble house in Daly City, California, where I’m renting a bedroom at a comparatively bargain-basement price. When my housemates are gone or asleep, I try to appreciate the ocean view as much as possible. Otherwise I usually lock myself in my bedroom with my books, guitars, succulent plants, and cheap wine.

Everywhere in this house looks and feels like a foreign country. When I write in this place, I sometimes feel like I’m on vacation writing in a mysterious language that I can’t use for any practical purpose. My characters recently have all been vigilantes.

My Writing Space: Vanessa Ricci-Thode

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

Ricci-Thode

I can write just about anywhere, but I prefer to do it at home, either on the deck or in my office. The room I now use as my office was the first room I really saw when first viewing the home we now live in, and I knew it would be our house and this room would be mine the instant I saw it. It started with the fireplace, which is painted white, with lovely blue and white tiles and intricate moulding on the hearth and mantel. The gas fireplace insert is a simple iron design. There is crown moulding and the walls are sometimes blue and sometimes purple, depending on the light.

My desk faces our front garden, where I’ve planted my favourite flowers under a large maple full of character. I do most of my writing on my laptop while sitting in my oversized recliner, which is nestled between the desk and one of my bookshelves. This room doubles as my library and the shelves that aren’t spilling over with books are cluttered with plants, candles, photos of loved ones and figurines of fantasy creatures—dragons, unicorns, fairies and even a wizard or two. I’ve filled the room with my favourite things and it’s where I feel most comfortable and inspired. The only thing I would change is the layout so that I had more room for bookshelves.

My Writing Space: Matthew Zanoni Muller

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

Muller

It used to be that I would write wherever and whenever I got the time. Often this was in bed, in the late afternoon, or at my kitchen table, or in a library, or on a couch, or in a notebook on a beach chair during a vacation. The point is that my writing was haphazard and the places in which I wrote were equally as varied. This changed over the past semester. I began teaching five days a week and found that if I showed up to the office early enough (I share it with other adjuncts) I could have quiet freedom for about half an hour. This doesn’t sound like much, but half an hour everyday mounts up. It also, strangely, leads to better writing, I think. I only had an allotted time to write, so when I sat down I just had to go for it. Some days this was really tough but I noticed that, except for rare occasions, I almost always got something good and unexpected out of it. The other bonus was that I couldn’t write too much in one sitting. I averaged about a thousand words. So, I then had the rest of the day and the night to let things sit and develop. The next morning I could go back, read over a bit of what I had done and continue the story. It’s the idea of continuing, day after day, that makes all the difference. Ideas were able to pile up and develop, and a problem I faced one day might be solved the next. Plus, there was never that terrible backlog of ideas. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do this summer when my teaching gig goes on hiatus and I’m back to painting houses full time. My hope is that I’ll be smart enough to put the computer on my kitchen table and get in a half hour every day before I get out to the job site.

Attached is a picture of the computer I write on at school. It sits in a square windowless office with cinderblock walls. I have all my writing on a little school-issued flash drive. This flash drive has come to contain my entire creative spark.

My Writing Space: Clarissa Pattern

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

Pattern

My writing desk does not belong to me. Not because of my children and husband continually wanting the PC for games and streaming trashy films. But because less than a decade ago it was in my grandmother’s house. It displayed black and white family photos of people only she could name. It contained neat stacks of bills, all dutifully ticked and dated as they were paid. It hid the glass bowls which every birthday would be filled with her family recipe fruit trifle, all yellow globby custard, hand whipped cream and sweetly soaked fruit. She tried to teach my sisters and I how to make her trifle, desperately hoping we could keep the things she cared about alive. Every birthday she would open the doors with a smile and pull out the trifle bowls like a magician about to display his most wondrous trick. Until she became too ill to leave her bed. Until she cried more than laughed.

My grandmother wrote stories with a fountain pen on faintly lined A4 paper in neatly looped handwriting. She created twee children’s world of fairies. And darker unfinished places where marriages were fractured and friends were killed. Sometimes I am superstitious. There are moments when I believe in spirits. There are days when I recall my grandmother asking me to look after all the yellowing pages of her lifetime’s work. Her trust is a constriction in my chest, a breath that I cannot breathe. And I type and type and dream the dream that once belonged to her.

My Writing Space: Mark Paxson

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

PaxtonI have no writing space other than where I am with my laptop close at hand. The recliner in the family room.  Every now and then sitting on the deck in the back yard. For the past seven months or so, Tuesday evenings have been this. My younger son has a weekly event that requires pick up at 8:15. I have about two-and-a-half hours to fill. I find a downtown restaurant that has decent food and good beer and crack open my laptop. I check my email. I blog. I do this. I do that. And, if I’m lucky, I get some writing in on one of my fiction projects. This picture: The Pour House, Tuesday, April 23, 2013. I squeezed out a couple of hundred words before it was time to get the kid.

My Writing Space: Cheryl Clark

“My Writing Space” is a series about writers and the places in which they write. To contribute, send a photo of your writing space along with a paragraph or two describing it and its influence on your writing to beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line “My Writing Space.”

Clark

Several years ago, I staked out a space for writing on one corner of a wide windowsill in our basement bedroom.  It was a necessity.  Our house is small, and noise travels easily around the main level. With two doors and a floor between me and the usual distractions, I’d have a chance at focus in the new space. I bought a small office chair from a clearance sale and flanked it with a nightstand and end table that had been languishing in storage since they were removed from regular service. Now, they were stocked with reference books, paper and pens—all the things I use in the course of my writing. No computer. Almost everything I write goes through the pen and paper stage first, and transcribing it to electronic form is a step apart from the writing. Edits still happen in that process, but the composition is a more old-fashioned ritual for me.

We’ve all seen the combination exercise bicycle and coat rack. I didn’t want that to happen to my writing. For that space to work, it had to be ready to access at any moment; so, I told my husband that this was mine. It was not to be piled up with the clutter that tends to materialize on other empty surfaces. The chair is currently full of canvas, the tent I camped in last March. This is entirely my fault, though it’s only really been there for a month or two. It’s  also not as big a deal as it may seem. I’m still writing, on the couch, in the bed, on the porch, or on the move. Despite the declaration, my writing space was never going to be the only space where I would write. For me, writing happens wherever the mood strikes me, in notebooks if they’re handy, but often on scraps of paper. I’ll write on the train or jot down bits of dialogue at my desk at work, and some of my best work gets done outdoors at a campsite or picnic table. Nothing gets my mind going on the story of the moment like a long walk on a trail.

So, my official writing space is often my official notebook storage space, but it serves another function as well. I know that at any time, I can close that bedroom door, evict my tent, and take my place at the windowsill. There is no longer any excuse when the house is noisy or full of distractions. Writing can happen any time I’m ready to write, and my environment can no longer delay that. The freedom that having a dedicated space represents is invaluable in turning the dream of a writing life into a reality.