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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Writer's Place: Musings on Workspaces

I'm filling in today for Fran, who was lucky enough to escape the gray Pittsburgh winter for a few days. She'll share her magical writing space in the country when she returns.

I've especially enjoyed this month's theme and the opportunity to peek into the places where so many talented people create. I've long recognized that I'm a voyeur of sorts - like many writers, I like to listen in on conversations in restaurants, observe the behavior of others in stores and airports, and stare at old photos of people I've never met and wonder about their lives. And, as it turns out, I especially like to look behind the scenes at the private worlds of writers. I'm grateful that I've been able to glean ideas useful for my own work processes (like Jenny's magic board and Susan's project subfolders) and studio (I'm drooling over Carol H.'s colorful bins and lovely antiques).  Most of all, though, I'm grateful for the reassurance that I'm not alone! Lots of other fabulous writers work amongst clutter, and even a bit of disorder. Thank you all!

Perhaps my biggest take-away, though, has been a reminder that writing can happen anywhere. You don't need an expensive or perfectly arranged office, top of the line electronics and fancy gadgets, or even utter peace and quiet. All you need are the simplest of tools - a pen or pencil, some scraps of paper, a place to park your body - and focus. Which is why I've spent some time the last few days putting pen to paper in my comfy chair. And when the dog barks or the phone rings, I just remind myself that Scott Turow wrote the bestseller Presumed Innocent on the train while riding back and forth to his job as an attorney - and my distractions are minor compared to those on a commuter train.

Still, if you're like me - you might feel like lusting over more writers' studios anyhow. So here are some extra resources.

The UK's Guardian has an unbelievably fabulous series on the workspaces of creative people (mostly writers but also some illustrators and musicians), both historic and contemporary. You can check out the little table and chair where Jane Austen penned her classics or the interesting shed where Roald Dahl worked or dozens of other intriguing work rooms.

Check out the interesting (and often funny) book above by the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (among others). It details Pollan's design and construction of a really lovely backyard writing shed - despite his complete lack of architecture and carpentry skills. Along the way, he muses about lots of other topics too.

The blog Apartment Therapy features workspaces pretty regularly. Here's a recent roundup of of at-home writing areas.

Photographer Jill Krementz has created this wonderfully evocative photo essay of the rooms where many prominent writers penned or typed their beloved tomes.

I also love Jo Packham's book Where Women Create. She has a whole series of related books - tasty eye candy and also good ideas to borrow.

And finally, if you're still craving somewhere away from home to get some work done (and you live in or near the right cities), check out the writing spots available to rent inexpensively through the organization The Writer's Room.

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