L.K. Madigan (lkmadigan) wrote,
L.K. Madigan

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Do you need a door?

I woke up too late to meet with my mistress.

At lunchtime, I planned to sneak away into an empty office so we could be alone. But a friend asked me to join her for lunch, and I couldn’t refuse. My mistress whispered urgently in my ear. “Yes,” I answered. “Soon.”

After work I drove home, greeted my family wearing Cheery Wife/Mom face, and changed out of my work clothes, distracted by thoughts of my patient paramour. Would there be time later … maybe after dinner …?

I drove my son to taekwondo, parking in the busy lot outside the studio. “I’ll come get you after class,” I promised. “If you finish early, I’ll be right here.”

He nodded and loped away.

I got out of the car.

Time for my other love … the siren who calls to me even in dreams …

I walked around the car and opened the passenger door. I sat down in the seat, reclined it slightly, and closed the door. “Alone at last,” I murmured, and opened my laptop. (It’s easier to write in the car when there’s no steering wheel in the way.)

Finally … time to fix chapter twenty-three.

I used to require a clean desk, a quiet house, and (ideally) an hour of free time to get any writing done.


Now I can write anywhere. I take my chunks of time where I can find them. Forty-five minutes in the morning, in the big red chair, with my coffee? YES. The occasional thirty minutes in an empty office at the day job, during lunchtime? I’ll take it. Waiting room? Hotel room? Plane? I’ve been known to write – to “meet my mistress” – in all of those.

But lately I’ve been eyeing the tiny spare bedroom in our house. It used to contain a twin bed, because it’s so small that was the only bed that would fit in there. I think only two houseguests ever slept in it. So we got rid of it. Now my son’s X-Box is in there.

This room has a DOOR.

I think I want a door.

My most serious case of writing space-envy is associated with Cynthia Lord’s Writing House:

Isn’t it lovely? Read about it (and see more photos) on her blog here.

I’m also pretty envious of Nova Ren Suma’s space.

Of course, it doesn’t belong to her alone – she's a member of The Writers Room, described on their website as a “non-profit Urban Writers Colony in New York City.”

In this blog post, Nova says: “I need this separation from home. I need a creative-only space. This place is not for everyone, and that’s fine by me. We’d be too crowded otherwise.”

In pondering my highly mobile and unfixed writing “space,” I decided to ask other writer friends whether or not they need a door.

Here are their answers (click on names to visit their websites):

Kate Messner:
I've gotten to the point where I can write almost anywhere, and in fact, a good part of SUGAR AND ICE was written in the bleachers at my daughter's skating practices (good for research, too!). My husband and I share an office, but it doesn't have a door. The one thing that's really hard for me is trying to write at home when the kids are home, so we actually just built a room in back of the house for that purpose. It saves me having to leave to go to the coffee shop if I'm under deadline (lattes are cheaper at my house), and because it's separate from the house -- you actually have to go outside and then back in to get there -- the kids treat it the same way they would if I were actually writing away from home.

Jennifer Hubbard:
Best case: at my desk, door closed, water and chocolate nearby, music on.

But I will write anywhere. The only thing I can't stand is if someone else can read my words as I'm writing. Shrivels me up.

Kristina Springer:
My writing space is Starbucks with a much needed iced mocha. (Kristina's perfect space can be found here.) (P.S. Kristina has four kids, so Starbucks is probably quieter!)

Saundra Mitchell:
I have to have my playlist, and a cocola, and a computer. And I am completely uptight about these.

I have configured my laptop so it has exactly the same everything as my desktop, in exactly the same places. All the icons are a specialty set, and identical to my desktop. Word is configured with the toolbars, colors, and fonts exactly the same on both. Down to the system files where I save everything. SAME!

My playlists, I make especially for each book. And while I write that book, I don't listen to any other music. NO NEW MUSIC. I even burn my playlist to CD, and listen to it in the car. It keeps me in the right time and place in my head.

The cocola is for energy and caffeine, and because there's not a lot of text on the can to read instead of working. :) I'm a machine when I sit down to write in my precisely-built writing factory. I am... the Wordinator. LOL

Deva Fagan:
For myself, the only real need is a computer. Any computer, as long as I can type into a text editor of some kind I'm happy. I sadly can't write fiction longhand anymore, though I do like pen and paper for brainstorming.

But given the choice, my favorite writing spot is my desk, with the sun rising outside my window and a blistering hot cup of strong black tea with milk on hand. I sometimes listen to inspiring music, but if I'm on a roll I often forget to turn it on!

Here's a photo of my desk (minus the laptop stand and keyboard I normally use):

Library 3

Lindsey Leavitt:
I like to be in a chair/bed/couch where I can put my feet up and actually create a LAP. It also helps if I'm in a room with soft carpet so my baby can roll around. No music, no TV, no noise.

Lisa Schroeder:
For me, it's like a mental thing to go into my office. Sometimes I do have to turn the Internet router off, but mostly it's having a designated work space that says "work" to me. I just write best at my desk.

April Henry:
I just need my computer. And usually some coffee. Everything else is optional. I am not as good as I should be about having a routine. And sometimes it helps to shake it up a little.

Sara Zarr:
I rent an office, but I don't necessarily actually write there. I write at home, office, coffee shops, library ... wherever I'm in the mood for. Office is more about "a room of one's own" than writing-only space. Sometimes I go there and just read, or just do businessy stuff. I like having a place that's not at home, just mine.

I know Laini Taylor has been writing in a café near her house for several months now.


With a one-year-old at home (Happy birthday today, Clementine Pie!), I think it’s absolutely necessary for her to leave the house to work. She writes about it here. (It’s a great post – you should go read it – she describes the brain men who work, well, inside her brain.)

Jon Skovron
I've just been thinking about this... I tend to change places a lot. Sometimes at a desk, sometimes a dinning room table, sometimes the couch, occasionally on the floor, coffee shops, libraries. I feel like a shift in location frees me up and reduces the expectations I might have about "making something great" and allows me to just get on with making something.

OTOH, I have been thinking of setting up a more formal writing environment because of this article on memory and work habit association with space: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/habit-fields/

I read the article (this is Lisa again) and it’s amazing – you should check it out. If you don’t have time, though, I’ll just quote these lines:

“Imagine a habit field [object representing a habit] around your office desk so potent, that every time you sit down, you become enveloped in a haze of flow-sustaining productivity. It may sound like hyperbole, but with the proper conditioning, it’s entirely possible.”

That tiny little bedroom with its cleverly-closing door … it may be the secret to putting me in a haze of flow-sustaining productivity!!!!


I do have a writing space at home. Isn’t it cute? (A purple wall, like Deva's, which is supposed to enhance creativity.) This photo is from a few years ago – wow, look at that big old heavy laptop! – but the space hasn’t changed much.

I never sit there.

Probably because my desk is always cluttered and there’s NO DOOR. The space used to a room, but became access to stairs when we added on to the house. Feng shui-wise, it’s a disaster.

I’m going to keep pondering for now. Part of me actually likes hanging out in my squashy red chair in the living room – easily accessible to my husband or son, should they have a sudden desire to speak to me/kiss me/ask me for allowance.

But part of me thinks maybe I should start taking this writing thing more seriously. o_O

What about you? Do YOU need a door?

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Tags: writing life

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