What does your writing space look like?

Do you have, as Virginia Woolf said was necessary to write fiction, “a room of [your] own,” perhaps with plenty of natural light and a trendy mini pot of succulents by your MacBook? Do you always write in the same place? Or do you take whatever space is available?

I’m writing this now late at night, kids and husband all fast asleep. My teeny tiny living room is picked up and put away, toys in their proper places, surfaces clean. I’ve got a dingy Target lamp giving me a little glow; I’m stretched out on my couch trying to angle my computer toward it. If you saw me right now, you’d probably think I was sick.

This is how I do it.

Alas, I don’t have a room of my own. (I’ve never, in my entire life, had a room of my own.) I have a fabulous Pinterest board for my one-day home office, but that’s a day that’s somewhere in the future, where exactly I’m not sure. For now I make do.

For most of the day, my “writing space” is covered in stuff. Our house is small; this place where I do my work is our “everything” space–living room, play room, dining room, TV room. The clutter accumulates the second I blink. Oh, what I’d give for a door I could slip through and shut behind me, a door which leads to a room where the surfaces are always clean, sunlight pours in through the windows, and the walls are sound-proof!

Somehow, though, I still manage to get stuff done, even without a place to call truly “mine.” If you’re struggling to make space to write in a place where you have constant demands on your time and attention, here are some tips to bring the muse to your (desk/chair/couch)–even if it’s in a place you don’t consider “ideal.”

Make Your Bed

This goes beyond being a weird do-it-and-you’ll-magically-get-more-done-throughout-your-day “life hacky” tip for me. A made bed is an extra writing surface. I do a lot of writing holed up on my bed (“on,” not “in”). The top of my bed under the light of my industrial lamp is where I’ve written many a blog post/article/chapter. Tucked sheets and fluffed pillows add just the touch of order I need to get my thoughts in line and the words flowing.

ABC–Always Be Cleaning

Boo, no fun. I know. If this doesn’t work for you–if you’re the kind of person who can abide a messy house and still have lovely/creative thoughts in your head, rather than just a series of unintelligible grunts–then skip on to the next section.

I am not such a person. Back in a former life, I went to a tidy office every day, where I kept my workspace relatively neat, supplies and notepads squarely tucked away in their little cubbies. I have no such space now. Every square inch I’ve got is shared with twin toddlers, who are as yet unaware what it means that the “Friend” their mother most closely related to was Monica.

Except–that’s not entirely true. For maybe an hour and a half during the day and a few hours at night, no one will throw Cheerio’s on the floor or remove every book from the bookshelf. That’s why as soon as my babies go down for naps or bed, I blitz-clean: put up every toy, make sure no dishes are in the sink, sweep all junk from the floor. It’s a 5-10 minute investment of time which I’ve done compulsively since my girls were a few days old.

I wish I didn’t have this compulsion. I wish I could just let the mess rest. But if the mess is resting, I’m not. And to me, it’s worth it–a clean room means I get to live in the belief that I’ve got a space of my own, which means I breathe a little easier, which means I can write. The investment pays dividends.

Play Some Tunes

Do you listen to music while you write? I do, but there are rules. 1.) It can’t have words 2.) It also can’t be an instrumental version of a pop song that DOES have words 3.) Nothing too intense

I’m a big fan of Spotify’s Focus playlists. I prefer “A Soft Jazz Backdrop” when I’m working on something that doesn’t require too much of my mental energy; “Productive Morning” is great when I need to focus in deep. Whatever I’m doing, music helps me relax and drown out the anxious thoughts in my lizard brain so that I can plug into my writer brain.

Light A Candle

I bet that even if your only space to write was a garbage pile, you’d crank out some pretty beautiful stuff if you lit a candle on that lil’ pile. A candle’s flame is like a little lighthouse to the muse, inviting her to stop by and have a cup of tea.

How do you make space to write?

I love Glennon Doyle Melton, who talks about how as a wife and mother of tiny kids, she didn’t have a room of her own–but she had an hour. So she woke up at 4 am every day and got her writing done, before anyone else could make demands on her time. Or what about Stephen King, who wrote his first books in a teeny tiny house with his wife and babies who came too fast, and dreamed of one day having a huge, beautiful desk where he could pen his masterpieces. He soon got enough money to buy such a desk and, by his own account, spent most of his time at that desk stone-cold drunk.

The point?

While a room of one’s own is ideal, it’s maybe not entirely necessary. A corner of one’s own–a chair, half of a made bed, a closet–will serve. The important thing is just to show up.



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  1. Rebecca Ford - May 3, 2017 @ 7:31 pm

    I am a big fan of writing outdoors. In fact, I am writing this comment from my back patio where I have a pretty view of a variety of trees, a pond and colorful birds passing overhead. I also have an office space with a desk and lots of natural light, but it wasn’t always like this for me.

    I just moved to the country about eight months ago, and before that, the tiny spare bedroom and the kitchen table served as my writing spaces, as well as the covered deck where my patio furniture lived. I would also get to work an hour early so I could write in the stillness of the morning before the drama of the day would begin.

    I also went through a phase where I needed to be in a coffee shop or cafe, where the din of the environment would stimulate me. But as I get older, I prefer the natural sounds of the outdoors in the privacy of my home, or the solitude of my office, behind my desk.

    The point is just as you stated in your article. Show up. It doesn’t really matter where you write. Make it work and show up at the page each day! I believe that those people who make it work no matter what, are those who truly have writing in their blood.

    • jennifer.merrill4@gmail.com - May 12, 2017 @ 2:28 pm

      Writing outdoors. . .ahhhh. Lovely! So true; if it’s in your blood, you’ll make it work wherever.

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