#StartWritingFiction: Writing Spaces

The next section in Start Writing Fiction deals with writing spaces and habits. I found this section to be self-indulgent. Yes, sure, I would love to take a stack of notebooks to a little mountain cabin and write a literary masterpiece with a fountain pen by a roaring fire, but, come on, I’m going to have to settle and use my laptop on my couch if I ever want to get anything written.

I’m being a little unfair – of course, it is useful to identify which times of day you’re most productive and which tools work best for you, as long as you don’t dig your heels in and insist on only writing under those conditions. But there’s something to be said for forcing yourself to write when you’re uncomfortable, for stealing a few minutes to type a scene out on your phone with your thumbs while waiting in line even though autocorrect makes you want to pull your hair out, for building the discipline to not let the blaring music coming from the downstairs apartment be an excuse you use to say you can’t concentrate and put off working on your draft for another day of binge-watching Netflix.

All right, with my protest lodged, I will now talk about my writing spaces and habits. Conveniently enough, I just organized my desk in order to get ready for NaNoWriMo! Look:


As you can see above, I have my laptop, headphones, two notebooks (one for scribbling and one for writing unrelated ideas for later use), a nice view (well, you can’t see that because of the sunshine but my desk overlooks a lovely patch of trees), the stuffed unicorn Zak got me for Valentine’s Day for moral support and comfort when I’m having trouble hitting my word count, miscellaneous office supplies, and my shiny new mug for copious amounts of caffeine. (I always get a new mug for NaNo, one that reminds me of my story in some way – annual tradition!)

In reality, though, I write all over my house. (Except in bed. Beds are for sleeping and only one other thing. Couches, though, are fair game.) I’m most productive in the morning but any time, other than late at night, works just as well. I do prefer silence, white noise, or instrumental music – I can tolerate music better than a TV on in the background, which is probably the most annoying thing ever. (Ugh.) I like writing at home better than out in public, but it’s fun to go out and work in a coffee shop once in a while.

The next part asked us to write two short paragraphs describing characters writing in, firstly, our ideal environment, and secondly, in the worst environment we could imagine. I’m going to mostly ignore the directions again and write about this years NaNoWriMo characters and their preferred working environments instead, because that will be more useful to me than this silly romanticizing nonsense. (Cough.)

  1. Julia’s apartment is too small to have a real office. Her laptop, iPad, and stash of inexpensive office supplies are stuffed in the drawer of an end table next to her side of the couch. Every Sunday night, she curls up against her favorite throw pillow – cream-colored, with a bold print of gold-embossed antlers the only decoration – and tucks a baby blue afghan around her legs to review her planner for the week ahead. Her schedule is color-coded, and she lines up each pen she needs within easy reach on the coffee table.If she makes a mistake, she carefully paints over it with white out. She blocks off squares of time with printed washi tape, gold hearts, blue stripes, polka dots, each carrying a meaning known only to her. Her boyfriend, Dylan, sprawled out and taking up two thirds of the couch for himself, plays video games – the repetitive music has become a soothing soundtrack for her weekly ritual. She draws eight little empty glasses of water on each day, so she can fill them in later. She reaches for her mug, green tea that has gone lukewarm while she was focused on the task at hand. The mug reads “World’s Best Big Sister” and has a pretty floral design curling up the edges. Her phone alarm beeps, and she neatly stacks her supplies back in the end table drawer before tucking her planner into her purse.
  2. Billie likes to work in bars, the seedier, the better. She finds a table in the back, puts her feet up on the chair next to her, and types furiously, long rants about feminism and politics. Her blog doesn’t get much traffic, but that doesn’t stop her. She takes a break from typing only long enough to take a sip of her whiskey and coke, a small one, nursing it as long as possible – the rent she pays for her table more than anything else. Her laptop is black, off-brand, beat up and covered in stickers, layer upon layer, so you can only see the edges of the logos of bands she loved years ago. The background noise, people talking, the mass shouting at the game on the TV – all of it helps her focus more than silence every could. She stays until closing.

Well, that’s that! Here’s hoping the next section of the course works better for me than this one.

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