Oct 20, 2009
Without further ado, I'll turn it over to her post, The Value of Mess.
I wish I could say that my writing space is beautiful—that I have a cozy, book-filled corner, decorated with tasteful artworks, happy family photos, and well-tended plants. In fact, as I write this sentence I am sitting at a dining room table strewn with children’s textbooks, pens and markers, hair bands and sweaters and cough drop wrappers, and piles of papers that need to be recycled. I haven’t included a photo, because it’s too embarrassing. At my feet lie mangled socks that our puppy likes to gather from my daughters’ bedroom floor. He chews them into shredded clumps, and distributes them around the house.
What inspiration can a writer take from such a messy space, except the most important of all—the motivation to get lost in imagination, far away from the world of laundry and dishes and stacks of college students’ papers.
When I was in college, writing longhand in notebooks, I used to think that I could only be creative in a gorgeous setting. Back then I would sit outside at night on the steps of a church or the banks of a river and write gloomy poetry. I still find that for poetry, elegant journals and long walks provide the best atmospherics. But when it comes to losing myself in the world of a novel or memoir, I’m not so particular. Whether I settle my laptop in the kitchen, dining room or bedroom, the glowing screen draws me in.
My main requirement for writing is not visual, but aural—I need silence. That’s why, when my house is overfull with the sounds of family, I sometimes retreat to my office at Washington and Lee University. There, I have orchids, children’s photos and artwork, and a big sunny window. But the walls are drab white cinderblocks, shown in this photo taken by a local reporter, who wanted to include author, novel, and website in one picture.
As for that website—it features the chief visual solace in my writing world. Outside my dining room window I can now see a broad meadow that extends beyond our front yard, divided by a creek that flows toward a barn and trees at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Whenever I need beauty, I can sit on our screened porch, stare at the mountains—now a rusty orange and crimson—and just breathe. The picture shared here appears on the home page of my website, along with lots of other images from the town and countryside that provide a backdrop for all of my books.
Beauty, however, can be distracting. When writing on my screened porch, I sometimes spend more time watching the ducks in the creek, or the cows moving over the southern ridge, than concentrating on my words. When that happens, I carry my laptop back inside and settle amid the clutter of my dining room table, where my eyes are only too happy to concentrate on the screen.
And now that my writing for the morning is done, excuse me while I go and clean my house.
Isn't that just a gorgeous view? Thanks again to Laura for sharing with us her writing space. If you missed my review of her debut novel, The Widow's Season, click on the link and get reading.
Have you seen my interview with Laura Brodie at D.C. Literature Examiner? You should check it out and her Halloween reading selections.
I wish I could have made it to the reading with Laura in Silver Spring, Md., last week (Oct. 15). If anyone made it to her reading, please leave a comment about how it went.