Posted by: Katie B | January 3, 2010

How to Write a Book: Item #1: You have to find a place to sit

Sea Oats

The hardest part of writing, for me, was finding the right place to work. I tried everything – wanting the perfect spot. And that was my biggest downfall. Granted, as my project evolved, my requirements changed. So it would make sense that the best place for me to write would change as well. But I had this ideal in the beginning, and if I hadn’t held on to this image of the “writer in her space writing”, then I would have found my ideal work spot earlier. Which happens to be at the dining room table in my 13′ by 13′ cramped dining room, in my drafty, old, creaky, 1920’s colonial, surrounded by the bills, SpongeBob, the children, the homework caddies, the piano (yes it is in the dining room – we have no place else to put it), and now, because of the season, the Christmas tree. The computer shares the extension cord with the tree, and if I stretch, I can knock down a glass bulb for fun. And it works – great.

But how is that possible? I started out at the coffee shop. Because that is where you are supposed to write. But honestly, there was never enough room for all my stuff, and while the energy was inspiring, the people watching was way too distracting, and I always panicked about coffee spilling on the computer (mine or others!).

Then, I tried my fantastic, converted attic, complete with eaves, peek-a-boo windows, and leafy treetop views. Not to mention great sunlight. But it was too far away. I found myself not getting up there for days at a time. Out of sight out of mind.

Last – there was the library, which was great. Good space, large worktables, endless supply of information, perfect light, energy of people with a balance of privacy and quiet. But – I couldn’t help wanting to nap. Very reminiscent of college. That or wander. Also reminiscent. It just didn’t hold my butt in the seat for very long.

So I shuffled back home and made the plunge. I forced space for myself in my own home in the middle of the chaos. I read somewhere that Stephanie Meyer dragged her writing desk into the middle of her living room so she could watch the kids and work on her ms at the same time. I never understood how she managed to focus on the work with all that distraction. But then I realized, all my other options were equally as distracting, none were proving any better. So I gave it a try.

At first, it did not work. It took a long time to get used to trying to work in five minute chunks in between other obligations. My papers became coloring pads, they are covered in juice rings, and my vocab list has “I Love You Mommy” scrawled all over it (which I now love, but at the time I had lost my sense of humor on the issue). But since I wasn’t getting to run away for hours at a time to write in perfect bliss, I wasn’t missing anything. Not to mention, my novel was always in my head. I became better at stepping away and continuing to write the next section in my mind. When I could sit down again, the words flowed. I actually wrote more this way than I ever had before with my “Designated Writing Times in Designated Creative and Perfect Writing Spaces”, because the computer was always available.

In the worst possible environment, I found a place I could sit. Or try to sit. Or want to sit in – most importantly. I crave slipping into the hard, wooden, high-backed chair. Like a well trained dog, it means creative time to me. There is a trigger now between my butt hitting the chair and my fingers flying. And even when I can’t sit, I can look at it. Which on some days reminds me of how much work I am not doing, but on other days is an inspiring tease.

So, if you can, find yourself a place to sit. Don’t try to make it the perfect place. It just has to be a place that works for you, whatever that is. And every time to return to it, your body will know what to do, like a well trained athlete. And you might find you enjoy talking to the Webkinz that are staring back at you. They have some good insight.


  1. I work on the playroom couch, and have gotten very skilled at blocking out all but the “OMG, we have to go to the ER NOW!” screams. M can’t understand why I won’t use the desk upstairs, but it just never worked for me.

    The blog turned out well!


    • C –

      You were my first comment! I’m in the big league now! Thanks for reading….


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