I've been thinking a lot about writing spaces. I'll be moving into a new place in late January, an older home with great classic woodwork and big windows, hardwood floors and a claw foot bathtub. And with this move, a chance to create my own writing space again.
In the small apartment where I now live, there is no room for such a space. I've done quite well writing in cafes and coffee shops, the white noise of conversation and espresso machines acts as a sort of blanket to the world, softening the real noise the sometimes can block the writing. I love working in good coffee shops, ones with funky chairs and odd corners. But, that special space in my home has been missing.
So, how do I proceed?
I went back to search out my favorite photos of my favorite writers' spaces: Hemingway's room in Key West, Dylan Thomas' small, austere cabin in Wales, Thoreau's hideaway in the woods, Kerouac's tiny bedroom and desk in Florida where he wrote The Dharma Bums, a space I had the great opportunity to live and write in during a writer's residency in Orlando a couple of years ago. A long-time neighbor of Kerouac's reminisced once about hearing the click and clack of typewriter keys into the early hours of the morning, the sound emanating from the bedroom's open window. One thing I quickly discovered about all these favorite spots: simplicity. Each one is small, some bare and empty, with a simple wooden desk and maybe a few books nearby on a shelf or stacked on the floors. The spaces are austere, but not unemotional. There's something brilliantly uncomplicated about each one. And that's what I want to take away from those spaces and bring to mine.
If you write, you certainly have thought about a space of your own. And it has to be YOUR OWN. Take suggestions from others you admire, as I have, but still, make it your place. And it does not have to be fancy. Get your desk at a yard sale, repair a chair tossed to the curb for the garbage pick-up. Light the space as you wish, clean and bright, or soft and dim with candles. If you feel good and secluded and centered, then it works.
There's romanticism in writing spaces, yes, but practicality too. But it's the mix that makes it worth the effort and time to build your own and begin to cherish it.
If you're looking for more thoughts on the subject, here's a recent NY Times blog entry that puts wonderful insight on the subject.