Oct 13, 2009

Michael Baron Talks About his Writing Space

Michael Baron was kind enough to write up a short piece about his writing space as part of his time here on the blog.

I hope you'll check out his vivid descriptions and enjoy the journey.  Please welcome Michael Baron:

Many years ago, when my wife and I were looking for a new house, we found a place that had a separate structure, maybe twenty feet from the main building, with high ceilings, wraparound windows, soaring bookcases, and a fireplace. My immediate thought was that this would be the perfect place to write. Unfortunately, we didn’t buy that house.

The house we did buy was lovely, but for years I didn’t have a proper writing space in it. The basement was quiet, but impersonal regardless of how I tried to dress it up. The living room, which we never used for its intended purpose, was too spacious and gave my then-toddler daughter far too easy access. It took her years to understand the concept of “Daddy’s working” when I was right down the hall from her (although since I’d worked from the house since she was an infant, she just assumed everyone did this. One day, she was visiting my sister and asked after her uncle. When my sister told her that he was at work, she walked all over the apartment and then returned to my sister, alarmed, and said, “I can’t find him!”).

Finally, two years ago – more than a decade into my career as a full-time writer – we did a major renovation on the house. It involved knocking down many walls, putting up several others, and repurposing huge chunks of square footage. As a result, for the first time, I have a true writer’s space. It isn’t nearly as impressive as the one in that house we decided not to buy, but it is, finally, a part of the house that exists exclusively for me to write. I have a window looking out on the woods accented by a glittery star that my oldest daughter made with a “make your own stained glass” kit when she was ten. My desk has some candles a psychic friend gave me, a pair of hand-carved bookends that house one copy of each of the books I’ve published, and many pictures of people hugging – my parents when they were newlyweds, my oldest daughter and son when they were little, my middle daughter and me, and my wife and me. Oh, and my Mac, of course. I tried hand-writing my books once. I didn’t get past the first paragraph of the introduction before I realized I didn’t have the right constitution for this.

The walls to my right and left are lined with bookcases. The ones on the right have my books, including foreign editions. The ones on the left feature books by writers I admire, ranging from Barbara Kingsolver to Maureen Dowd to Ray Bradbury to Lynne McTaggart (yes, I knew who she was before Dan Brown made such a bit deal about her). My first edition copy of William Faulkner’s Soldiers' Payis there. Right next to my first edition copy of Dave Marsh’s Glory Days. Faulkner is the more poetic writer, but he could never belt an anthem like Springsteen.

I finally have my fireplace as well. I use this surprisingly infrequently. I had very romantic visions of igniting some logs on a February morning and writing crackling prose as the flames danced. In reality, the fireplace is something of a distraction. It seems a waste to burn the logs if I’m not going to watch them. It also heats up the office too much and makes me drowsy. The fireplace itself is very nice, though. It’s brick and brass with a mantle including all kinds of meaningful pieces, including a photo of my wife when she was a kid.

Of course, this is only my official writing space. In reality, much of the house is part of the process. I tend to pace quite a bit and the office isn’t nearly big enough to hold me when I need to pace. My new book, When You Went Awayis my first novel after many nonfiction books, and I found myself pacing considerably more as I wrote it. If I were having trouble with a bit of dialogue, I’d make a loop through the kitchen, the living room, maybe even upstairs to the bedrooms. Fiction is good for me because it expands my emotional range as a writer and it lets me get my roadwork in at the same time.

My writing space is humble, certainly much more so than if we’d bought that house with the separate structure. But it is decidedly mine and I definitely feel at home here.

Thank you, Michael, for a look inside your writing space.  If you missed my review of When You Went Away, please stop by and check it out.


Anna said...

Sounds like he has a cozy writing space. I like the idea of a fireplace, too, but drowsiness and creativity don't mix. Thanks for the great guest post.

Diary of an Eccentric

bermudaonion said...

His brain must get all fired up when he writes since he needs to pace. His writing space sounds great!

Nicole said...

I love the idea of a dedicated writing space and yours sounds lovely. I on the other hand would probably set one up and not use it or use it for an entirely different purpose!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Thanks for the guest post. I'd like to check out some of Baron's nonfiction.

Amy said...

Michael Baron sounds like a really nice and honest man with few pretensions. I appreciate how he tells his readers that he was a writer for at least 10 years before he got an official writing space. His writing space sounds lovely and like it offers a lot of inspirration. I really like that he admits to using most of the house since he's a pacer.

Thank you for posting this, I really enjoyed it.

Vasilly said...

What a great guest post. I would love a space of my own but mainly to read not write.

Anonymous said...

Great sneak peek into his space.

K.L. Brady said...

Wow, that space sounds idyllic. I too have a fireplace that romanticized in my head but ended up never using. I have an office with bookshelves and large corner I bought from Ikea a year ago which is cluttered with real estate contracts. So, my favorite place ended up being the couch with my laptop.