So this is me in my office.
HAH. Nobody really believed that, right? I didn’t think so.
Your first clue is – I’m dressed. How often does that happen? Not bloody often. Second, books belong on the floor or under the bed, not neatly lined up behind glass. (Who has glass bookcases anyway? People with full-time housekeepers, or too much time on their hands, that’s who.). Third, I’m in a chair. Sitting up. Granted, it’s a very lovely chair, but if I actually wrote like this it would mean that all my best ideas would be draining down into the floor, not to mention what it’s doing to my back.
But we’ll get to my ergonomic theories in a minute.
The photo isn’t a total sham, actually – it’s a place I do write, and write exceptionally well, the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines, a writers’ retreat where I go a couple times a year with my fabulous NC writing posse, and the real-life haunted mansion on which I based the haunted house in THE UNSEEN.
But this is really where I write:
Yes, a couch. Lying down on it, with my Mac Air on my lap (which can get really hot, I haven’t worked that out, quite). I do the requisite eight hours, give or take, of Ass In Chair, only with me it’s Back On Sofa. On a very difficult day it will be Back In Bed (writing, not sleeping). I do this because it doesn’t feel so very much like working that way, because it’s easier to keep the cats off the keyboard, and especially to protect my back. Let me clarify that I don’t have a bad back. In fact I haven’t had a single back problem for at least ten years. But I am pretty sure I don’t have back problems because I’ve been lying down to work for the last ten years. Writing for as many hours a day as a professional writer has to write is VERY hard on anyone’s back; there are whole seminars on the issue. We all find our ways of coping; mine is to keep my spine relatively aligned throughout my work day.
And the couch thing could actually have something to do with my very first impressions of the writing life being old episodes of The Dick Van Dyke show, in which – when he wasn’t pacing – Rob Petrie was always lying on that couch in the office as they worked. (I had a hard time with Rose Marie always doing the typing and getting the coffee; I deliberately can’t make a decent cup of coffee or operate a stove to this day. I did seem to pick up her dating habits, however.). As a matter of fact, if you look at just about any old movie about screenwriters you will mostly see them musing while lying on couches, usually (if male) tossing an old tennis ball idly up in the air, whereas authors in movies tend to sit at desks hunched over typewriters (and they don’t outline, either, they just put a blank sheet in the roller and start typing CHAPTER ONE. Yeah, right….).
Hmm. Maybe these movie depictions are why screenwriters get no respect.
Anyway, my couch is in my living room, and there are actually two, matching, and I go back and forth between them, because variety is the spice of life, and sometimes I sit for a while at a café table (not in a café) with high stools to accommodate my legs, also in the living room.
On one wall where I can always see it, or sense it, is this painting by my mega-talented sister Elaine.
The painting is called L’Esprit de L’Escalier (a phrase I’m sure at least Zoe knows well and one which pretty much describes the core impulse to write, if you ask me. ) And the painting to me encapsulates the writing process; I never get tired of looking at it.
And on another wall, one of Elaine’s drawings: a corner on the north side of the Berkeley campus featuring the late Rather Ripped Records.
There’s something about the manic energy of this piece that puts me right back in the manic energy of Berkeley, very useful for writing.
And of course I have index cards up on structure grids everywhere, some on tables, some on the wall. This one is sticky Post Its on a white board:
I’m working on three projects at once right now so I’ve completely taken over two tables and a wall in the dining room (who needs to eat?).
This is another one of my favorite writing spots:
I know, it’s weird, but I write really, really well on planes – I can get a solid two days work in during a cross-country flight. Unfortunately I don’t write so well in hotel rooms, but research trips are always magical and staggeringly productive for me, and as any one of us can tell you, that’s just as much writing as anything.
I know, now you want photos of cabana boys (see comment section of Stephen’s post, which somehow took on a life of its own. Sorry, Steve…). But I’d much rather you post suggestions of cabana boys for me, with current contact information and typing speed, thanks…
Cabana boys aside, I have to say I have found this week of sharing workspaces more interesting than I possibly could have imagined. One thing I absolutely love about my author friends and the author life is that we all know EXACTLY what we all are doing, work-wise, at any given moment. The business side of it, the sales, will be different for all of us at different times. But the writing process? How we spend 8-10 hours or more of every day? We know intimately what all of us are doing – writing is writing, and we all live it, every day. It is overwhelmingly, as Rob posted, in our heads.
But a glimpse of these little personal quirks – how and where we sit, or lie down, in isolation or in public, as all this massive STUFF is going on inside our brains… or to put it another way, how we get that door to that alternate universe to open up inside us – has been really touching to me. I can’t wait to read more – and hear more from YOU all about the inside/outside thing, your workspaces, everything.
Finally, I’d like to send love and sympathy to the families and friends of those lost on 9/11 and in all senseless wars. Peace, Peace, Peace.