Writing spaces are an intensely personal thing. Some of us have messy piles of books and papers like leaning towers populating our desks and floors. Some of us have magnetic bulletin boards that hold family photos and inspirational quotes and a HTML cheat sheet. Or maybe there are nice wooden bookshelves that actually match the desk but there are too many books to fit on those shelves. There might be a dog bed on the floor, right next to the stack of stuff for one project.
All of the above applies to my office. And more – my computer table is littered with little Buddhas and a Ganesh and a gargoyle pencil-holder. Oh, and a little tiny crystal ball in a stand that I got from a friend when she moved to San Francisco. There’s also Jackson, the recently-acquired jackalope my co-editor Constance bestowed upon me. He sits on top of the file cabinet next to the printer and chides me when I sit here with a look on my face as blank as the page I’m supposed to fill with words.
In short, my writing space is pretty cool given that has all this stuff in it I like. The trouble is my office is small and it’s starting to feel awfully crowded in here. Something has to be done. Even my dog, Truffles, refuses to hang out in here right now. I think she’s claustrophobic. So, I’ve been poking around on Pinterest to get some ideas for reorganizing.
I’ve learned that when you search for “home offices”, you get just that: spaces intended for paying bills and looking for recipes and filling out your kid’s school forms. Some of those spaces are stuck inside big closets or pantries, which would give one the opportunity to grab some cereal while working without having to get out of the chair. They’re designed to be out of the way or blend in with the rest of the living room, not to be used for serious work on a daily basis.
A different search for “writer’s studios” turns up much more interesting spaces. The option for “10 Stunning Writing Studios” shows spaces that are all out of my price range but are nevertheless inspirational. Backyard studio? Narrow writing space suspended from steel beams? More bookshelves than you can imagine? Yup, all there. From there, I checked out “40 Inspiring Workspaces Of The Famously Creative”, a BuzzFeed piece which leads with a Mark Twain space that includes a pool table in the middle of the room, papers scattered across its top. Scroll down and there’s E.B. White typing away in the most ascetic of spaces: no frill, no clutter, no electricity from the looks of it. Martin Amis’s space has a skylight and floor-to-ceiling bookcases, crammed full. Chip Kidd’s space reminds me of my own: books stacked up all over and 3M sticky notes framing the computer screen. Still further down is a photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono working together at a table covered by a pretty cloth while natural light streams in. Of course, I love this list.
Next, I searched for “writing space”. Up popped ideas for writing sheds, which are nice but we don’t have an acre for me to use as a place to plop my own office. There were spaces lit with soft lights and the occasional string of tiny festive lights that escaped from someone’s Christmas tree. I could just see trying to edit in that soft light; how drowsy would I get and would the feeling that this nice light needed to be accompanied by a bottle of wine ever go away?
The last thing I looked at was a link to a series about writers’ rooms published in The Guardian back in 2009. In the series, authors talked about their creative spaces, what they had in them, what they loved about them, what worked. It made me think about why I love the rubber skull whose eyes pop out if I squeeze it or the swivel chair I got years ago from IKEA or the Route 66 keychain my son gave me that hangs on my bulletin board, all of which help make my writing space what it is.
And so I’ll clean up my space by recycling papers that it’s time to let go of, rearranging the bookshelves so they’re all on one wall, the filing away stuff that I don’t need for my current work. Maybe there are some pens to toss, books to pass on. But, in the end, a lot of the little pieces of clutter will probably stick around. They all have their inspirational role to play.