So the logical, orderly side of me is distressed that I haven’t better organized this trilogy of posts–my writing room, the writer’s desk, and today, a room with a view. Instead it’s the writer’s side of me that has let one thing lead to another and then overlap and circle around. My first choice would be to delete all three posts, reorganize, and re-post, but I’m trying to go with it.
In the last two posts, I’ve felt the absence of two things. The first is a more specific reference to Virginia Woolf’s words read to the Arts Society in October 1928 and collected in the book, A Room of One’s Own. She writes:
“But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction–what has that got to do with a room of one’s own?…a woman must have money and a room of her own is she is to write fiction…”
Saving the subject of money for another day, what she was saying is that a woman needs freedom in order to write.
In these essays, Woolf also describes the relationship of fiction to life:
“…fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”
The second thing I’ve felt the absence of in these posts is the subject of what’s in front of us as we write. Some people don’t want any view, but last summer when I was staying in a hotel in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina, and all I had to look at was a wall, I felt claustrophobic. I shoved my computer in my purse and headed for a view. If I could pick any, it would be the ocean. It doesn’t really make any sense.
If I’m writing, I’m looking at my screen. I can’t explain it other than to say, if I have a choice in the matter, I prefer the feeling of limitless possibility and of things opening up in front of me.
When you’re writing, does it matter if you have a view?
Cynthia, I have enjoyed this series of posts (and smiled at your comment about deleting them so that you could revise and re-post them). I love looking at the spaces where other writers work. I prefer having a view, and I absolutely have to have natural light. My own writing desk faces a brick wall with a built-in bookcase, but beside my desk is a patio door with a view of my backyard and water garden. In warm weather, I take my laptop out to the back porch (which I refer to as my summer office).
Dory, it’s so nice to hear from you. Yes, I did have to fight against the urge to reorganize this material. I kept thinking, you can’t talk about desks again. You already did that.
Natural light does seem to provide some sort of “way out” for what we have inside us, at least for me anyway. Otherwise there’s this sense of a weight bearing down on me, keeping everything in.
I love the idea of your “summer office.”
Thanks for your comment, and I hope you’ll be back!
I don’t think it matters all that much, but I do know what you mean about the feeling of limitless possibility. It’s part of the reason that I loved writing from the ranch the winter I stayed there… land stretching out in all directions to the base of the mountains that pushed up to the continental divide. There is always peace and inspiration in the landscapes of the west.
A friend of mine who is getting a masters in education just told me yesterday about something called nature deficient disorder, or something like that. Basically children growing up in urban environments often don’t have any exposure to peace and quiet and green space any more, and their minds can suffer as a result of not being able to be at peace with the landscape. Interesting theory. I know views and landscapes always bring me a certain peace and inspiration… though they’re not necessary for me to write.
Oh yes, Barb, that feeling of “land stretching out in all directions” at the ranch. What a great place to write.
That’s interesting about “Nature Deficient Disorder.” I can see how that peaceful feeling would be so much harder to find in the city, and also how its lack could affect not just writing but personality,which makes me think of SAD and Dory’s comment about how important natural light is. All very interesting.
I lived in Indiana when I wrote my first novel and I wrote in my bedroom beside the bay window looking into the woods. I wrote that novel in six months.
Now, I’m in California and though I live on a street lined with shade trees, and I can hear the birds, I can also hear traffic and people passing by and all the noise gardeners make in neighbors’ yards every day of the week. On this novel, it’s one year in and I’m still not done.
For the first part of this novel, I wrote of a fairly reclusive woman, with the majority of the action in her home and garden, and had little problem, but the rest of the book is set almost exclusively in a coastal town, and it’s been much slower going. I have to work harder to get in the mood, to place my mind in the setting.
So, I think your surroundings do help in writing, if only to give you something beautiful to look at while you wait for the next words to come.
However, if we look at Woolf’s statement another way, she’s saying we have to give ourselves permission to write, to speak. We have to make room in our lives for the writer within us. And that, we can do anywhere.
Linda, first it’s amazing that you could write a novel in six months–wow!
What a revealing observation about the connection between the place we are writing and the place we are writing about. I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience.
I also love your last paragraph:
It helps! Views make me all wispy and nostalgic and help me turn inwards. I struggle a lot with a short attention span (the curse of growing up in the MTV generation), so when I can find a setting where I feel at peace, that is huge for my writing.
That is so true, Erin. I hadn’t even thought of that–the way breathtaking views often get me all choked up. You used the word nostalgic and I think I agree. Why is that?
You are so lucky to have the most beautiful settings where you are–everywhere you look.
Yes, I need to see the outside, even if it looks out on my suburban street. I need my window, and the little Japanese maple, which does a good job of hiding the street a bit.
I can feel the sun through the window on my arm as I type these letters. Survivorscribe, if you could choose, what would you like to be looking at while you write?
Oh, does it matter! I mentioned in an earlier post of yours that I can write anywhere, but outdoors is by far most pleasant. A room with a view is the closest to bringing the outside in. I was meaning to link back to you today with ‘my room’, but the weather is overcast so not a good day for pics. The main thing I wanted to show was the view and what I sit with outside. To answer your question, does it matter? no. Does it make it better? yes
Jennifer, you’re right that a view is not necessary for writing, but it definitely makes it better for me too. My first choice–a view of the ocean!
We’ll look forward to a link showing your writing space as soon as the sun shines!
That might be a while. I am using your post to complain about the weather – where did summer go?????? Do you have it?
Yes, we have it. Highs in Columbus, Georgia, today in the 90’s.
A view IS important to me.
My ‘other writing room,’ on the east side of the mountains, has such a view. The open space, the sky, the sage, the rolling mountains–and all the close up things like the deer and their fawns, the soaring eagles and hawks–are endlessly inspiring to me.
At home, from my desk, I don’t have a view. Except for the one I create . . . A water color of the Utah desert, topped with two hawk feathers and a bundle of sage. A plastic zebra straddling my books. A German beer stein painted in colors so bright that I sometimes think I am in Bavaria even when I am not . . .
Oh, Peggy! A plastic zebra and a German beer stein–what would that say about a character in a novel? And you don’t mention a candle…
Seriously, do you get more writing done at one place than the other?
I don’t necessarily have to look out directly at something to write, but I like knowing that the view there. I sit in the corner between two large windows and the knowledge that there is sun, and sky and trees to the left and right is enough.
I find I have to change my view, especially when I’m deep in a project (like now!). Today I moved out of the office and upstairs to the family room couch (have laptop, will travel) and the words flowed rather swimmingly….
Lindsay, it’s nice to hear from you again. Like you, when I’m deep into a project, revising for the 10th time for example, I have to break out of my normal writing spot and widen the view. I have to change my perspective in order to find a new perspective on the same words. When I expand the horizon, I expand the possibilities for the work.