Isaac Asimov once described his home office. It was on the 33rd floor of an apartment building overlooking Central Park. But Asimov setup his typewriter (and later, his word processor) facing a blank wall. He would draw the curtains in the room, and that was how he preferred to write.
As much as I admire Asimov as a writer and scientist, as much as I’ve tried to learn from his well-documented example, his writing place is a bridge too far for me. In an ideal world, I’d want to write in a beautiful place.
My office is really my oldest daughter’s bedroom. She doesn’t sleep in it. Instead, she shares a bunk bed with her brother in his bedroom. But her clothes and book and some of her other belongings are in “my office.” The walls are a light pink. (The color they were when we bought the place.) There is a window overlooking the backyard, and the houses across the way. Not much of a view, but the window does face east, and the room is bright, and that is one thing that I like about it.
That said, it is also very ordinary. When I think of places in which I’d love to write, I have my sights set somewhat more majestically. For instance, I’m currently listening to John Le Carré’s memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel. In one chapter, he describes a house he has somewhere in Cornwall. His office overlooks a hill that slopes down to the sea. He complains that it is often foggy and rainy, but occasionally, beautiful blue sky breaks through.
There is something so delightfully beautiful about a place like that.
Sometimes, I imagine a similar scene, except this one on a cold, gloomy New England coast, in a house overlooking the seas.
Sometimes, it’s a cabin in remote Montana, with a few of mountains in the distance.
Why do these places appeal to me as a writer? Why does the perfectly adequate (to say nothing of functional) office that I have seem to ordinary?
Perhaps part of the draw is more than just the setting. Perhaps it is the thought that if I had the means to write in such a setting, it implies that I could spend my days (or whatever part of the day I could manage) writing.
Then, too, part of the draw is the sense of isolation these places hold in my mind. I could get away from the distractions of the day. I could sit, and stare through the fog at the crashing waves and think. I could let my mind wander, and not feel rushed.
But, of course, I could do that in my perfectly adequate home office, too, if I put my mind to it.
No, more than likely it is simple day-dreaming on my part. I like to think about isolated places, perhaps as a result of the hyper-connectivity we experience these days. The fact that I imagine these beautiful places as places I can write merely reflect an activity that I happen to enjoy. After all, the places are beautiful whether or not I happen to be there to write.
It is interesting – the concept of having a “special” place to write in. My concern is that if I have a special place to write in, can I write anywhere else?
Therefore I have always strived for being able to write wherever I am, with whatever is to hand fountain pen, ball pen, pencil, on paper or a tablet or a computer (never really like typewriters). I do not collect data like you do Jamie so I have never been sure how effective each space and method is on quantity or quality of writing.
I think for me the most important factor in successful writing is to clear my mind of the distractions of my own making – what David Allen of GTD calls “mind like water” so the writing ideas flow wherever I am and whatever I have to hand.
On the other hand having a specific place/space/toolset can lead you to “If I am here I must be ready/able to write”
….each to our own