Thursday, June 2, 2011

Black hole. Abductor. And other names I've called my desk.

Space... The final frontier. These are the voyages of one harried YA writer. Her continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone--

Wait! Don't go! Sorry. Sorry. I’m not writing about some sci-fi episode of new world travel and space exploration, unless we’re talking about some very important papers that have recently been abducted from my writing desk. And that folks, is what today's fun post is about!

Space. WORKSPACE! It's what astronauts and writers totally have in common. It’s either too vast or too small, too clean or far too messy. And don't get me started on how hard it is to compose a story, let alone find an environment that’s conducive to creating one. I'm also a Mom, which means sharing the house with lots of other bodies and their own creative space.

Knowing others faced the same dilemma, I polled them about their work spaces. Guess what I found? Yup. Every writer has faced the same sort of challenge.  With varying degrees of success...and failure. Me included.  First, let's hear from my fellow dreamers.
From Anna Arnett:  
"My son-in-law custom built a desk and installed it, like kitchen cabinets, in a corner of my 'den-turned-bedroom"  Book shelves above one side are ceiling high, and my desk wraps around, with three large drawers on either end and two shallower ones above the leg spaces.  File cabinets (one short, one tall) fill the space between the end of the desk that extends beneath the window and my closet full of shelves that hold office supplies and yarn. Everything I need is right there, so I get very little exercise when I'm writing.

At the other end of the room, tall, free-standing bookcases, 46 inches wide with five adjustable shelves, cram themselves against the walls facing either side of my daybed where I sleep. Unless I'm sleeping with my head on my desk....[which would now] show the constant clutter of papers, un-tossed mail, and whatever else I had in hand and put down instead of away. The space between the door and closet has a free-standing cabinet-bookshelf I can hardly get to because of the boxes of papers to sort, or needlework projects to complete, stacked in front of it.  I keep whittling away at the clutter but, let's face it, for every ten items I clear and put away, ten or twelve more take their places.  If I could afford it, I'd hire a secretary, or at least a file clerk."
Same here, Anna.  Same here. 

But then there are others who face the problem of having no space in which to pile papers on in the first place.

From Donna Gonzales:  "My ideal writing workspace: A corner desk with ample space on both sides for papers. A 2 drawer filing cabinet under the desk within reach. Enough floor space so I can also lay out notes and such. A chair at the perfect height with good back support. Just a glance out the window and I can ponder while looking at our oak trees and whatever else is out the window of our future office.

"Alas, that's not the case right now. Our future office is currently a bedroom for our two-year-old granddaughter, and soon her six-week-old brother will join her. DD & SIL are in the other spare bedroom.

"What I have right now is a bar height counter, sort of in the kitchen, but not really with the computer, printer, and no space left. I can't even get to my paper copies of character interviews, calendars, and other stuff. Those are in a box in the garage, and I'm too lazy to go back and forth. I'm learning how to work strictly from the computer. At least I can see the oak trees from my perch on a barstool."

What's funny (no I'm not actually laughing) is that I always wanted a space like this.  I was always so jealous of everyone with a built in desk; especially in a place where I seem to work the rest of the time. :)  Alas, it would seem that even my ideal workspace might not have worked out so well.

Any suggestions for Donna to help her situation? 

Then there's those like Jennifer Wolf, author of the upcoming novel BREAKING BEAUTIFUL, who have taken their creative workspace to a whole new level. Or a new venue anyway.  And her response seems to solve the problem that Anna and I both face with regards to not getting enough exercise.

"I have a few writerly spaces. My favorite is on the couch next to a roaring fire, especially on cold damp Washington days. Because I have four busy kids, I write everywhere I can, like in my car while I wait for piano lessons, soccer practice, or play practice to get over. I wrote a good portion of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL on the way up to the ski hill, because we had season passes to a resort almost 3 hours away. I once spent a whole day doing revisions in my car while my son was at an indoor skate park. I even did copy edits between games at a volleyball tournament.

My new writing space is on a treadmill at my local LA Fitness to combat writer's butt. For all the fabulous details see her blog post HERE!!!  

LOVE IT!!!!  So many good ideas! So much camaraderie! So let me do my part and share with you all my various attempts over the years. Ready?

Are you sure? Because some were...uh...rather creative, so no laughing. Please. Or I will be forced to have you abducted. Seriously. All those stories about people who have been taken over the years? Yeah...never tick off a writer. You've been warned. :)

2006:  I rather liked this space to be honest with you. It was like having my own little office at the front of the house.  I could see when the kids got home, watch my little one in the other room, and have everything within arm's reach. Including my children.  Didn't help that I had to give the room back to accommodate a dining room table.

We had outgrown the breakfast area table and decided to buy one big enough to actually require a room. With the breakfast area free we turned it into a computer station to keep a better eye on everyone's activities and time.  The result was great for the kids, not so great for me.

2007:'s as awful as it looks.  Remember the beautiful workspace I had up above?  See where my laptop is there? Yeah, This spot only lasted for about two weeks.  I moved my laptop to the kitchen counter for another two before my husband took pity on me and let me move into the bedroom.
Now this was heaven!!!!  For a few months anyway.  My bedroom quickly became a flood of children who would come looking for Mom. My room was no longer a refuge for either my husband nor I. And I couldn't set aside regular hours to work because with varying ages they all needed me at different times.

Still...I fought going back out into the thick of things. Especially since there was no place to put such a large desk.

Still fighting.  But with my husband's old desk and a file cabinet to hide behind. Right. You see how well that worked out.

I think this is when I realized that aliens had abducted my brain.

But at least I had a desk that would fit into more places. So back out into the thick I went, only this time we rearranged some furniture so I would have some space to call my own (while playing Mom).  It's worked out so well that I'm still here.  Only now...

Yes.  Last year my husband got a look at my writing AND my habits and realized I was in this for the long haul.  And loved it!!!!  So he bought me a new laptop. And a new desk.  Aren't they pretty?

I still have to haul my laptop into my bedroom from time to time so the teenagers aren't tempted to talk to me until all hours of the night (I could have worse troubles, I know), but there's lots of light here and space to work.  Then I added a small file cabinet to the right and moved that little bookshelf to the left to increase my workspace, but occasionally still found things piling up on my desk. I needed another shelf that matched.

Here's my newest acquisition. :) 

So perhaps the trick isn’t to find a corner of the universe that will solve the mysteries of life, the universe, and who killed John Doe, but to do what writers do best.   

Create one.

So tell me...where do you work and how is it, well, working for you?  :) 

UPDATE: See Jennifer's post here for more on how you can be a writer. No matter how busy your life may be. :)


  1. Love this Carrie! Jealous of your pretty desk, but I like the portability of my workspace. Maybe someday I'll carve out my own little spot away from my kids, except, like you, I prefer to be accessible to my family.

  2. I have a little writing nook carved out into a corner. It's tight and bare bones, but I like to consider it cozy LOL:)


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