What Effect Do Your Surroundings Have On Your Writing?

"Started treating my office like it was a real room that was worthy of my best treasures, not the 'spare room made into an office.'"  Danielle LaPorte, from a post titled "28 of the Best Things I Ever Did--From the Bedroom to my Business."

DeskinthewildWhen I first started writing, many years ago, my "office" was a desk shoved up against a corner of our bedroom.   The desk came from my father's printing plant, and it was huge and weighed a ton. (My husband hated it for that reason, and also because whenever I wanted to move it, it had to be disassembled.  It finally got taken apart one too many times, and died.)

I also sometime wrote at the kitchen counter, with small children swarming around me, asking for food or begging for my attention.  

Finally, when we put an addition on our house, I progressed to my own office.  It was downstairs with a view of the backyard and I loved it.  I filled it with a mismatch of furniture, anything I could scrounge, and tons of bookshelves, of course.  

Then, when my children moved out, I transferred my office to my daughter's former upstairs bedroom.  And there I've been for the past many years.  After my mother died six years ago and I inherited some money, I decided to invest in a proper office suite of furniture.  And so I went to Ikea and filled my room with a grouping that looked very official, very heavy, very dark.  I chose a huge desk with a curved front that had room for my computer, my printer and piles.  Lots of piles.  I also chose a file cabinet and glass-fronted cabinets to match.  You can see photos of it on this old blog post.  (As far as I can tell, Ikea doesn't even make this set of furniture anymore.) I loved it for awhile.  For quite awhile.

And then I decided I wanted to move back downstairs.  The thought was daunting--carrying all that heavy furniture down our narrow staircase! But I persevered.  Because I wanted to be more in the center of things.  To be able to start dinner and run back to write a few words while things simmered.  To be able to watch grandchildren and write a few words while they napped.  I started packing things up, but the project stalled and I ended up working in my upstairs office with stacks of boxes filling most of it.

Enter summer.  Gorgeous, soft Oregon mornings with the temperature hovering just above 60 degrees.  I took to carrying my computer out to the table on the back deck early every morning and doing my writing there.  Which was when I realized that I didn't need a huge desk with tons of area to pile things on.  It was actually a detriment to my process, because it started to overwhelm me. And so a whole new idea for my office was born. All I really needed was a good old-fashioned writing desk. At the same time, I started reading a favorite blogger's account of her time in Stockholm and fell in love with the look of the apartment she stayed in.

Out with the dark, heavy black office furniture! In with a light, white and natural wood look! At least in my vision.  I happened to have coffee with my friend Leigh, who has a business restoring old furniture and, on a whim, asked her if she had a writing desk.  Guess what? She did! And not only that, it was painted a lovely delicate light yellow, which went along with the look I had in mind.  

So we spent this weekend moving furniture.  We're still not finished--our living room looks like a thrift store as we sort through hundreds of old CDs, and figure out where extra boxes and pieces of furniture goes.  There are quite a few photos of the process on my Instagram. And you can see the photo of my writing area above.  But so far, I love it.  The room is bright and light and I love not working on my little yellow writing desk.  I feel lighter and brighter! And now I realize how that Ikea suite never truly suited me.  As my daughter said, "I never heard you say how much you loved it." True dat.

I expect to write wonderful novels and blog posts and offer classes and all kinds of good things from this space, because it makes me happy just to be in here.  (Oh, I almost forgot--I engineered it so I have a separate space for art projects, too.  Woot!)  And all this leads me to ask--what is your writing space like? Is it feeding your soul, and making you happy?  Or does it drag you down every time you walk in?  Is there something you can do to make it work better for you?


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #53

Here is the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog, minus one because I, um, forgot.

#363  Write about how your character reacts in an emergency.  Cool and composed, the one everyone else can count on? Or the opposite?

#364  Use the words sunlight, sailing ship, and stained glass in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#365  What a difference a year makes! It had been a year since ________________.  She found that hard to believe, because ________________.

#366  Here’s to beginning again….

What has your main character had to start over and how many times? 

#367  The noise! The smell! The glare! It was worse than he thought…

#368  Write about a time your main character recovered from something–an illness, a broken limb, an accident, a break-up, a loss.

 How is your writing going? Feel free to share, or share a response to a prompt in the comments!

 

 


Five Things on Friday: July 21, 2015

I'm late with this (and nearly everything else in my life at the moment) so I'll keep this edition brief.

Tinyhouses

What I'm Reading:  I finished Life As We Knew It, and have the other two in the series on hold at the library (along with half the catalog).  Still reading After Perfect by Christina McDowell, and also started Safekeeping by Karen Hesse, which is yet another in my current string of apocalyptic YA novels.  Main character Radley returns home from volunteering in Haiti to find an America transformed by the recent election of the American Political Party and the assassination of the president.  It is written in a very spare manner and is quite absorbing.  Also, two books on Tiny Houses that my son gave me as a belated birthday present.  I'm determined to build one!

Gp_portland_4

What I'm in Awe Of: The #ShellNo protestors who dangled from a Portland bridge for 40 hours earlier this week, in order to stop the passage of the Fennica out of dock to Alaska.  I'm also amazed at the courage of a hardy band of kayakers who paddled right in front of the ship to try to stop it. And I'm proud to live in a city where such protests are considered important, no matter how much traffic they disrupt.

Themometer

What I'm Complaining About: The heat.  Again.  It was 103 yesterday, and is forecast to be 102 today.  This is our second intense heat wave this summer and I'm tired of it.

ToshibaSatellite

What I'm Shopping For: A new computer.  Maybe this one. Mine is six years old and freezes all the time.  Plus it gets slow and balky as I'm working.  I'm going smaller and less complicated.  And, I'm also switching back from a Mac to a PC.  I know, gasp.  But I just can't see that spending good money on a Mac was worth it.

Sandbox-in-home-office-1

What I'm Doing This Weekend: Moving my office downstairs.  I have a lovely new desk and rug and curtains and I'm excited.  If I remember, I'll post photos when its done.  And no, I'm not adding a sandbox, as in the photo above, but I am going to the beach next week so I thought it appropriate. And kinda cute.

That's whats up with me this week.  What's going on with you?

 Images from commondreams.org, ronnieb, bitrebels.com, and some random computer shopping site.


Writers, Do This and Be Amazed At the Success of Your Marketing Efforts

Marketing. Ugh

Megaphone

I am one of the worst marketers in the world.  There's something about shouting my name out from the rooftops that makes me cringe.  And I know that I am not alone in this.  But last week I had an experience that gave me some new perspective on the topic.  And from that I learned something that I hope to figure out how to apply going forward.

I've heard that one way to succeed is to quit worrying about promoting yourself and put others first. But how, exactly, are you supposed to do this? Beats me.  Don't have a clue.   In the past, I'd read this sage wisdom, nod my head, think for a minute how this might work, come up blank, and quit thinking about it.  Then go back to my usual marketing ploys.  In other words, doing nothing.

Maybe a Different Way?

But here's what happened last week that put this into perspective and showed me how it might work:

TS at Another Read Through

#1 I had a reading at a local bookstore that I like a lot.  I like the owner a lot, too.  She supports local authors like crazy and is doing her best to create a nice community around her store.  More than anything, I really wanted to introduce people to her store.  

#2 I was reading with my Twitter friend Kayla Dawn Thomas, who was coming down from Washington.  She didn't know many people in the area, and this was her first reading.  So I wanted to make sure she had an audience, too.

Are you sensing a theme here? I had two people I wanted to make happy.  And because of that, I pulled out the stops, sending out emails and promoting on Twitter like crazy.  In the emails, I wrote about how great the bookstore was, and asked people to stop in some time even if they couldn't make it to the reading.  

In other words, I had a mission larger than myself.  

And the Winner Is...

Champion_soccer_player_267305_l

The ultimate result was a reading that about 25 people attended, which is not bad at all for a Thursday night in summer.  And I've cemented a wonderful relationship with Elisa, the bookstore owner.  She's offered to do my launch for The Bonne Chance, about which I am very excited, and Debbie and I will likely do our workshops there in the future.  (Local writers--we are planning one in October about all aspects of publishing, including how to get an agent, book contracts, and indie publishing.)

The thing is, I felt so much more comfortable doing the marketing when I was talking about the bookstore and Kayla.  How to expand this into larger marketing efforts?  I don't have a clue.  But recently on the Women's Fiction Writer's Association mailing, there was a link to Kristin Lamb's blog, which I hadn't read for awhile.  In wandering through its pages, I found the link to her most recent book, Rise of the Machine, Human Authors in a Digital World, which I gather from the reviews has a somewhat similar theme.  (From a review: "Well, here's the big deal.  It's not about promoting yourself.  It's about caring for your neighbor.")

So, I'm onto something here, even if I am late to the party.  And I'm going to figure out how it works.

Do you have ideas about how to put this in motion?  Ideas about marketing in general? Please do share in the comments.  This is a topic all writers need to know more about, I'd wager! Your ideas may help someone else--which is the whole point.

Photos are by xenia and brsky and Another Read Through.


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #52

Here we go again with our weekly collection of prompts from my daily Tumblr blog.  Enjoy and write a lot, will you please?  It would make me happy.

#357  Use the words umbrella, metal and sunlight in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#358  He couldn’t understand a word she said.  

#359  Write about your character experiencing a storm.  Is he/she scared or exhilarated?  Eager for it to end or happy to let it rage around her? Does it energize her or tire him?

#360  Who is the love of your main character’s life?

#361  “I’d stay another year if I saw a teardrop in your eye.” Heard it In a Love Song,by the Marshall Tucker band.  Write about what’s going on here.

#362  It was over.  Thank God.  She breathed a huge sigh of relief.  But then….

#363  Oh, the exhilaration of it all!  

There you go! How is your writing going this week?