Making Space To Write

Our new house lacks space for me to dedicate as a creative space of my own. Each previous house I have lived in since returning to writing has had a room that we set aside as my office – and, in every house, I have failed to write in it.

We fell for this living room, so we bought the house.

It turns out I prefer writing on my laptop in a more comfortable space, away from the mental constrictions that arise when I place myself in an office environment.

We have desks, tables, filing cabinets, etc. for the business end of things. But I have no dedicated writing space.

What I do have is a writing routine that I am working to establish: rising early in the morning, making a single cup of coffee and taking it to the living room, soul writing, and then moving into my work.

This morning, writing as the sun rose, I realized the sofa I have chosen for my writing space literally provides a window into the natural cycles of the year.

The view from the sofa as I finished writing this morning.

I have long contemplated embracing an environmental spiritual practice described by Star Hawk in her book The Earth Path, a practice of developing a relationship with one specific natural element by spending time looking at it every day, but I have never managed to build that discipline into my day.

From my newly established writing spot, I can see the central tree in our garden. Daily writing where I can see one specific natural element as it changes through time will incorporate two spiritual practices in one ritual.

It is not the closed retreat space I always thought I wanted; it is the writing space I need.

How are you supporting your creative needs?

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About Kate Arms-Roberts

www.katearmsroberts.com

Posted on March 3, 2012, in Daily Life, This Writing Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I have the option of writing in our office most days, but haven’t. Everyday, I sit on my made bed and that is where I do my writing, my knitting, my crocheting and most of my reading. Occasionally, I will go to other rooms to read or knit and crochet. Occasionally, I go to a coffee shop to do any of the above activities, but most days it is right there on my bed. I have been forgetting to sit in the middle, so sadly, I have created an indentation where I sit and work. I just sit there, criss-cross-applesauce, leaning over my laptop, stretching my legs every so often to keep my circulation going.

  2. “It is not the closed retreat space I always thought I wanted; it is the writing space I need.”

    Fantastic! I don’t really have a dedicated space, retreat or otherwise. The desk I use is also where I do freelance work, pay bills, conduct online shopping, etc. My first-semester MFA instructor said every writer needs a space where they meet with their muse and their muse alone. I’m not planning on moving any time soon, but I think it’s smart you’ve already carved out a space before you settle into your new house routine.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      Like everything else about the creative process, the habits that work for you are the ones to cultivate.

      I have often found that when things are in flux is a good time to start new routines. I end up with the new behaviour I am cultivating being the one stable element and the rest of my habits develop around it. So far, so good on this one – though it was extremely tempting to stay in bed this morning.

  3. I worked for many years in odd corners of the house, but now have an office space I love and inhabit every inch of. However, what I love best about writing is that at heart it is a simple practice that can be done anywhere without a lot of tools or fuss. And I adore the idea of the Starhawk practice that you mentioned.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      I, too, love that writing can be done anywhere with simple tools, but like so many things that can be done in many ways, sometimes choosing one helps focus the project.

      Writers are known for having rituals about writing. And I think it is the ritual aspect rather than the details of the ritual that help us consistently meet our muses.

      I can imagine that a day might come when I might be able to work best in an office. For now, though, I have so many bad mental habits associated with offices that I need to break those connections in order to write.

      Maybe when the writing habits are stronger, I will revisit the office question.

      Cheers,
      Kate

  4. Right now, I have a comfy living room. There’s a nice loveseat I like to ball myself up on to write. I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like to have a desk. We have a bistro set for eating, but I want a DESK. A real desk. I’d put it in the spare room, in a corner, and pair it with a nice wooden chair, with a cushion tied onto the seat. I want an all-wood desk that isn’t finished. I’d like to put my own designs/quote on it, then finish it myself. Then a whiteboard on one wall, and a corkboard on the other. I work better in spaces that I have created.

    For now, when I need a change of scenery, I pack my notebooks/neo2 and head to the beach.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      That desk sounds lovely.
      I would probably spend all my time looking at it instead of writing. 😉
      Cheers,
      Kate

  5. If we’re just talking surroundings, I guess I’m in the physical-novelty-encourages-cognitive-novelty camp, so the main trick is to get out of the house. In helps to be in public places among people who are having conversations. Coffeeshops are good, bars are better. Non-functioning wireless is a plus.

    If we’re talking about writing, my clever trick is that I am not a writer. As a matter of course I end up generating a lot of prose, but it’s workmanlike scientific communication, a means to an end. On a sentence-by-sentence level I craft my blog posts with care and dedication, but at the end of the day it remains a lark because it’s still just a blog. I’m more likely to fret over song lyrics, but even then the goal is just to come up with something to sing so that the music doesn’t all sound the same. By dint of radically lowered expectations I manage not to psych myself out. This works for me, but clearly it wouldn’t work if I was trying to write a novel, say, because beyond a certain point you need to put skin in the game.

    What your final question got me thinking about the most, though, was how I foster creativity in those areas in my life where I do have skin in the game. For me that means designing software systems to understand natural language. It is creative work, and no less than songwriting lends itself to sitting in a dark corner somewhere downing bourbon and scribbling on a legal pad, but it has a different quality. I haven’t fully thought through what that quality is, but a big part is that the science work is more inherently social. The division of labor for my (admittedly dilettantish) artistic pursuits is clear: I make something and when it’s done I give it to you. One party is active and the other is passive. In the scientific work the boundaries between agents are more porous. I take computer code that a bunch of strangers wrote then tie it together in a novel way with the intent that some other stranger should do the same with it down the line. Imagine if the only way to write a novel was as an exquisite corpse. There creative paralysis occurs when you spend too much effort trying to accomodate these invisible collaborators, and creative progress sometimes requires saying the hell with these people, I’m going to temporarily pretend that precedent does not exist. “Green-fielding” it’s called. Essentially that means going back to a blank sheet of paper, which in many creative pursuits is the natural starting point, but in what I do is a pretty advanced, mid-process technique.

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