Monday, July 23, 2012

Week 30 - Writing Places

22 Jul - 28 Jul: Location, Location, Location

This week I was intending to talk about Contrast in writing, but yet again, I'm going to stray from the program to consider something completely different: the Writing Environment.  Or perhaps I should be asking, is there a writing environment?

I haven't been big on inviting comment, I know, but they're always welcome and I would be interested to hear what other writers think about a dedicated place to write.  Do we really need a nice desk in a special room with classical music playing in the background?

Here are my thoughts on the subject, written earlier today:

It’s Time To Write
(620 words)

      I couldn’t let this opportunity go by.  I look around me now at the writing environment that I have let myself become accustomed to, and I can’t help but giggle inwardly (as outward mirth would truly tie me in with this bizarre but strangely infectious working environment).
      I am lounging on a blue vinyl padded seat designed for five-year-olds.  It is inordinately comfortable even though my knees are somewhere up around my chest.  The keyboard of my laptop sits diagonally on my lap and the screen is pushed back to the limits of metal fatigue to discourage it from donking me in the nose as I write.
      To my immediate left is a blue, red, and yellow twisting machine about three feet tall.  A dark little girl with long hair, and wearing black and white tiger tights under a sparkly blue shirt, did three spins on the contraption, smiled at me, and raced off to the next imitation gym apparatus (which happened to be a baby bench-press with an impressive looking bar-bell that she raised with not the slightest indication of effort).
      To my right is a blue, plastic table adorned with two bead puzzles.  One consists of a flat piece of wood carved into a variety of patterns, the coloured beads extending above and below the board for the purpose of moving them through the zig-zags and spirals.  The other puzzle is 3-dimentional and requires the child to thread the beads over the swirls and whirls of brightly coloured twisted wire.  I remember the item from my own childhood, which goes to show that good ideas live... well, a long time.
      The play unit before me is a netted enclosure of ascents, jumping areas, a balloon pit, one enclosed whirly slide and two open wavy slides that I would be hesitant to go on myself as I have watched the children fly down with unexpected speed, a mix of delighted and horrified surprise on their faces.
      Unfortunately, my three-year-old daughter is too short to reach the flying-fox by herself, so I must venture into the mystical world of the child’s playground (once again, I might add), to help her with her aspirations to fly.

      That was hard work, and the heart of the play unit smelled a little funny, though I refuse to think what the odd aroma could be.  I return to my blue padded lounge, relieved that my daughter has lost interest in what she can’t ably manage herself (and I, only barely can), and has opted to torment a Filipino boy (nicely, of course) on her way to the green treadmill with little feet stenciled on the track.
      The teenager behind the counter has inexplicably loudened the music that pumps through the facility. The selection is of such a variety that I wonder who their target audience really is.  My daughter dances to the Wiggles, Rock A-Bye Bear but is not so keen on Joan Jet and The Black Heart’s, I Love Rock and Roll.  It’s nice to think that the management has catered to the tastes of parents, but quite frankly, the music is loud, and I am old.
      So today, this is my writing environment.  I have responsibilities as a parent that don’t allow me to lock myself away for hours at a time and concentrate on composition, but my daughter is happily trying to cut the dark girl’s hair with a plastic saw, and I am happily tapping away, play-writing, but working up to the more serious task of injecting conflict, suspense and other solemnly serious stuff into the first draft of my first novel.  With Shake Your Tail Feather belting in the background, and an hour left on the clock, it’s time to write.

Exercise 59. In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg suggests visiting an unfamiliar place, or a familiar place with a different outlook (e.g., whilst wearing slippers, a cowboy hat, a tiara), and writing.  I'm looking forward to sitting in a cafe with a cigarette hanging from my mouth, even though I don't smoke.

Exercise 60.  Visit a different setting and experience it with all five senses.  Write down interesting sensations or observations that can be incorporated into other stories, or write a story on the experience itself. (From Rosier-Jones's So You Want to Write.)


  1. Does it take a lot of discipline to write wherever you are or does it come naturally for you? As one of life's procrastinators the writing environment is one of my biggest hurdles. I find it so difficult to block out extraneous noise, focus my mind and just write. Is it easy for you or did you discipline yourself to it over time (or through necessity)?

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  3. G'day jjrattus,

    Good to hear from you. Interesting question.

    For me, I have to make the decision to write; personal goals help. I have my laptop with me, or pen and notebook in hand, and I write.

    I find it's easier when I remind myself that I don't have to right well, I just have to write. I have penned down absolute drivel whilst the t.v.'s been blaring in the background, but sometimes, I go through the passage later and find it's not as bad as I thought it was (and sometimes it's worse, but who cares?).

    For me, the physical act of writing comes first, often as a stumble from A to B when I'm distracted by the Wiggles (well, who wouldn't be?), and the focus comes later when the distractions are gone. Sometimes I abandon the drivel; sometimes I snap onto an idea and rewrite; sometimes I just polish. Nothing's cast in stone, after all.

    By the way jj, remember the footy story? I got two excellent personal rejections with positive comments from the two publishers I've sent it to so far. This writing stuff is so much fun.

  4. Damn, I meant 'I don't have to write well' not 'right well' - this was just to prove my point, of course.

  5. Boo to the rejections, yay to the positive comments. Remember how many rejection letters Mr King received? You've still got quite a way to go to reach his lofty heights!
    I admire your ability to stick to your goals. It's something I really need to work on. I like the idea of just writing & the quality not being an issue at the time. That always stops me as I presume the distractions + writing = rubbish. You're right that it doesn't really matter. I might give it a go & just let go of my inner critic (until a later time).
    Enjoying your blog. :)

  6. Thanks jj. You're right - I've definitely got a long way to go.

    Maybe you could aim to start your novel in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? An outline maybe? First page?