There is nothing more essential to my day’s productivity level than a clean, crisp writing space. My desk, or coffee table (which I usually end up using), needs to have enough space cleared for me to fit my computer, my notebook, my coffee, and my feet without knocking anything over. My chair must be comfortable enough to sit in for a long period of time, but no so comfortable I fall asleep. Food, preferably gummi bears, and a blanket must be within reach. This is my ideal writing space. It’s the one that will compel and inspire me to write my next (my first) novel. It’s the place that will sit in museums for years to come, known as the desk “where she wrote a book.” Oh, they don’t put every published author’s desk in a museum? Darn. At least you didn’t doubt that it would be published (silver linings, people). Anyway, my desk is the spot where I like to spend time. It’s the spot that makes this writing thing a little more like home, and I’m not the only one to feel that way. Some of my favorite writers each have their spaces they like to go to, like a dog and that one patch of yellow grass in the yard. Let’s look at five of those yellow patches and the kinds of writer-dogs who like to ruin them with their acidic urine (figuratively).
J.K. Rowling // Rowling wrote Harry Potter (the first one) at an Edinburgh restaurant, The Elephant House. First, “The Elephant House” is the coolest name ever. J.K. Rowling, you already wrote Harry (freaking) Potter. Please, stop going to places called “The Elephant House,” and give the rest of us a sliver of a chance at being cool. I’m begging you! Second, writing in a public place everyday sounds beyond rough. It takes courage to put pen to paper, and throwing in noisy coffee dates, nosey waiters, and the restaurant regular who starts to think he’s your friend, seems like an absolute nightmare.Thirdly, writing Harry Potter in a public place means Rowling probably had her pants on the entire time she wrote the book. I can hardly get through writing this article with pants on. This writing space is for the person who enjoys the company of others and who isn’t easily distracted. That person who leaves the television on all day for “background noise” is the type of writer who needs to make this little British restaurant her sacred space.
Jane Austen // One of the best novelists ever, Austen came up with Elizabeth Bennet while writing on a table that was not big enough for today’s lunchroom trays. The thing is miniscule. And I complain about not having enough room. How crazy is it that Austen wrote a single novel, let alone completing six on her tiny desk that was not secluded from the rest of the house? People would walk in and out of the room as she wrote. I don’t understand how this would work, but maybe that’s my twenty-first century ADHD talking. No, I think Jane Austen was a genius or a wizard. The only writers I would recommend this space to would be people I don’t like and children because they’re small.
Roald Dahl // Dahl had his own writing shed in his backyard. He wrote in a big, comfy chair with a lap desk, big blanket, thermos full of hot chocolate, and sharpened No. 2 pencils. In case it wasn’t clear, Roald Dahl was the most adorable author who ever lived. I think every writer should strive for this space, especially those who like or need solitude. I can only hope there’s a pinterest DIY to help me build it: “Repurpose Pallets To Roald Dahl Writing Hut.” Googling now.
Mindy Kaling // Kelly Kapoor’s bed is funny. Let me explain. Mindy Kaling is hilarious, and she writes funny stuff and is Kelly Kapoor. She writes this funny stuff mostly from her bed. Therefore, Kelly Kapoor’s bed is funny. Okay, so it’s a pretty loose statement, but I sort of love that for one of the funniest, most successful female writers today, her bed is a sacred space. The frugal part of me thinks this makes perfect sense: “You spent all that money on a bed you’re not even awake in! Write there! Get your money’s worth!” Besides frugality, it also sounds very comfortable and no-pants friendly, for the writer who likes cuddling and nakedness. Don’t we all?
Stephen King // King’s attic should be haunted. Oh, it is… by Stephen King. He writes his little dark, beautiful tales in a well-lit room above his house. He also believes in the importance of writers having their own spaces. If nothing else will sell you, On Writing will make you believe that you, as a writer, need to have a designated, poetically beautiful writing space. It will also make you realize that you are a very bad writer, but that’s beside the point. In King’s words: “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” Did I say Stephen King haunted his attic? I meant Stephen King charms the pants off his attic. King’s space is for the writer looking to be left alone while still maintaining a doorway (literally) to his home life.
What I’ve realized (King: “No passive voice!”) through our writing space journey here is that the most important writing space has nothing to do with a desk. What I mean is, the most important writing space we have is that room in our heads where we lock everyone else out, especially the 14 year old who tries to compare us to other people, until we let her come in because we have a 14 year old character we need to flesh out. It’s the place where we figure things out and go new places. It’s the place where we trade thinking for exploring. It’s the place of adventure and fear and frustration. Most importantly, it’s the place that doesn’t define our lives. It’s the other way around.
Hilary Miller is currently an MFA student in Screenwriting at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. When not not watching, writing, or talking about movies and television shows, she can usually be found making crock-pot creations, laughing, talking too loud, running, devouring a good book, eating, racking up cellular bills chatting with her bomb family, sticking her toes in the sand, or wishing she were Hermione Granger, sometimes all at once. And while part of her heart is still in Indiana, the rest of it belongs to her puppy, Estelle Getty.