November 30th, 2006
Small, Small World

Alison recently talked about writing with a day job. I know many of you out there do work around your day job/night job/school obligations. I quit my job with the airline in 2002. I started writing full-time in the fall of that year. In 2004, I decided I wasn’t pulling my weight around the home front. Mind you, dh didn’t think that. I did. (I feel that way every couple of years. It’s just my nature.) So I went to work part-time at a used bookstore. (I know. I know. Used bookstores are bad.) I thought I’d have plenty of time to write, since I was only working 20 hours a week.

See like Alison, I used to get much more done when I was super busy. But I guess over the last four years something changed. I’d come home from the bookstore and instead of being fired up and ready to write, I wouldn’t want to see a manuscript–much less work on one. I think her advice in her entry was absolutely true. It’s important that your day job be a complete 180 from your writing or you’ll spend all your creative juices at work and have none left for home.

Anyway, back to the small world. Something strange happens when you work from home for years. I still LOVE being home, but my world has shrunk to frightening proportions. Everything ‘seems’ crisper/more immediate. Unfortunately, that includes worries and anxieties. I live in my mind 24/7. Sometimes that’s a scary place to be. *ggg*

I don’t have any plans to go back to part-time work, since I make the equivalent in money from my writing and I have no idea what I’d do. Being a flight attendant for fourteen years doesn’t exactly set you up with bankable skills. *wg* But, and this is a big BUT, I do need to get out of this small, small world I have constructed. It’s not healthy. Dh is always after me to go somewhere to write. I do have places around, but I’m never fully comfortable in them. I suppose this means that I need to seek out a location that I do find comfortable. So over the next few months, I’m going on a ‘writing spot’ search. I know there has to be a place out there where I can sit, stare out the window and write without feeling self-conscious.

What do you look for in a writing spot? Does it have to be quiet? Comfortable chairs? Noisy? What do you think makes a good spot?

19 comments to “Small, Small World”

  1. Good coffee. *g* What can I say, I love my coffee! Seriously, good light, comfy chairs…Noise, I can take it or leave it. Somedays noise is good, somedays it’s gratingly awful, but for most part, it doesn’t matter.

  2. May, Thanks for sharing. Coffee is important to me, too. I definitely need a comfy chair. Hadn’t thought about lighting, but that’s a good point. The noise I’m still getting used to because it’s so quiet at my home.

  3. I don’t think I could relax enough to work on a story in public. I can work on short things in coffee shops (articles, poetry, that sort of thing), I could proof or do editing, but writing fiction takes a different level of focus and comfort. I can’t even write at home with an open door behind me.

    I think it would also be a hassle to have to haul everything around with me. I’d rather work in my “cave” and go out for fun!

  4. My kitchen was it, or the chaise lounge in the living room (but it got tedious fighting with my 17lb cat who believes the chaise is HERS). I did that until I could figure out what I wanted to do with the tiny room at the top of my stairs. It’s beautiful, with old wall paper, and a capped gas feed from ‘the old days’. And had the right energy. Now I do most of my writing up there, except for the notebook. That gets dragged everywhere. For me, I needed no clutter, yet inspiring. I also needed a good amount of clear desk space without piled on cabenitry. I have an L shaped student desk that is extra wide, with a curve attachemnt, and it covers two of the 4 walls of the room, giving me plenty of room to spread out when I do research and such. It’s a comfortable temperature, but not too quiet. The kid next door drums every afternoon, and I can still hear house and street noise so I feel like I’m part of the world. But mostly, no clutter.

  5. Definitely at a desk under a window overlooking somewhere interesting … and, erm, distracting. I’ve not written a thing – not properly anyway – since I’ve been in the current house as there’s no desk set up under a window yet. The last house overlooked the small garden where I got distracted when birds of prey came to visit. The house before overlooked the front street where I could keep track of time watching kids come from and go to school. The house before overlooked a little cul-de-sac where cars would come in and turn or the snow would look lovely when it first fell. When I set up in my current house, it will overlook the front street again, but we’re at the end of a dead-end so it might be like the house with the cul-de-sac, which was where I worked best.

  6. I like to write at the library. My kids head up to the teen center, and I find a comfy chair and type on the alphasmart. Noise and comotion don’t bother me(I taught preschool for many years)and the library is fairly quiet. I like to be able to look up from the screen and see people andd movement. I also like music when I write, so I take something with me.

  7. I agree.. you could probably stand to open up your world a bit– but do you have to take the WRITING outside the house? I find that volunteering somewhere once a week-0- on a REGULAR BASIS,something to plan and look forward to– is a great getaway/outreach for my spirit — also, setting up REGULAR Breakfast or lunch dates, once a week, with friends who will KEEP their dates!

    I also sign up for creative classes like jewelry making or card making at least once or twice a month.I take cooking classes sometimes.

    These are all non writing related things and non housekeeping things that keep me “fresh” and energetic.

    I still love to do my WRITING here at home or on my patio.

    Coffee shops are noisy, bad lighting and distraction, for me.. but so many others find it inspirational. I can’t write in the library because all the books and magazines keep calling my name!!!!!

    No matter what, you gotta get out fo the house at least twice a week!! It will improve your creativity/productivity too!

    Happy December–MADELINE

  8. Charli, I think I’ve dropped the ball on the going out for fun part. *ggg*

  9. Ursula, I have a comfortable work space that I share with dh. Obviously I have it to myself most of the time, since he doesn’t work from home. I’ve even moved my desk. I think it’s just been too many years in the same room.

  10. Diane, I set my desk up so that I couldn’t stare out the window. I’m afraid I wouldn’t get anything done. Instead, I face the wall next to the door and have the window at my back.

  11. Becca, I put on soundtracks if I’m going to write to music. Lyrics distract me. I can write with people around me, but it’s a challenge. Sometimes I can’t hear the voices in my head over their clatter. *g*

  12. Thanks Maddie. Dh is trying to get me to start making pamper appointments. I’m probably the only woman on the planet that resists making appointments to get my hair and nails done. LOL!

  13. If I work at my desk at home, I get sleepy so I don’t. I use the chaise too LOL and I’ve gotten used to working around the kids and TV (some). I want a bigger battery for my laptop but I’m not sure I’d get any work done going out to write in a coffee shop.

  14. Cece, I’ve had mixed results at the coffee houses and bagel shops. Sometimes I get stuff done and others, I just waste the afternoon. (the coffee shop is in the bookstore) Dangerous. Very dangerous.

  15. If you’re looking to get out: what kind of scenery stimulates you? Sometimes what you might thing of as a writing spot might not have the right ‘scene’: view, vibe, sound. And something unexpected fits that bill because it has the right elements. Kind of like magic: don’t give the universe the item you want, give it the feeling, or general vibe. So what sights, sounds, scents engage your creativity, but don’t lock up your attention? Crazy as it sounds, I had a friend who loved to write at the Dennys in the seedy part of town, on weekend graveyard shift. They always had the bar crowd, fights, police, all kinds of color, and some how that was his ticket. It might be too that you need stimulus, not just a different stimulating place to write, maybe more strange and unusual day trips to do and see things that are out of the norm, attend a few off the hook lectures or discussions. Does your town have one of those local ‘this is what’s going on’ papers, you might not only get ideas of things to check out, but run into some unusual places that might click.

  16. Ursula, Great ideas. I’m going to have to give the first half of your suggestions some thought (since I’ve never thought about it before). My town does have one of those ‘what’s happening’ mags. I’ve picked it up a few times, but nothing immediate stood out. I’ll have to take a closer look. Thanks for the tips. And I don’t think it sounds crazy. 🙂

  17. Ursula, To answer your very first question, I’d have to say the mountains. The kind that hold snow. 🙂

  18. I’ve been thinking about this post of yours for days, because it’s such an interesting subject to me, since I work from home (at my writing day job–and yes, I agree, if you can have a day job that’s unrelated to your writing passion, do it! Writing is writing, and writing sucks your energy dry!).

    Anyway, re: doing my own writing, one or two times our Internet has gone out for a week or two at a time, and one of two things happens: either I continue writing at home without email or Wikipedia access, which is an uncomfortable working condition for me :), or I’ll go write at a coffee shop, which is really fun and I always wonder why I don’t do it more often. Everyone else has their computers open too, so I never feel conspicuous writing in public like that. I also like the bland muzak they play :), because it sort of fades into the background but sparks up my brain. (I can’t listen to good music while I write; it’s too distracting.)

    Anyway, I like comfy chairs and crowded places–but not too crowded, because again, that’d just be distracting. I also like places that let you open a tab, so you don’t have to deal with 3 or 4 different credit card transactions over the course of the day!

    So, have you found a good spot yet?

  19. Catherine, None of the places near me allow tabs, so that’s out. I still haven’t found the perfect spot. It’s difficult during the holiday rush. I am going to try the coffee shop down the street. Hopefully that will do the trick. 🙂