Where I Write

I often get mail from readers* asking about where I write. Personally, I’m fascinated about my favorite writers’ working spaces—I wish there was a coffee-table book of photos of famous authors’ desks. I want to know how they organize 600-page plotlines and characters and settings within the bounds of a single desktop. I want to know if they have piles of handwritten pages on their desk, or if they use a typewriter or a computer to write. I want to know if they surround themselves with books or separate themselves from other people’s writing as much as possible.

Well, for this blogger and budding fiction writer, this is where I write:

Maybe you can’t tell from the photo, but my desk is a huge piece of plywood set on top of two filing cabinets. I need the flat space—although the desk is pretty clean here, usually it’s covered with notes from various projects. I recently filed them away, in the hopes of bringing them out only when I’m focusing on one particular work.

I have a stereo on my desk, but that’s mainly because there’s no other place in my room to put it. I don’t listen to music when I write. In fact, if Caroline’s watching TV, I close the door. I don’t want any words getting in the way of my paltry vocabulary.

I brainstorm and outline stories with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, but I do the actual writing on my computer. I love the big screen and the wireless keyboard and mouse. They give me the freedom to shift in my chair and slouch and sit Indian-style (is there a more PC term for that now?), all the while in clear view of the screen, which is zoomed in at 150%.

My desk also contains (from left to right), a stack of notes for my novel which will not be filed away until I finish said novel, a hollow book over 100 years old, a series of books, and a collection of ceramic turtles. I won’t bore you with a full list of the titles on my desk, but they include several copies of Frank Lloyd Wright’s autobiography, Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories (I turn to this whenever I need to be reminded how third-person pluripresent works), the Bible (written in Jesus’ own hand), Frederick Reiken’s The Lost Legends of New Jersey (a book that knows people better than any living person), The Da Vinci Code (embarrassingly enough, to remind me that you don’t have to be a great writer to get rich writing), and John Davies’ dauntingingly large A History of Wales. Perhaps you can guess which of these books I haven’t read all the way through. Also, on the far right sits a small treasure box, in which I keep a golden compass, my high school class ring (never worn), and my soul (it’s safer there).

So that’s where I write.

*Yeah, I don’t get any mail from readers.