As I write this post, I’m sitting at a small, wobbly café table in the corner of Barnes and Noble. I have a venti iced tea at my right hand and my writing notebook to my left. I have propped my tablet in front of me as I peck out these words on a wireless keyboard. Today the café is filled with chatting women, filling the space with noise and laughter. Sometimes I enjoy listening to the conversations, but today I want to drink my tea and concentrate.
My solution to the distractions? Three words. Noise canceling headphones.
I’m not normally antisocial, but don’t mess with me when I’m writing, man. Talk to me when I come up for air.
Before you judge me, no, I do not normally write in the middle of a busy café. Some writers thrive in a bustling environment while wearing headphones and, for me, it’s a nice change of pace. But most of my writing is done in the unhurried privacy of my home.
There I have what we affectionately call “the library”, but it’s nothing so fancy. I love working in my library. I have my desk, my laptop, framed photos of my family, a lamp filled with shells we picked up during a vacation in Florida when the kids were small, and, most importantly, a door that closes. That, my dear friends, is my writing space.
But as I sip my iced tea, I realize that this café is also my writing space. My office, it seems, is wherever I make it.
Naturally I wondered about other writers’ work spaces. A quick tour of the internet pulled up a few articles on the sanctuaries of some famous writers and I couldn’t help but notice how different they all were. For instance:
Jane Austen wrote at a small 12-sided writing table that was big enough to hold an inkwell with a quill pen and several sheets of paper. Of course, in that time, trying to fit a laptop onto the table wasn’t an issue and writing tables were meant for writing letters, but did she have to move her papers when she was done for the day or called to tea? The answer is yes. And that is why her space which worked so beautifully for her would not work for me. Shoot, the small round café table at Barnes and Noble is a tight squeeze and that, I noticed, changes the way I write.
Food writer Nigella Lawson’s writing space is a library with floor to ceiling shelves filled with books (she was noted in a previous post on book hoarders). I like it, but she loses me when there are so many books on the floor that a person needs a map and a compass to navigate to the desk. I’d be a goner when I try to find my way bleary-eyed in the morning while holding a cup of coffee.
E.B. White, on the other hand, goes to the opposite extreme and his writing space tickles the Zen in my soul. The author of Charlotte’s Web wrote in a small, unadorned hut with sparse, stark furnishings. There was a rough wooden table, a wooden bench, a typewriter, and a small wine cask that may have been used as a wastebasket. That’s it. But the room is far from uninteresting. The one awesome detail is the propped open picture window overlooking a magnificent view of the water. My imagination fills in the sounds and smells wafting into White’s writing space on a peaceful summer day.
But, by far, my favorite space is Mark Twain’s writing hut in Elmira, New York. This famous octagonal studio where he wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn mixes quiet privacy with everyday luxuries and a spectacular view of the Chemung Valley. This is a space that pairs comfort with inspiration.
What is your perfect writing space? An off the grid shed? A table in a quiet corner? A table in a busy café? Where we are most creative is a personal thing and, since no two people are alike, no two spaces will be the same.
And that’s okay.