I read a lot about the different writing spaces and places that writers choose, and I have a love-hate relationship with articles about writers’ desks and offices. On the one hand, I enjoy seeing the spaces where creative work happens. I am intrigued by the variety of surroundings people choose as their writing places: huge offices and neat little closets, picture windows to inspire and blank walls to avoid distraction. On the other hand, the contrast between successful writers’ tidy offices and my messy desk never fails to depress me, even though I am well aware that at least a few of them will have simply swept the clutter into a cupboard ahead of the photographer’s visit!
My office multitasks as a guest room and storage room, so the computer trolley is coupled with a folding office chair which I can tuck away when visitors arrive. The chair in turn vies for space with a bed, a wardrobe, and shelves full of stuff that does not belong anywhere else. This may explain why my office is not my favorite writing place!
I do admin at my desk, but the day-to-day activity of getting words on paper and shaping them is just as likely to take place on my ancient and much-loved Asus laptop, wherever I happen to be. I have written and edited on the sofa while football is on TV. I have written in coffee shops (as J. K. Rowling is reputed to have done with the Harry Potter books). I write in libraries and hotel rooms and on trains and even occasionally planes.
Although I am writing on my desktop computer now, I am working from an outline which I prepared in a school exercise book in one of my favorite writing places: a bench in my local park, overlooking the river. When the weather’s good enough, I love having mini writing retreats outdoors. Another of my favorite writing places is the writing shed in the grounds of the Arvon centre at Lumb Bank. The sheds have my three top requirements of a writing space: somewhere to sit, a pleasant view, and the peace and quiet to allow me to focus.
There is something to be said for having a routine, and knowing when you sit down at your dedicated writing desk that writing is what always happens there. However, there is also a great advantage to making writing portable and being able to fit in five minutes or half an hour or even a whole day, whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. For every writer I know who writes only in their designated writing space, at their perfectly arranged desk, there is another who writes quite happily in the corner of the living room while watching the children play, or in the coffee shop during their lunch hour from the day job.
It remains to be seen whether, after my planned writing spring clean, my desk will become a more attractive place to work. I suspect, no matter how tidy my desk, I will always be a write anywhere kind of writer. In this, as with any aspect of writing, my advice would always be to look at what other writers do, and then experiment until you find the pattern that works best for you.