The Space You Work In

A clean desk is the sign of a …. oh never mind.

Where do you do your writing?

Do you have a dedicated space for it, or are you a nomad, roaming from table to couch to bed to desk?

I tend to be very settled in my writing habits, i.e., I sit at the same space every day and work at my computer. Problem is, I’m also a very messy human. Well, maybe not messy, but disorganized.  I like paper and I like making notes and I have this thing that requires I write something down to remember it. All this adds up to lots of stuff to keep organized.

Or, put another way, a very messy office.

I had stacks of paper all over, along with towers of books, binders and spirals spilling over the edges of tables, and general assortments of things nobody knew what else to do with except put in my office.  My business coach told me I needed a clean space in order for money to flow in. I told myself I needed a clean space in order for the words to flow.  But no matter what I did, that didn’t seem to happen.

I lived with this mess for, um, almost a year and a half.  Ever since I moved my office to its current space.  Before this, I worked upstairs, where I felt removed from everything, and not in a good way. (When FedEx knocked at the door, it was a mad dash down slippery carpeted stairs to get there before they returned the package to the truck.) Before that, I worked in the same space I am now. Before that, I worked in a corner of our unfinished upstairs (and when the house caught on fire, the fire stopped just short of my computer and my lifelong collection of journals). Before that, I worked on the kitchen counter. And before that, I worked at a desk set up in a corner of our bedroom. So I’ve been in a variety of spaces over the course of my writing life and pretty much none of them have been organized.

However.

I finally accomplished it. My office is clean and I love it.  I can think better when I’m not staring at piles of paper.  And thinking better translates to writing better.  But it took me a long time and a lot of trial and error to figure out what works well for me.  And I’ve been an inveterate studier of writing spaces for forever. So I offer up a few ideas in case they might help or inspire you:

  • I really love surrounding myself with things I love. Like photos of family, goofy gifts people have given me (I have two, count ’em, two physical representations of Poo–as in the Poo emoji), pictures of France taken and drawn by my husband, the first weaving I ever did.
  • Must have books around me
  • I work best when my computer desk, where I spend most of my time, is clean and neat and not surrounded by teetering piles of crap. So I traded in my massive long Ikea desk/table for an old and very small desk. Most of the time, it stays clean. The tables and shelves around me might not be, but at least my desk is. Helps that it’s too small to stack much on.
  • Because of the above, I created a space where I can do my journal writing and other creative projects, which makes a huge difference.
  • Lots of space for office supplies. This was part of the problem before–I didn’t have enough room for them and they got piled and buried all over the place.  I finally figured out I had room to move a long shelf in and this has made an enormous difference.
  • Boxes of file folders beneath the work desk. Here they can stay out of sight until I need them.
  • Good lighting.

Because of all these requirements, my office is cramped.  It is a small room, after all. But I don’t care–I love it. Instead of staring at piles of crap and thinking about what a disaster I am, I now stare at pictures of family and think how lucky I am.  I feel more productive in a space I love. And since I spend most of my waking hours in this room, that is a very good thing.

Where do you work? What kinds of things do you like to fill it with?

PS.  An article I wrote for Magical Goddess magazine just came out! It’s about writing, natch. Find it here.

Five on Friday: A Little Late-ish

storage-44156-m (1)Another Friday rolls around and here’s a look at the week…

What I’m Learning: More is more. Of course, some might say this has been my motto all my life.  Sigh. But what I mean is that sometimes it is easier to do more than less. Like more writing. I know, I hear you groaning.  A full post will follow in which I will explain all.

What I’m Reading: Turns out I don’t much care for mysteries which feature animals who talk, and so I’ve ditched The Oat Cake Crag, following the advice of Austin Kleon in his post, How to Read More.)  I’ve just finished The Unlikely Lavender Queen from last week and am about to dive in to Ethan Canin’s new book. I’ve got a stack of women’s fiction I’m eager to read, but the Canin book comes from the library and its got a gazillion holds on it so I can’t renew it so it has to be read first.

What I’m Working On: Besides my writing, office organization. Yes, again. I had some boxes stashed upstairs that came down and things had to be put away and in the middle of putting together a file box, I got distracted by Lord only knows what so everything is piled up on my work table.

What I’m Writing: Just passed 75K words on the project I thought I wouldn’t finish, the one I started one lovely afternoon in Collioure last September.  Coming down the home stretch! I’m actually really enjoying working on it.  I also have an absorbing new ghostwriting project, working on a book proposal for a very intense and topical book.

Who’s Helping Me: My grandson Henry, who is stapling, hole punching, drawing and playing with Washi tape next to me as I write this.  When I was little, the favorite game of my sisters and I was Office.  Our father built us a little wood room in the basement and brought home cast off office supplies from his printing plant. So I figure I can start Henry early, too.  Alas, his cousin Olivia could care less, but she is obsessed with dolls and stuffed bears, which were my other love.  So live is good.

What’s going on with you? What are you writing? What are you doing in the rest of life? Do tell.

Photo by ppdigital.

What’s Your Favorite Book?

Book_books_pages_265007_l I have a reason for asking the question in the title.

I've been going on and on about how I'm re-organizing my office, down to sorting through the oldest papers. And the work continued this weekend.  I'm down to a box of old CDs to sort, which I'm not entirely sure what to do with, and a pile of papers and notebooks and files which constitutes all the info I've collected to write my Ebook.  Pretty cool, huh?

But here's the coolest thing.  I sorted through my books and came up with three boxes of them to sell.  I used to have a really hard time getting rid of books, whether by giving them away or selling them.  I wanted to hang onto every book I've ever laid hands on.  And if you could see the overflowing book shelves in practically every room in my house, you would think I had.  But it finally occurred to me that by letting go of books, I was actually allowing more to flow into my life.  And also that letting go of them allowed someone else to read them. 

So I've come to peace with periodically sorting through books.  And luckily for me, here in Portland, we have Powell's books, the biggest bookstore in the country, which also buys books.   When you sell them your books, they give you the option of either taking what you've earned in cash or in a book credit.  If you choose the book credit, you get more. 

Now, let me tell you, many's the time we've taken books to Powell's when we were so broke we didn't have any choice but to take the cash.  But this weekend, when we took books in to the warehouse to sell, I was able to choose the book credit.  So…wait for it….I now have a book voucher worth $144 in books to spend at Powell's.

I about passed out with joy when they told me.

I've been collecting some titles that I really want to read–a couple new novels, one called Angelology and another called The Irresistible Henry House, and there's a new book on writing a novel in six months by John DuFresne.  Okay, so that's a pretty good list.  But I may get to Powell's and decide none of those look good.  And I'd like to bring home some juicy non-fiction, too.

I want more titles to peruse, a long, long list to ponder and think about and take with me so that I can pull books off the shelf and think hmmm, yes, or ick, no.  So help me out here, will you?  Tell me your favorite books.  They can be classic or contemporary, fiction or non-fiction, written by male or female authors.  I love books in the self-help and spiritual genres, but really, I'm game for anything.   Send me one title or a dozen, I'm not picky, just lay 'em on me.

I can't wait to read what your favorites are.