The accoutrements of writing. Part 3. The Place.
I agree with PD James that all she needed was a pad of paper and a chair in order to write. That said, I like variety. I’m a peripatetic writer. I move from the front porch (it’s an old Victorian house so the porch is 38 feet long, a marvel that should be enjoyed and appreciated!) to the studio (where I have a big monitor, all the better to read the manuscript in fine detail) to various chairs around the house (where I constantly whine that what I really need is a footstool). Stephen King has said that a writer should face a wall in order to focus. The length of my front lawn is a type of wall. It’s walnut and maple trees and grass, peaceful and not distracting. I don’t think much about what’s around me when I’m writing. Music helps me focus and I am well trained to keep my eyes on the screen. Steve Berry once placed a sign on his writing studio that read something along the lines of “Writer at work, please do not disturb.” He eventually realized that he wasn’t keeping his family out as much as he was trying to keep himself in. That’s the hard part. Where do you work so you won’t think that mowing the lawn or doing laundry is a better alternative? That’s the blank wall. The place where you don’t pick a usually avoided chore as a way to avoid the real problem: a blank page. To stay focused I’ve created a distraction that makes me get back to work. If I’m drifting and thinking that for once in my life I should do the dishes, I first visit the large piece of butcher paper taped in my upstairs corridor. It is lined with marks indicating ten page increments and I update where my story is. The story shifts down as detail is added and I reflect on the arc of the action. If I’m really thinking about doing the dishes I compare it to earlier story boards with other books outlined on them. Somewhere on this paper I find an entry to the story – maybe it’s not the next scene or chapter. Perhaps it is earlier and a detail that I recognize should be added. Maybe I jump beyond and write a scene I know will have to be written. The outline on paper reminds me of how much is left to be down and that I have done it before. Anyone done once can be done again. Right? Then it’s back to one of my places… it really doesn’t matter which one because in the end the only space I need is the one in my mind.