Your challenge this week is to practice your powers of observation. Take any person, place, or event, and write three paragraphs describing your subject in great detail.
3. Describe your writing space. Do you write on the couch? At the kitchen table? At a desk? In a restaurant? Describe your surroundings. What does it smell like? What is the light like in your space? What can you hear, feel, and see? You have three paragraphs to pull us into your space. Go.
I sat down in my old black vinyl swivel office chair, its one wheel missing, and the tattered and worn arm rests, and looked at the flat screen HP monitor that sits on my aged military surplus desk with it’s fake oak veneer finish and wished I could come up with something brilliant and creative. However, after a full 6 hours of trying not to smoke (I’m quitting) I felt like my mind was filled with cobwebs. I went to the kitchen, which is adjacent to my writing space–what used to be our dining room is now my writing/creating/editing/scrapbooking/whatever it is space. I made myself a cup of
chocolate milk coffee and as I did so I looked across the kitchen into what was once the dining room but is now my writing space and tried to take in all of the details. I had to close my eyes and for a moment imagine that I was seeing it for the first time in days so that I could take in more of the details. When you look at something every day you don’t pay as much attention to it as when you haven’t seen it in a while, or ever.
So as I sipped my cup of coffee, with more half & half and sweetener than coffee, I looked at my writing space. My writing space. And it truly is mine. It has my personality mixed in with the bits and pieces of pictures, quotes, cards, poetry, letters, stick-it notes, and knick-knacks that cover the wall above my desk and the desk itself. Every book or article I’ve ever written has said, in one way or other, that you need your own writing space (or creative space) to write (or create) even if it is only a corner or nook somewhere. It doesn’t have to in its own room, just off to the side somewhere will do. When we first moved I had my own room, but things changed, as they will do, and I ended up with the dining room, which is not private at all, but the space is all mine. So I put up cork-boards and then hung a picture that has a quote, which reads: Work…as if you don’t need the money. Love…as if you have never been hurt. Dance…as if no one is watching. I also hung up various pictures of my family, David’s family, and of us together at our wedding. I hung up pictures of landscapes that I like. I hung a calender that David’s mom gave me that has a different quote and picture for each month–I find it inspirational. I included a poem I wrote David last year for Valentine’s Day, and self portrait that my daughter sketched of herself a few years ago, as well as a Dr. Seuss quote that I love. The wall above my desk allows my thoughts to wonder when I feel a touch of writer’s block and draws me to those things that inspire me.
The desk itself, is rather too large for the area, but I love my military surplus desk and refuse to break down and get something smaller and more convenient. Truth is, I imagine some of the others who used the desk prior to me: maybe an officer (and a gentlemen), or chief, or a captain…Or maybe it was another writer. I decided when I began to organize my desk that I wanted things around me to be convenient, organized, and inspiring. So directly in front of my keyboard are the small smurf’s that we used as cake toppers at our wedding: guitar smurf and bridal smurfette. There is also a picture of my daughter and grandson on the top of my tower which sits to my right. I also have a Waffle House coffee cup filled with pennies, two post-it notes shaped like apples: one green, one red. A stapler, a tape dispenser, and a 3-hole punch. A Heineken glass filled with pens, pencils, and markers. A candle that we were given for Christmas that has very little candle left. To the left of my monitor sits a book called The Illustrated Practical Guide to Digital and Classical Photography, and my dad’s Yashica TL Electro X sits on top of that, along with my Canon PowerShot SX150 IS. Just in front of all of that sits a variety of books ranging from Stephen King’s Fire Starter, to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (the first book), Patricia Cornwell’s Book of the Dead, and David Eddings Dreamers series. I also have a stack of colored index cards I’ve been using for my novel.
To the right, just behind me as I sit at my desk, are two antique bookcases that I inherited from my grandmother. On the first one I have a picture of my daddy when he was in the Army and all of around 18 or 19, and a picture of my mom in a white ball gown when she was about 18. On the next bookcase there are a pair of bookends that my daddy used to use for his pipe supplies (they have pockets built into them and look a bit like beer barrels with a strip of brass going across them) but I use as actual bookends. My bookcases are filled to the rim with books. And as I look around I find that I am surrounded by sentimental things that make me feel good, give me inspiration, and allow me to feel at home in my space.
Isn’t that what it is all about? Feeling at home and inspired in our writing space so that you can be as creative as possible… At least for me it is. So when I am writing about one of my characters and I feel a bit stuck, I’ll look around for some sort of inspiration to get my creative juices flowing again and my eyes will land on the picture of my daddy, who died when I was 7 but had a huge impact on my life, I will think of all that he endured in his short life: the oldest child of six, a child of alcoholic parents, boot camp, Vietnam War, getting injured and being told he’d never walk again and being medically discharged, but eventually walking again (albeit with a slight limp), meeting my mother and getting married, fathering a daughter and a son, opening his own business, finally making a profit at it, and then dying at the young age of 31…(Mind you I left out quite a bit of detail, but you get the drift.) And then I see that my character who I call Anderson is plagued with an old war injury that bothers him with the weather and causes him to limp. He won’t talk about it, but the reader gets the sense that the injury was almost fatal.