How important is your personal writing space? That is, can you sit and write just anywhere, or do you have a specific place—a desk, a room, a coffee shop—that tends to be where you can focus your attention on the task of writing? One of my writing friends blogged today about the disruption that can come from having a person (or a puppy) unexpectedly in your writing space (“OMG, There’s a Person in my Writing Space!”). I’m interested in the physical makeup of the writing space itself, and how it helps or hinders the writing process.
There’s a term I remember from the early days of the Internet, which is mostly used by programmers and developers, but I think it applies equally well to writers and anyone who spends a lot of time on their computer. The word is geekosphere, and it means all the junk (and occasional useful items) that decorate the area around your computer monitor. If you work regularly on a laptop, and do so wherever you happen to be, you probably don’t have a geekosphere. (Although I’ve seen road warriors who have traveling geekospheres, pulling out all those special items before settling down to work; anything’s possible.)
I work in multiple locations, including out of the house (I’m sitting in my local library at the moment), but I have a home base where I’m likely to spend the most time writing. And yes, it’s got a well-established geekosphere. Take a look:
The desk where I work is in the Disney Room of my house, so you’ll notice a plethora of Disney characters and memorabilia. As I might have mentioned elsewhere, I grew up in Southern California, with regular trips to Disneyland, and have been collection Disney ever since. I won’t say much else about that, although hang on till the end because I’ve got a bit of a Disney trivia challenge for you based on this photo.
One of my favorite characters is Roger Rabbit, and you’ll see him showing up several times in my geekosphere. The oldest one is the small Roger figure on the printer at the right. I’ve had that one for over twenty years, and I’ve always had it near my writing space. In the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Roger says it’s a toon’s job to make people laugh. Similarly, it’s a fiction writer’s job to entertain. If I can make people laugh along the way, so much the better.
Walt Disney himself knew how to entertain. I have a picture of him on each side. On the left, there’s a rather famous picture from his younger days, which was a gift from a fellow writer, and I really should get it framed. On the right, there’s a framed pin set where one of the pins is a portrait of Walt from his later years. Another of the pins contains one of his famous quotes:
Somehow I can’t believe there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C’s. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.
Walt might not have been a writer himself, but he certainly understood the creative process better than anyone.
You’ll notice I use two mugs. One is for coffee, and one is for water. It’s important to keep both caffeinated and hydrated while working.
As far as my technical set up goes, you can see that I typically use two monitors. The small one on the right is my Windows 8 touchscreen laptop, but when I’m working in this space, I plug in to a larger monitor, which isn’t touchscreen. And I use a full-size keyboard and wireless mouse as well. You can see a third (dark) screen peeking from behind my main monitor; that’s my 10-year-old iMac. It’s still functional, although the disk drive doesn’t work, and it’s fairly useless for web browsing. I use the Mac mostly for Photoshop and InDesign projects.
Looks like I’ve got a few pieces of scratch paper under the main monitor. Do you think I’ve got passwords or usernames written down there? Not a chance!
Poking up from behind the laptop monitor you can see the top of a white feather. This is a goose feather quill in an inkwell—and a well-used one at that. It’s another of the objects I’ve had for years and that I always keep in my writing space as a reminder of the long tradition I participate in every time I sit down to write. Technology changes, and we get new words and ideas, but as a writer, eventually you’re always alone with your blank page and a tool to fill it.
So that’s a brief tour of my geekosphere and a bit about why some of the stuff is there. I’d be interested to hear from others about what your personal writing space looks like. Do you have talismans or charms that help you feel like a writer? Do you have rituals that must be performed before you can face that blank page? Or do you sit anywhere, write anytime, regardless of who or what is around? Let me know in the comments.
I mentioned I had a Disney trivia challenge for you. In the photo of my geekosphere, you can see many Disney characters. How many Disney feature films are represented by the characters in the photo? In this case, I’m counting all Disney divisions, so for instance, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was released by Touchstone, but that still counts. Some are pretty tricky as they’re blurry or only partially visible in the photo, but I count at least 16. See how well you can do, and list the films you come up with in the comments to verify. Although there aren’t any actual prizes, the winner will get the coveted Attaboy Award, as well as my admiration.
Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins