Medium, the writing platform, recently hosted a competition. The prompt was to describe your ideal writing environment. If you look at Instagram or Pinterest, you can see endless pictures of beautifully arranged workspaces. The wood desk just so, with a new notebook, fresh wildflowers in a jam jar, an antique typewriter or a shiny new Macbook, perhaps some reading glasses and a cup of expensive coffee. You know the kind of thing. In a recent post on Medium, Nicole Bianchi shows us where some famous writers did their work, and adds inspiration on what a writing space should include.
I like to see gorgeous visuals, but my reality is far removed from that.
As I write this, my laptop is set up on the dining room table. Books are piled on the sideboard because the bookcase is crammed with more books, CDs and who knows what else. A vase of orange roses provides a colourful focus, and outside promises an orange/pink sky painted by the setting winter sun.
Sounds lovely, and it is. It’s also untrue.
There’s much more to see, but you would have to tune out the piles of papers and magazines, shoes that should be elsewhere, odd items of clothing and assorted detritus. (And no, I don’t always have roses.) It would require serious wrangling to get a perfectly curated image, which I could then share in the hope of convincing you that not only my desk, but my entire life is beautifully, artfully arranged. An image that whispers, click the heart and make me feel loved.
I wrote before about wrestling beauty from a cluttered reality by focussing on what matters. Still, there is no doubt that I find ordered spaces tranquil and calm, and surely that releases energy to spend on creating things? Well, yes, and no. If I have to spend an hour clearing up before I start work, it will never get done. My brain will be hijacked by a hundred thoughts, resentments and distractions, and why can’t he hang it up? I’ve asked him a thousand times, so sick of being taken for granted…
And just like that, writing vanishes in a cloud of righteous procrastination.
The whole picture is one truth, and the edited highlights are another version of the truth. Maybe my untidy room is the first draft of the perfect writer’s haven. Here’s another truth.
My ideal place to write isn’t a tangible reality. Although, a corner of the spare bedroom might one day become that haven. First I’d have to tidy stuff, move other stuff, buy a desk… Maybe next year, when I can summon enough energy to go to IKEA. And then assemble the desk.
Instead, I think of my ideal writing space as a state of mind.
My mind needs to settle, cast off the mundane, edit out the noise. Like a deep pool, it requires stillness. Only then can I see past the surface, clear to the bottom. Only then can my characters reveal themselves and come to life, beckoning me on so that I can follow, hoping my fingers can capture their adventures.
That state of mind might come with silence, or with music. I use 8tracks as a source of instrumental music, because I find words distracting. There are lots of playlists for study and writing. I’ve never written in a coffeeshop; maybe that’s a challenge for next year. But if you like the sounds of background activity, then coffitivity offers different options for human white noise. What’s your ideal writing space?
I can’t wait for conditions to be perfect. The only time is now. My ideal place to write is away from the daily grind, just far enough to lose sight of laundry and unread books and washing up and tonight’s dinner.
Let me dive into imagination, and see what treasures are waiting there.