My writing space is my favorite room in the house. I made sure I decorated it so I loved it because I spend 8+ hours a day in it. Some of the time is writing fiction, the rest is doing my day job.
If this room were a person, it’d be my best friend. Really, there’s something about walking into it that’s calming and comforting and nurturing. You can be having a bad day ~ failed on the page or weather stinks or jeans won’t button ~ then walk into this room and, I don’t know how it works but it does, feel better afterward.
It’s amazing, too, what some windows and a warm color on the walls will do for your writing. The lightness in my writing ticked up a notch when I started working in here. Don’t believe me? Try writing in a basement, which is where I used to have my workspace. See how the tone of your work changes.
I’m actually not a neat freak ~ the rest of my house can attest to that ~ but I found when I’m writing that if I have papers everywhere, I get distracted too easily. So . . . the reason for the nice, neat desk. What you don’t see in the pictures are all the piles of paper in a ring around the floor and in boxes under the desk.
There’s a little collection of trinkets next to my computer that started 8 years ago when my son was 2 years old. He came toddling up to me one morning and handed me a seashell. He said, “Make you happy.” And so I’ve saved everything my kids have ever given me since. Here’s a sampling: a ceramic mushroom, a plastic Yoda from a Happy Meal, B.O.B. from Monsters vs. Aliens (which my youngest wouldn’t out right give to me, LOL, so we share it). All these tiny gifts make me smile and are a great little motivation, too, especially on the days when I’m tired and the writing’s tough and I’d rather be doing something easier, like watching TV.
Anyway, I’ve written two novels in this space and I’m going to be sad to see it go when we move in a few weeks. Hopefully, it’ll be a creative haven for the next owner, too.
What about your work space? What do you love about it? What about it inspires you? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
Sylvia Plath: “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
Sometimes self-doubt comes in fast & hard: the first rejection, maybe, and you’re wondering if you should even try to be a published writer. Sometimes, like in my case, it comes in slowly, easing itself along through the years, grinding you down a little bit more with every rejection or every not-so-stellar review.
It took me four years to write my first novel, Small as a Mustard Seed. At first, I loved the characters (still do), and the setting, and the story. But later, as the writing began to take on a life of its own (as it always does), I really started to doubt, not only the story but myself and my ability to write it. A few months into the work, the father arrived with schizophrenia and then, later in the process, became a Korean war veteran. Early on, it was set in a more modern time period then suddenly I realized it needed to happen in the 1960′s. It had two little girls, sisters, as the main characters. I had an overwhelmed mother struggling to keep her family intact.
Late at night, alone in my little writing room, my thoughts were these: I know nothing about schizophrenia. And really, what do I know about Korea? Or being a veteran? Or being in any kind of battle at all for that matter? I wasn’t even born in the 60′s, what do I know about that? I’ve never had a sister, how can I write that & make it believable? What do I know (because when I first started I didn’t have any kids) about being a mom? There were a lot of days I just wanted to quit & work on something else. Something easier, I told myself (which became kind of a joke, because there’s never really anything easier, is there?).
But little by little, I kept pressing forward in the face of all my doubts. I jotted notes in my journal like I need someone who knows about schizophrenia and ~ because the universe is a friendly place ~ a week or so later, I got introduced to a woman who had lived with an adult schizophrenic & who graciously answered all my questions about how it was to be with him when he was off his medications. I read books. I researched. I wrote about the relationship I would’ve liked to have if I’d had a sister. I knew how it felt to be overwhelmed, so I transferred that feeling to the character. I kept moving forward.
I finished it & sent it out into the world. It won two awards & got great reviews. I let out the breath I’d been holding.
Was the self-doubt gone? No. But it did fade a bit, and I got to work on the next thing. So this is my little pep-talk: Don’t let any self-doubt stop you. Don’t let it make you question your motives or your intentions. Don’t let it make you ask, Who even cares? The best advice I can give you is to keep writing through it. Trust in the story & trust in your ability to tell it. I know this sounds new-agey, but trust in the universe to get you what you need. And finally, this goes along with my post last week, find a support system of people who understand what you’re trying to achieve.
What about you? Have you struggled with self-doubt? If so, what have you done to overcome it?
Well, I can write about this one because I took the last 2 months off to work on turning my first novel into an e-book. I sat down the other day to start writing my latest novel & couldn’t remember where I’d been, which character was doing what, & any thoughts I might’ve had about the story. Just gone after all that time.
When I did readings, I used to get asked, What’s the most important thing for a writer to do? In my opinion, it’s to show up every day and write. Consistency’s a big part of it. Sure, some people like to write in spurts & take days off in between. If that works for them or for you, fantastic. But, for me, I found that if I work every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes (i.e. jotting down a couple notes or simply writing a paragraph), I make much more progress. Why? Because the story’s always fresh in my head; the ideas are flowing and seem to come more frequently when I’m thinking daily about the book.
Time’s a problem for some people. I’ve got kids, a house, a lawn, a husband, and a job, too. But you don’t need a lot of daily time to work toward a goal. All you need is a commitment. It’s like anything, I guess, if you want it to grow, you have to nurture it along. I wrote the majority of my first novel, Small as a Mustard Seed, in one-hour increments late at night when my baby was sleeping. It took me four years, but at the end of it, I had a book. If you show up & do the work, so can you.
Grand Prize Winner, Grant Winner, & Silver Medal Winner