The Nomad

by J.D. Rhoades

(Note: this is the “workspace” post that was displaced last week because of our mourning for our friend David Thompson.)

I’ve really enjoyed having a look at the workspaces of other writers. And I have to confess, I’m a little jealous of some of them, particularly Tess’ attic office. I always wanted to write in a garret.

 As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really have an office to myself. I’ve always had to do my writing wherever I can find a quiet space. And with two kids  in the house, quiet spaces have been kind of hard to come by for the last few years.

I do some writing on an old computer that’s tucked into a nook near the front door. It’s a nice nook, with a good computer desk, bookshelves,  and a big bay window. It’s where I wrote my first three books.


Only problem is, it can get a tad noisy. The house has a very open floor plan, which is one of the reasons we bought it. But it also means that the kitchen is a few feet away from the space you see here. The family room is just past that. If anyone’s watching TV and commenting on it (and they usually are) it’s like they’re in the room with you. So I  move to the bedroom. Sometimes to the bed:


Or,  more recently,  to a little desk we set up by the window:


Only problem is,  my wife  goes to bed early, and she likes to spend some time alone with a book beforehand, usually starting right after dinner, which is when I start writing.  And, day or night, if laundry needs to be put away, she’s in and out of the room a lot (and trust me, in this house, the laundry piles up fast). So I move to the front porch: 


Or the back deck:


(I find that the torches add a nice barbaric ambiance to the whole enterprise).

Only problem  is,  when it rains,  or it’s really hot, or really buggy (and in North Carolina in the summer it’s liable to be at least two of those things) it’s hell to try to write outdoors.

But now that The Boy’s left for college, he’s graciously given me permission to use the desk in his room (and to close his door). Lynn spent two days cleaning it up and we had to haul a huge box of trash out of there, but it is a right cozy little spot, and quiet, and I finished the first draft of the WIP there.

Only problem is, it reminds me of how much I miss him.

As for process:  I didn’t outline the first book at all. As I’ve gone along,  I have started outlining more and more. Only problem is, by the time I start getting the words down on paper…well, you know the old military adage that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”? Well, no plan of mine  survives first contact with the actual characters. They take one look at the plot I’ve so carefully laid out for them, laugh derisively, and go “as if.” Then we’re off to the races. It’s hard for me to plan more than a few chapters ahead after that. Even with that minimal level of planning,  the  little boogers  still insist on doing pretty much as they damn well please and refusing to even get their obstinate selves onto the page if I try to force them. Bastards.


24 thoughts on “The Nomad

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    I loved your post; with the title it put in my mind of the roaming gnome. I think you should continue this on the road and we'll get pictures of you in different places around the world. 🙂 I'm glad you've found a "home" now.

  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    So much for a man's home being HIS castle. It's great that you have a room with a door, now, but I'm a nomad when I write, too – it could be just that some of us use up the air in a room faster than others… sometimes it gets so crowded with ideas I can't hear myself think anymore.

  3. Mark Terry

    I have an enormous office in the basement of our house, which is where about 98% of my writing gets done. I also have a laptop and on weekends and sometimes in the evenings I'll use it sprawled out on a couch.

  4. Debbie

    I laughed when you mentioned the huge box of trash-only one? Just finished doing my onldest's room and the garbage is nothing compared to the junk being kept-this child WILL be on Hoarders one day.
    I love what you said about outline and character. I, and yes this might sound a little crazy, ask my characters for plot up front or else they'll stand there, hands folded across chest, refusing to do anything. They stand in front of the biggest set piece as though taunting, or maybe even daring, me to go on…and of course I can't.

  5. kc

    Love the back deck. Honestly, how many of us get any real work done at our desks or in our offices? I know I don't. I got rid of my desk at home a few years back. The darn thing was always piled with mail and other stuff I needed to wade through, it wasn't like I could actually use it, so away it went. Of course now my dining room table is piled with said stuff, but as I hardly ever attempt to use that table, it doesn't worry me much. At home, mostly I work from my couch or the table or chaise in the back yard. At work I get more stuff done when I'm in session at a vendor than in my own office.

  6. judy wirzberger

    There you are, where are you? I imagine it drives your wife bonkers. How wonderful for you two to do the writing/working dance. I imagined you on the deck with one of those mosquito nets surrounding you. Make yourself a screened in porch.

    Wherever you write, the product is great. (So now you know what to get Cornelia for Christmas…and Sean if you have his address.)

  7. Dudley Forster

    I too want that sticker! And how do you work on your porch in the evening without being eaten alive?

  8. pari noskin taichert

    I'm so glad to see where you work — or the "whereS" of where you work. Your flexibility is marvelous and admirable.

    And as far as that sticker goes? You should know what to get all your 'Rati friends for the holidays. Ahrrrrr.

  9. JD Rhoades

    If you look closely, you'll see that the bottom of the sticker says "Oak Island, NC". C'mon down. There's dozen of them in every gift shop on the island.

    Dudley: the torches actually burn citronella oil which is a natural bug repellent. And then there's good old "OFF!"

  10. Dudley Forster

    Zoë – Please do not encourage Dusty, the picture could have been less coy and more fodder for nightmares 🙂

    Dusty -Your mosquitoes must fear deet more than our do, I think some of them think it is the dinner bell.

  11. KDJames

    As a fellow NC resident, all I can say is that you must have taken the outdoor photos in January. After the mosquitoes died. I'm SO sad they're not going to die this winter. Seeing as how our oppressive record-setting string of days over 90 degrees is apparently going to last for-freakin-ever. Soon we'll be writing SFF stories about Life In The South back when people turned off the A/C on occasion and sometimes even used furnaces. And those antiquated things called fireplaces.

    Wait. Is that a decoy bucket of bloody meat on the deck rail next to the can of OFF? Brilliant! Going to have to try that…

    Awesome sticker. I envision a day trip to Oak Island in the near future.

    Oh, and that whole thing with missing the kid? It gets easier. Mostly because, thank god, they keep coming back.

  12. Barbara_NY

    What "I" want:

    Some herein said they want the sticker on your laptop. Others said they want the deck. What "I" want is to see a close up of the three comic strips and slivers of paper (which I'm assuming have clever sayings on them) taped to the ledge above your monitor, to discover, firsthand, what tickles the cerebral cortex of a thrill writer, slash, N. Carolina lawyer.

  13. Allison Brennan

    I like your front porch! I've never actually thought of writing outside. Odd . . . maybe I should think about that sometime.

    I'm getting scared about my oldest going to college. Her fall-back school is Sac State, which is local and only about 20-25 minutes from our house. Maybe I can slowly wean myself. I know I will miss her terribly. (Of course, she needs to get her grades up if she's going to college–Katie if you're reading this–get back to studying!!!)

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