Stephen King used to write in his laundry room. Edith Wharton wrote while covered up in bed, her dog on one side, an inkwell on the other. Charles Dickens had his beloved desk shipped to him when he knew he would be gone from home awhile. Agatha Christie would sit in her large Victorian bathtub and munch an apple while conceiving the plots to her novels.
Every writer adopts a creative ritual of their own, whether it’s a special place, an item of furniture they occupy, or a certain time of day they prefer to do their work. This ritual takes on a certain significance, a comfortability, and becomes a sacred zone where the air breathes differently and the Muse can be heard.
I call mine Creative Space, though it’s actually the dining room table I’ve annexed for use as a makeshift desk and paper repository. After five years of claiming the space and filling it with the etchings of my imagination, it’s been transformed. When I sit down in my writing chair, I’m not in the dining room anymore.
I’m in a place where I can create freely, with no interruptions or external concerns. Sure, they try to invade. That’s when I focus on what occupies the space, so that when the intrusions come, I’m anchored in Creative Space and not the outside world.
Allow me to share with you five key items that populate my writing pad and ground me in my work:
- Pieces of inspiration. A white feather. A favorite quote from the tab on a tea bag. A bound collection of my Dad’s paintings. Whatever artifacts inspire you, particularly if they’re pleasing to the five senses, surround yourself with these items. I haven’t tried an air plant or a scented candle yet, but those might be fun to add to the mix.
- A tiny calendar. A big calendar would be distracting, so I create a small one on a piece of scrap paper and keep it nearby as my writing calendar. I block off the days I know I can’t write due to work-related or other reasons, and that helps me set goals for the days during that month when I can write. I pencil in those goals and stay mindful of them day-to-day. The process gives me a real sense of accomplishment, despite the fact that some months I can’t write as often, or as many days, as I’d like.
- Early drafts of my current WIP. I learned the hard way when doing revisions that the favorite lines I never think I’ll reuse, I invariably will. If I’ve boxed the draft and buried it in a dark corner of the attic, I’ll waste precious writing time unpacking it and exposing it to the light of day again. Now I keep my old drafts close at hand for easy access while working through those endless revisions.
- Notes to myself. At the end of every writing period, I try to set myself up for success. I either construct a solid, working outline for the next chapter, or if I’m in the middle of a chapter, I leave myself notes about what state of mind my characters are in and what logical next move in the plot they will want to make. These notes are an invaluable memory tool when I return to the page after several days of being separated from the head space of my writing.
- Willpower. I prefer to think of it as my shadow-self, my other writerly-half: the part of me that is doggedly committed to producing the one piece of writing that only I can create. I leave that person behind in my writing chair every time I leave Creative Space, and I join forces with them every time I sit back down to create again. A healthy dose of willpower is what it takes to see your word babies through the many stages of revision to completion. Let it saturate your creative territory and the Censor won’t have an inch of wiggle room to invade.
It’s been a pleasure giving you a micro-peek into the macrocosm that is my Creative Space, my world within worlds. I hope you have such a space set aside where you can seek refreshment and allow the words to flow freely.
Care to relate what keeps you grounded in your writing nook? Drop me a line! Let’s keep each other inspired.