Finding Space to Write, Part 1

It’s been a while since I posted.  Do you know why?

I kept worrying that I wouldn’t get the blog entry “just right”.  How silly is that?

And then I had a minor epiphany: I said to myself,  “Keith, you putz, just write the bloody thing.   You’re not trying to win a Pulitzer!”

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on finding space to write in your home.

All you need to do is creatively isolate yourself.

Now, sure, it’d be nice to have a library with cherrywood bookcases and an iMac powerful enough to crank out the human genome project.  And it’d be pretty darn cool to have brandy, a smoking jacket and an Irish wolfhound.  But if you had all that, you wouldn’t write any more than you do already.  All you need is a little nook for yourself.

A spare bedroom is ideal, but so is a small study, an attic cranny, or even a converted mud room.  Another idea is an isolated corner of a relatively-unused area, like a formal living room.

Since you have already set aside the time to write, the space is easy to find by comparison.

It needs to be a place big enough to hold:
* one human (that’s you)
* your chair
* your table
* your computer
* an assortment of handy books
* a waste basket

You need a comfortable chair, btw.
Discomfort is the second biggest roadblock to writing.
(The Internet is the biggest.)
You need a legal pad and pencil.
And you need a computer.
And do not — under any circumstances — hook up that computer to your home network. When you’re using that computer, you’re going to be using a simple word processor and nothing more. If you want to look up a word’s meaning, get a paperback dictionary.
And while you’re at it, get an atlas too.
And a cookbook.
And a book on famous art.
And a good travel guide
And a book on basic science & math.
And accounting.
And business ethics.
And philosophy.
Plus get yourself some copies of the classics, everything from Dr. Seuss to Shakespeare, Tolstoy to Twain, the Odyssey to The Bible

You can get that entire collection for about $25 at a used bookstore.
Throw them on a makeshift bookcase or stack them in the corner.

Make sure they’re accessible, but not in the way.   Writers need to know a whole lot of minutiae.  There’s no better way to learn useless facts than to have them handy.

The other thing you need for your writing space, if possible, is a door.
It needs to be able to shut.
And if you have kids, it needs a lock.

Regarding the table or desk, the computer needs to sit on this.
Use a laptop if you wish, but for God’s sake do not put it on your lap!
Laptops get too hot too quickly.
Put the computer on the desk and sit there like you’re at the office.

You don’t have to be stuffy.
But you do need structure.
Writing is an oddly pleasant combination of discipline and decadence.
You don’t have to be neat.  You don’t have to be clean.  You don’t have to even be sober.

But the most important thing is to be yourself.
No one is watching you except for the guys in the black helicopters, so don’t worry about appearances.
Write in shorts and flip flops, or in your PJs.
Hell, write naked for all I care, just don’t show me any pictures.

You also need a lamp or two.
If your space has fluorescent lights, turn them off.
Generally, overhead lighting is bad.

You also need some Post-It notes, a couple of pencils, a pen, and maybe a bullet to chew on.
Keep a sweater or blanket in there if you get cold easily.

The other thing you need — which is unrelated to space — is a word processor.

If you’re using Windows, all you need is WordPad.
You do NOT need Microsoft Word.
WordPad, which has come loaded on every Windows PC for the past 20 years, is more than enough.
If you use a Mac, download a free word processor called “Bean”.
It’s basically just like WordPad.

These are simple word processors that don’t do much more than spell check.
And that’s good.
You know why?
Because its not a computer’s job to check your grammar.
It’s your job.
You are the writer.
You are in your space, and you have found your time.

Now, write!

Unless next time: Peace from Keith

Copyright © 2011 Alan Keith Parker — If you steal my work, then you will hear from a lawyer.

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