What kind of working space does a writer need?
Does the physical space in which you work make a difference to the quality of the work or how you feel about it? It’s possible writers and artists ponder the condition of their work spaces more than others because they continually search for the perfect environment to inspire creativity. Moving house and setting up a new work space has certainly caused me to think about it.
Writers may be considered lucky because, in theory, we can work anywhere. We just need a place to set down our pads of paper or laptops. But there is theory and there is practice. Ian Rankin, at a book signing I attended, said he never wrote on the road, only in his office at home. Of course, it’s possible that has more to do with his busy schedule of appearances and book signings than the space itself.
There is the romantic image of a writer working in a coffee house, preferably a cafe in Paris. My one time experience writing in a coffee house was less than successful. Perhaps a small Starbucks outlet in a busy mall where I kept an eye out for my daughter and niece to return from shopping was not the best choice. I was cramped and felt pressured to move on.
J.K. Rowlings wrote much of Harry Potter in coffee houses. Some writers claim coffee houses offer an environment free of distractions. You can’t get up and do the laundry. That may be true, but these days, unless you leave the cell phone at home, don’t connect to the coffee shop wifi, and ignore the people around you, a writer can find plenty of distractions in a coffee shop.
Virginia Woolf claimed a woman writer needed a “room of her own”. I’ve been fortunate to have a room of my own for several years. I now share office space with my husband. We’ve done that before. I think it will work.
I’ve spent the last two winters in rented houses in a warmer climate. The first winter I changed the location and set-up of my writing space several times, never finding one I was completely comfortable with. A desk in the second home we rented worked very well for me, although it was not in a “room of my own”.
A writer doesn’t necessarily need a lot of space, unlike other artists who may need to lay out large canvases, set up a darkroom or kiln, or work around a sculpture. Stephen King wrote Carrie on a child’s desk in the laundry room of a rented house trailer. Marjorie Celona wrote Y propped up in bed.
For a glimpse at the work spaces of 40 famous artists, check out this Buzzfeed article.
I have a comfortable work space with a new desk and lots of light, but it is always good to be reminded of this quote from E.B. White:
A writer who waits for the ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.
What kind of creative space do you need?