Charlotte Rains Dixon  

What Effect Do Your Surroundings Have On Your Writing?

"Started treating my office like it was a real room that was worthy of my best treasures, not the 'spare room made into an office.'"  Danielle LaPorte, from a post titled "28 of the Best Things I Ever Did–From the Bedroom to my Business."

DeskinthewildWhen I first started writing, many years ago, my "office" was a desk shoved up against a corner of our bedroom.   The desk came from my father's printing plant, and it was huge and weighed a ton. (My husband hated it for that reason, and also because whenever I wanted to move it, it had to be disassembled.  It finally got taken apart one too many times, and died.)

I also sometime wrote at the kitchen counter, with small children swarming around me, asking for food or begging for my attention.  

Finally, when we put an addition on our house, I progressed to my own office.  It was downstairs with a view of the backyard and I loved it.  I filled it with a mismatch of furniture, anything I could scrounge, and tons of bookshelves, of course.  

Then, when my children moved out, I transferred my office to my daughter's former upstairs bedroom.  And there I've been for the past many years.  After my mother died six years ago and I inherited some money, I decided to invest in a proper office suite of furniture.  And so I went to Ikea and filled my room with a grouping that looked very official, very heavy, very dark.  I chose a huge desk with a curved front that had room for my computer, my printer and piles.  Lots of piles.  I also chose a file cabinet and glass-fronted cabinets to match.  You can see photos of it on this old blog post.  (As far as I can tell, Ikea doesn't even make this set of furniture anymore.) I loved it for awhile.  For quite awhile.

And then I decided I wanted to move back downstairs.  The thought was daunting–carrying all that heavy furniture down our narrow staircase! But I persevered.  Because I wanted to be more in the center of things.  To be able to start dinner and run back to write a few words while things simmered.  To be able to watch grandchildren and write a few words while they napped.  I started packing things up, but the project stalled and I ended up working in my upstairs office with stacks of boxes filling most of it.

Enter summer.  Gorgeous, soft Oregon mornings with the temperature hovering just above 60 degrees.  I took to carrying my computer out to the table on the back deck early every morning and doing my writing there.  Which was when I realized that I didn't need a huge desk with tons of area to pile things on.  It was actually a detriment to my process, because it started to overwhelm me. And so a whole new idea for my office was born. All I really needed was a good old-fashioned writing desk. At the same time, I started reading a favorite blogger's account of her time in Stockholm and fell in love with the look of the apartment she stayed in.

Out with the dark, heavy black office furniture! In with a light, white and natural wood look! At least in my vision.  I happened to have coffee with my friend Leigh, who has a business restoring old furniture and, on a whim, asked her if she had a writing desk.  Guess what? She did! And not only that, it was painted a lovely delicate light yellow, which went along with the look I had in mind.  

So we spent this weekend moving furniture.  We're still not finished–our living room looks like a thrift store as we sort through hundreds of old CDs, and figure out where extra boxes and pieces of furniture goes.  There are quite a few photos of the process on my Instagram. And you can see the photo of my writing area above.  But so far, I love it.  The room is bright and light and I love not working on my little yellow writing desk.  I feel lighter and brighter! And now I realize how that Ikea suite never truly suited me.  As my daughter said, "I never heard you say how much you loved it." True dat.

I expect to write wonderful novels and blog posts and offer classes and all kinds of good things from this space, because it makes me happy just to be in here.  (Oh, I almost forgot–I engineered it so I have a separate space for art projects, too.  Woot!)  And all this leads me to ask–what is your writing space like? Is it feeding your soul, and making you happy?  Or does it drag you down every time you walk in?  Is there something you can do to make it work better for you?

0 thoughts on “What Effect Do Your Surroundings Have On Your Writing?

  1. J.D.

    My writing space is very comfortable. As for the health of my creative soul, it is neutral. I have stickies everywhere, most of them to remind me to pay attention to something. When you bring up the space and I look around, I realize how I ignore all those notes. My word processor will accept scene photos. But they are stored in a list on the side and I must call them up to look at them. I’m thinking I should print a packet of small pics for each scene and stick them around the monitor’s edge when the action is in that locale. I’m in the early drudgery. I need something to inspire me so I can get this thing rolling. There’s an old coot in a William Faulkner book. He committed suicide, nailed himself in the barn loft, leaving just a gap barely large enough to shove the hammer out. No getting those boards loose once it’s gone. That’s the writing space I need. Someone can pry me out when the manuscript is done.

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    We will design a locking closet for you and put you in until you are finished.  Does that work?  Didn't Colette's husband lock her in her room until she'd finished her daily output?  I'll have to check on that.  And as for the stickies, I call things like that wallpaper.  After awhile, I just don't notice them anymore–like the wallpaper.

  3. J.D.

    I love coming here. I had no idea who Collette was. So I looked her up. I know Gigi. From what I read about Collette in Wikipedia, her husband wasn’t locking her in her room to make her write. She had a fever, and apparently he didn’t have the cure. Then wikipedia tells me Roseanne Cash wrote a song, “The Summer I Read Collette.” So I zip over to youtube and pull it up. It’s good, not terrific but good. One summer, I was a huge Roseanne fan. I love this stuff. You’re breaking me. I have to buy Roseanne’s cd and a copy of Gigi.

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    I LOVE ROSEANNE CASH.  She is actually one of my idols.  Love her music–I'll have to look up the names of the CDs, there's a couple from late 90s, early 2000s that are just stellar.  And did you know she is also a short-story writer and memoirist?  Fairly acclaimed for her writing, actually.  Also, Colette–I read her years ago, may have to dip into her again.  Because, after all, we shall be in France!  And I'm glad you love coming here.  I love that you come here so often.  And I always enjoy your comments.

  5. Amanda Michelle Moon

    I love it! My office is in the basement, and while I love that I have a space that is “mine” I wish it had windows, and haven’t used it much this summer. I’ve spent my mornings– the only dedicated work time I have– either on our front porch or back deck, savoring the Minnesota summer. The kids go back to school next week, and I’m looking forward to actually having writing time at my desk. For the summer, I bought an antique library table from our neighbor that I absolutely love the look and feel of, but it doesn’t work well in my office (floors are too uneven in the basement, I have to have adjustable legs) so it’s been sitting in a corner of the dining room taking up space. I really want to figure out where I can put it to make it useful, it’s so gorgeous!

  6. Charlotte Dixon

    Ooh, I love the sound of that library table–I bet you'll get some good writing done on it.  Woo-hoo!  I miss my mornings out on the deck, writing, but it is pretty dark these days when I get up at 5:30.  Amazing how that happens.  And I love my new location so much, it is all okay.

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