It occurred to me the other day, as I once again lamented not shifting last year’s Christmas wobble to at least give me some leeway for this year’s festivities, that I tend to spend a lot of time and money preparing for things that are ‘definitely’ going to change my life, instead of just plunging right in and doing them.
I decide to get fit. I, therefore, must buy some new trainers, a cool running outfit (if I look stupid when I run people will laugh at me and I will stop running immediately), some new headphones which don’t fall out of my ears, and a Fitbit. I must join the gym and buy a juicer, and a recipe book on juicing, and the 4,000 fruits and vegetables required to make said juice.
I already have many cupboards in my home stuffed with what I like to refer to as ‘shame-shadows.’ You know, those things that follow you around from place to place reminding you of the time you tried to do something and failed. A deflated yoga ball that may have never, in fact, been inflated. Boxes of unopened nicotine patches (who uses nicotine patches now anyway?). A spiralizer that is impossible to clean, or at least so irritating it is certainly not worth the disappointment that comes with a bowl of courgetti. Clothes with the tags still on that I bought when feeling saucy and daring, and sometimes still try on from time to time, but naturally only in the safety of my own bedroom.
The same goes for my writing space. I read several insightful and useful articles on how important it is to create an ideal atmosphere to release my most creative self. A place where you feel tranquil and calm, yet also motivated and inspired. Somewhere you won’t be disturbed, where you can think, feel comfortable and let inspiration dance brightly before your eyes. Somewhere light, probably full of plants, and with the smell of fresh coffee lingering in the air. Somewhere you can laugh in the face of writer’s block because there is no way that you would ever not know what to write in such a perfect setting.
Eureka! I thought. Finally, a logical reason as to why I haven’t been writing as much as I want to – I just haven’t had the perfect writing space to inspire me.
The Perfect Writing Space – It Started With A Desk
I fell in love with a desk once. This desk was going to make me a better writer for sure. It was a beautiful shade of sailor blue, with adorable panels of blue and white flowers on its surface, decorative handles, and teeny, tiny, useless drawers. How I loved it so!
I saw it and knew straight away that this desk was going to be the one I would sit at as I wrote my first novel. The one that, when I became a famous bestselling author, would be taken to a museum somewhere and people would gasp in awe at it and say ‘ohhhhh’ that’s where she must have come up with the idea for [insert title of millionaire making bestselling novel here]. I can see why – that desk is just aaaamazing.’
So I had to have it.
It turned out the desk was actually annoyingly low which meant I couldn’t cross my legs underneath it, not large enough to put the notes and coffee cups and stationery required to have a proper writing session, and did I mention the teeny, tiny, useless drawers?
‘To hell with that’ I immediately thought and resumed my cross-legged Quasimodo position on the sofa. I still used the desk of course. It became a place to hold an ever-growing stack of bills I never looked at and mail I never opened until it was such a mess you couldn’t even see those adorable floral panels anymore.
I moved house recently, and I insisted it needed to have a room we could turn into a writing space for me, only adding a mere 300 or so pounds to our monthly rent. A small price to pay for a writing office where I would now, surely, unquestionably, write every day and get that big money-making book out there for the world to see.
The writing desk, of course, came with me. And it looked great. Did I use it? I did not. I preferred to wake up in the morning and grab my laptop from where I kept it, on the floor by my bed, and then work until so desperate for caffeine I would reluctantly go downstairs.
So I re-assessed the office and lo and behold had yet another eureka moment. It was the desk! The desk was the problem! How could I work at a desk that was too uncomfortable to sit at? It was outrageous, preposterous! What a silly, foolish girl I had been. New furniture was the answer, and perhaps a lovely plant, and a coffee machine and beautiful books to write in. It wasn’t my fault I wasn’t writing as much as I should, I just didn’t have the right space to do it in.
£180 later and the desk is gone, or more precisely shoved in the spare room. A vintage, super comfy tub chair has arrived, a tiny wooden table to put my coffee cup on, a walnut bookcase to stuff with books that inspire me, and a sheepskin rug to add a cosy, slightly Nordic vibe, because, well, why not?
The day after it was all set up I sat in my chair and wrote a few thousand words of my book, occasionally stopped to stare out of the window and generally felt very author-esque and smug. I quickly decided that I should only use this room for my creative writing, not my other writing work. But, of course, as the weeks passed, I sat in the room less and less, and now a few months on I find myself in the same position (that position being hunched on the sofa) as I was before.
I occasionally pop my head around the door of my writing room to admire it. My partner sometimes uses it to make business calls, but it is, for the most part, unused and neglected and completely unnecessary.
Is The Perfect Writing Space But An Impossible Dream?
Writers are dreamers, and so it’s understandable to have visions of oneself looking quietly, unassumingly sexy, probably with arty glasses on chewing a pen in a coffee shop, while scribbling into a leather-bound book – that doing this will somehow make us better writers. However, realistically, how many times can you be bothered to pack up all your stuff, walk outside of your home, find somewhere that doesn’t begrudge you sitting and working for hours despite only buying one drink, and getting paranoid your laptop will get nicked every time you want to go for a wee?
Similarly, there is this idea that writing in the ‘perfect’ writing space somehow makes you become a more prolific, more productive writer. The problem with trying to create the perfect writing space is that it can turn into a dangerous spiral down the rabbit hole. If things aren’t quite right in it (such as a writing desk that’s too low), it becomes your new excuse to avoid writing altogether.
The good news is I feel that I have finally accepted that I am not going to be that intelligent but slightly scruffy, lightly made up, wistful-looking writer in a coffee shop. Nor am I going to want to sit in the smallest room in the house with a chair that gives me a backache and is too far away from the kettle – however tastefully decorated. I write, as I always have done, unwashed and in my pyjamas – and I think I am finally okay with that.
So next time I move there won’t be a writing room, and the writing desk will be passed on to another writer, perhaps one who might use it, definitely one with slightly shorter legs.
I realise now that it’s not about creating the perfect writing space, it’s just about writing. No writing environment, no matter how glorious will make you write if you don’t want to. Besides, just think what I could spend that extra £300 a month on – a home gym perhaps?