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Friday, October 30, 2009

When & Where Do You Write?

Like most of my fellow authors, my writing routine is sporadic. I work a night job as a bartender, so I have a lot of time during the day to write but as a relatively new author, I'm still learning how to balance my time between writing and promoting and doing the other random tasks that come with being a writer. I finally stumbled upon a routine that works for me this summer. I get up around 10:30, do my morning routine and then settle down to write around 11:30 or 12. I write for at least an hour and a half before taking a break for lunch. Then, unless I have pressing business to attend to I dive in for another hour and half. Then I take another break and on it goes until about 5 or 6 o'clock depending on what I have to do that evening. Then I work out, cook dinner, on Mondays I go to or host our weekly writer's group, on Wednesday's I work, and on the other days of the week I spend time with my husband until he has to go to bed and then around midnight, I go back to work and do all the promotional stuff such as writing blogs, answering emails, etc. I try to read a bit before bed and I go to bed around 3 am every night. It's a routine that works for because I'm a night owl. Not only has this routine better organized my writing life, it also helped resolve my insomnia issues.

Of course everything changes when I am on deadline. Then I do nothing but write or revise. I'm also best as a binge writer so when I get to a certain point in a book, I like to go away and just write 8 to 12 hours a day for a week. And I'm discovering when I start new books things get thrown up in the air. Once I figure out this new book I'll have to update you and let you know how my routine changed.

I'm not the kind of person who writes in coffee shops, though I might try this if I had a car and could get to my favorite local cafe. And I am considering heading to the nearby library if I get stuck with this new book. But for the most part I just move to another room in my house. I like to do all my revisions on my dining room table, since it is a big glass table that is fun to spread out on. And I head there when I'm stuck and need a change of pace. But 95% of the time, this is where I work (click on the photo to enlarge it):

This is my office. And yep, that is about as clean as it gets. If the pile on the left gets too unruly and I can't find my little notebook to scrawl ideas down or my other little notebook that contains my to-do list then I get stressed and cranky and have to clean, but other than that I like the clutter. I like having images everywhere. This started when I was home sick from school in eighth grade and I got bored so I started cutting out pictures of my favorite musicians and other cool stuff I liked from magazines and plastering them to my wall. It started above the bed, but by the time my mom sold our house, you couldn't see the walls at all. My room was a giant collage. There were even posters on the ceilings. It took more than a day to dismantle. I kid you not.

I've stopped cutting things out of magazines, but rock posters adorn all the walls in my house. Some of the framed to look classier. And the room that is my office is the most covered, not quite to the level of my teenage bedroom, but almost. It's comforting. It's inspiring. It's the core of me.

My office is not just my office, I've got my dresser in here and a closet full of clothes (because I have too many clothes. Our bedroom closet is entirely filled with my dresses and a I have a second dresser in the bedroom too.) I've also got the stuffed animals I can't bear to part with and my altar (I'm Buddhist). Then, not pictured are the boxes of stuff I don't have enough space for. My author copies of my books that I send out as contest prizes and my other swag. There is also a box of files that I need another filing cabinet for. I have a picture of a filing cabinet/bookshelf combo that I'm hoping to have my husband and father-in-law build when we have the money for it... and when I can figure out where to put it.

As you can see my desk is pretty big. I'd be able to utilize my space better if it was smaller, but I like being able to spread out. Now the important stuff on and around the desk:

We'll start with the chair. It was my college graduation present from my mom, who insisted I needed a nice comfortable chair that would encourage good posture. Umm, unfortunately the way I sit in it most of the time, I'm still slouching, but it is comfy. And you'll note the electric blanket on it because my office is freaking cold in fall/winter/spring.

Of course, the most important thing is the computer. I do most of my writing there except when I am brainstorming or in writer's group, then I journal by hand. I used to use a desktop, but when I needed a new computer I got a laptop because I like to do writing retreats so I need something I can travel with and it helps to move around the house too.

To the left of the laptop are my notebooks I was referring to as well as a stack of stuff I need to go through, but probably never will... You also see my blackberry. I'm glued to that thing. Sometimes to write I shut off the wireless on my computer, but check for important emails on my phone. It kinda works. At least I'm less tempted to surf the net on my phone. To the left of that stuff is one of my filing cabinets. That's all writing stuff. Old drafts and notes. I try not to print out as much anymore though.

To the right of the laptop is my big cup of tea and a glass of water. Writing essentials. Above the laptop is a calendar where I note all my deadlines. When blogs need to be posted, when my newspaper columns are due, readings, etc. It's a Seattle calendar. I get one every year when I visit. I wish I lived there. I hope to someday, but for now the images on the calendar help me daydream and inspire me. There are lots of Seattle images on my desk.

That brings us to the other images around me. On the right, above the printer, you'll see a very professional looking photo of me with very normal hair. It was my official "Assistant to the Dean" photo from my old job. I took it with me when I left and crossed out my title, writing beneath it, "Author, Bartender, Assistant to No One." It's a big reminder of what I'm hoping not to have to go back to. Why I strive to keep writing better books so that I can make my living this way and never go back. Next to that is a picture of me with Krist Novoselic of Nirvana. Yeah, a big fan girl moment. All over the shelves of the desk are pictures of my friends, the people I love most and who believe in me. I like to feel surrounded by people who are cheering me on. I also have pictures of my pets, both the ones that I currently live with and those that have passed on. I no longer let my three cats into the office because they just cause chaos. On the left side of my desk near the stapler are my husband's senior photos. He gave those to me right before our wedding. I'm not really sure what to do with them because he looks so young, I feel like a creepy old lady looking at them. Oh and there is a picture of Kurt Cobain to the left of my calendar. His music inspired me to find my voice, so that is why he is there. There are also notes of encouragement from friends. My friend Eryn sends me lots of those.

Most important is the shadow box in the top right corner. There is a paper towel with my friend Marcel's instructions for life in there because one day he jotted down his ideas about how to live life on a paper towel. It's a reproduction my friend Thea made for several of us after Marcel was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2008. Marcel gave me some of the best advice of anyone in my life, so this is my way to look to him when I need it even though he is gone. The first of his instructions for life is "Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk." Whenever I am doubting myself, worried to death that I'll never sell another book or make enough to get by as a writer/bartender and have to go back to an office job. I have to try to take the risk. Life isn't worth it otherwise. So I continue to plug away in the little space for creativity that I've carved out for myself.


Karen Mahoney said...

I love seeing other writers' spaces - thanks for sharing this important part of you life. I am quite envious of your lovely, lived-in desk. :)


Steve Jones Snr said...

Great piece, enjoyed reading it. I tend to binge write as I find I achieve very little if I only work for an hour or two. I usually decide the night before "OK i'm going to spend all day tomorrow writing," and I will work all the next day on one book or another, sometimes on more than one during that day.
Problem is with me that I can go for a week without writing anything, I seem to be too easily distracted..

Danielle Joseph said...

Thanks for sharing with such detail. I found every bit very interesting. And I too used to cut pics out of magazines and decorate my room. That was so much fun and provided a lot of comfort!