Can you picture one of your perfect writing spaces in your mind? I’m sure you have more than one. I know I do.
Maybe it’s a well-stocked library or a patio with the doors thrown open to let you soak in nature. Maybe it’s in a coffee shop, where you can absently pick up snippets of conversation, an interesting mannerism of someone across the room. We all have that picture in our heads of the perfect writing space we need to be able to write our best work. Maybe it’s somewhere inspiring, or just somewhere quiet. It’s always something we don’t quite have.
Mine is a small, dedicated room with a comfortable chair and every reference book I could imagine (and a coffee maker, of course). It has pale walls and dark wood floors, is soundproof, and has its own magical sound system that’s always at the perfect volume. It also somehow happens to know exactly what type of music I’m in the mood for. If it’s summer, it has a window. In winter, it comes with a blanket.
When I’m struggling, I wish I was in that space. Right now, this is my space, in the darkest corner of the living room: the guinea pigs are loudly fighting over a piece of lettuce when there is a whole bowl full two inches away; my partner is playing a videogame in which he is a hell of a loud pirate; the handle of the kitchen door (right next to my head) is broken and keeps creaking and flying open randomly; I’m too hot; there was no space in this flat for my favourite books so they are boxed away in the loft; we are out of berry tea and I have a hankering; my desk is cramped and cluttered; and I am reminded after sitting for a while that I own a cheap office chair which offers little back support.
I still get work done.
I’ve worked from home in the past. I’ve crafted CVs and applied for jobs from this dark corner. I wrote my personal statement that got me into university whilst staring at the living room wall. I tweet and facebook and photoshop from here. I write reviews, blog posts (both personally and professionally) and film scripts which shall likely never make it to the screen. It’s not ideal, with my imperfect space, but I manage – except when it comes to writing my real passion projects. The ones I dream about.
Don’t these other endeavours require a degree of creativity, of the type I claim my space kills? It may be dark over here in the corner, but I still manage all these other things. I don’t know why I have demanded a perfect space for myself for writing my novels. I haven’t found it at home, at university, in the library, in hotel rooms.
It’s a good excuse, I know. That perfect space doesn’t exist. If it does, well tough nuts, because I probably can’t afford it. I have to make do with what I have, and if I can make that work in other areas, why not writing?
Writing well is a wonderful blend of creativity, technical skill and perseverance.
The first is the least definable. I know that, personally, I expect more from creativity. It is taking a new idea and making it understandable for others. Something usually inspires that idea. You can’t just force it to come to you. It’s why your perfect writing space is maybe be a crowded coffee shop or in nature, where there is a constant stream of stimuli.
I’m going to suggest something here that might be quite radical: we all have an innate source of imagination to work with that transcends reality. Radical? Okay, not really. It’s something we all must consider, though, rather than automatically shifting the blame elsewhere when we cannot write. I blame my space when I can’t write. It isn’t inspiring in the slightest. Does that somehow mean my mind is also out to lunch? No, it doesn’t.
I have been out in the world today; I have had interesting life experiences; I have talked to other people about their lives. It’s just that when I sit down to write about the ideas I have, I draw a blank, and I know that I’m not the only one.
There’s probably already a term for it (I am staying well away from the topic of writer’s block in this blog post; I don’t think my personal problem here is at all true writer’s block), but I am choosing to think of it as writer’s ennui. I am bored and that is affecting how and what I write. Sometimes I am bored at home and sometimes I confess to having moments when I feel bored with life. I come from an average family who made it by in life. I’ve always been somewhat of an underachiever. I have always lived vicariously through the stories I tell and the fantasies they allow me to experience by proxy.
I realise now that the life I live and the stories I tell are irrevocably linked, and that listlessness in one leads to listlessness in the other.
To blame what writing spaces I have is unfair. It was me who became fatigued.
I recently graduated. I also lost my job due to budget cuts. I chose not to dwell on the shock (and fear) of going from two demanding, dynamic, stressful environments, to suddenly finding myself with little to do on a day-to-day basis. During my daily job-scour, I found myself staring at the blank living room wall again. My desk is as cramped and my chair as uncomfortable as ever. It was uninspiring. But also, I need to find a job; and a big part of that involves this space I sit in now.
I began to write again. This time, it wasn’t difficult or stressful. It was stress relief. I realised that the space I occupied in my written worlds was a retreat. Writing, I have realised, in itself is inspirational. It is not necessary the surroundings you have, but the surroundings you give yourself, that shape your words.
I am not naive: I will not get lost in my own fictional worlds and ignore this one. I need to find that job.
Writing is a time-spender, it is a passion, a love, a hobby, a retreat, a frustration, a mission, a journey, and a destination. Try not to dwell on how it is done, only that it is. Don’t let your surroundings hold you back. Write of new worlds and new people. It is the best possible way of escaping your surroundings, just for a while, and to dream of new ones.
This is a subject I’ll likely come back to. My thoughts on setting are so linked to my mood, it’s hard to separate them. They fluctuate. Sometimes I wonder if my space is indeed a physical one, and not only a mindset. Do you believe the mind is the most important writing space we have?
Do you have a writing space that’s important to you? Tell me about it, or take a picture of it and share why it’s so special to you. Do you need that space to write at your best?
I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions on perfect writing spaces. You can always catch-up with me here or on Twitter.