Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where do you Write?








Where do you write?


People ask me this alot, perhaps because several bestselling authors live in my town, one of whom writes regularly in the Camden Deli (or at least he used to.)

Not me. I could never, ever, write in a public place in my hometown, simply because, unlike the famous guy, I wouldn't get anything written. You see, he's one of those reclusive kinds of writers, so people leave him alone. I, on the other hand, am Little Miss Friendly, and people know me and like to chat. Unless I'm out of state, I need to get my pages done in private.

When we first moved to Camden, we owned and ran a ten-room inn. I created a tiny room up in the attic with old-fashioned flowered wallpaper and a desk that just barely fit under the eave. It was perfect -- the quintessential writer's garret, a place where I could escape from my toddlers and the inn's guests, and I loved it. When we sold the inn and moved to our old farmhouse, we built a loft in the master bedroom (formerly the barn) accessed by one of those sliding library ladders, and that was my writing space. Plenty of room to spread out, to keep files, to hang bulletin boards with ideas and inspiring quotes. Camden Harbor sparkled in the distance and I felt completely cut off from the rest of the house.

Too cut off.

Although I wrote all my non-fiction stuff in that loft, including Moving to Maine and Where to Retire in Maine (Down East Books) I abandoned this space when I began writing fiction. Why? I found it hard to concentrate up there because I was too removed from the "heart" of the house. I'd hear a noise from two flights below and get distracted. The dog would start barking and I'd wonder why. A knock on the door and I was flying down the ladder. You get the picture.

By now my little kids were young adults. The boys were off at college, my daughter walked to school, and my husband left each morning for his office downtown. I got myself a little desk and set up shop in our country kitchen, as close as I could to the woodstove. The sounds of the day -- occasional cars going by, the foghorn in the harbor, someone using a lawn mower or leaf blower -- blend into a pleasant hum of background noise. I find that I don't need as much space to write fiction as I did for non-fiction, so it works out just great. One small file cabinet suits me nicely.

In the summer, I do move around a bit. More people are coming and going here -- my oldest son is home, my daughter's out of school -- so I keep myself flexible. On
beautiful summer days, like yesterday, I sit on our front porch and write. When I have a good chunk of time, I'll grab my laptop and drive 25 minutes to our camp (that is Mainerspeak for lakeside cottage) and pound out the words there.















My writing "studio" at our camp reminds me of that attic garret. It's very bare bones, and, like that attic room, all mine. The little outbuilding was once the boys' bunkhouse, and last year I removed the bunkbeds and had a new window and screen door (an old one I found at a yardsale) put in. I head out here, make myself work, work, work, and then reward myself with a walk and a swim. Obviously it's only useable for a few months here in Maine!



Where do you write? The thing I love most about fiction is that you can really do it anywhere. You can solve story problems while walking the dog. Create characters while waiting for tardy clients. And when you have to sit down and get words on the page, that can happen just about anyplace.

Unless you are Little Miss Friendly.






23 comments:

Joyce Lavene said...

My husband and I have been trying out new writing spaces lately. Definitely not in the local coffee shop or bookstore but revamping our office and moving to different rooms. It's been a good experience! Your space looks very writer-friendly! Liked the blog.

Pj Schott said...

Still trying to find my place. One of my favorite is the international terminal at Logan Airport. Dead early in the morning.

Robin Allen said...

Your writing spaces are gorgeous, Vicki.

I have a lovely office with a proper desk and chair, an amazing view of the Texas Hill Country into which cardinals, roadrunners, and ladder-back woodpeckers fly, a nice computer, and all kinds of distractions. So I sit on my couch in my living room that has a view of my kitchen and write on a little netbook that is never connected to the internet.

Sebastian Stuart said...

What a captivating post! I have Maine envy.

I used to write at the Boston Anthenaeum, an august private library that's been around for ... well, a long time. It's a wondrous place with an amazing art collection (highly recommended for all Boston visitors), but I had to ride the T to get there and I'm subject to ... well, we won't go there.

Now I write at home or at the new main branch of the Cambridge Public Library, a stunning modernist building attached to the original, equally beautiful Richardson. This library is downright inspiring -- filled at all times with a gorgeous mosaic of Cantabridgians. I know the head librarian and she says they've been overwhelmed (in a good way) by the community's response. The only problem is finding a table! I feel very fortunate to live in Cambridge.

Beth Groundwater said...

I love the photos of your various writing areas, Vicki! I can't write in a public area, either. I need quiet, so I can hear the voices of my characters in my head.

In my Colorado Springs home, I have an office in the basement--that's a LOT messier than your writing spaces! In Breckenridge, I have a card table in the master bedroom by the window overlooking the wetlands where moose, foxes and raccoons occasionally visit. Once we move up here permanently, we'll probably convert one of the bedrooms into an office.

I'm not sure I want to share an office with my husband, though. When I'm nearby, he wants to chat. So, I may stick to the card table upstairs.

Kathy Holmes said...

Sometimes I envy those who say, "Off to Starbucks to write." I get way too distracted in public and end up people-watching. Or maybe I start dreaming of my office, which really is a nice space, and after some coffee and a sweet and a bit of people-watching, I tear out of there so fast, relieved to be in front of my desktop computer instead of the laptop.

Susan said...

Wonderful post! I spent my childhood summers in Maine, and they still inspire me. I miss Maine's peaceful beauty, and I plan to write there again someday! For now, I work on a laptop (in the D.C. area) and find I need changes of scenery around the house (dining room table, sitting room, etc.). Occasionally I've worked at the library, hoping to absorb "good energy" from all those books.

thinkbannedthoughts said...

When we moved into our new house last summer my husband bought me an old rolltop desk. We have a wee office nook in the garden level basement that it just fits into. But... I'm a light junkie. So even though I have the most sexy desk EVER, I usually take my laptop upstairs and work at the breakfast bar in the kitchen between all the windows in as much light, with as many rainbows from the prism as I can.
But now... we have The Tipi. A real tipi in our back yard. The light is more than amazing, the atmosphere is nothing short of divine. When I get stuck I can walk out into my garden or climb the apple tree. My pets come out to join me often.
The wi-fi reaches, so I can still do research on the fly.
And I'm close enough to the kitchen still so I can get fresh tea and fruit all day long!
Bliss.

This post inspired me enough to write my own. Feel free to come visit.
http://thinkbannedthoughts.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/finding-space-making-space/

Julia Munroe Martin said...

Beautiful writing places, wow! I live in Maine myself (near Portland) and I have a friend who moved up to Camden recently -- and I have to say that I really envy your town and writing environ. Amazing. This post also reminds me of The Guardian's writers' rooms series (inspired by it, in March I blogged about my desk). I think we writers love to see where others' write!

Vicki Doudera said...

Joyce, good luck revamping your space. Let us know how it turns out!

Pj, do you take the T out there, or what? I suppose it is no different than my driving to the camp. A change of scenery, and sometimes the "getting there" is a way to disconnect from everything else.

Robin, I know exactly what you mean about the gorgeous places being distracting. You notice that my desk (at home) faces the wall!

Sebastian, I know the Anthenaeum... we moved here from Beantown 25 years ago and I grew up outside of the city. I love Cambridge, and I agree, the library can be a great place to write. No cell phones allowed, but also, no endless cups of tea...

Beth, hope your move is going well. Breckenridge sounds like my kind of place and it will be fun creating your new office there. If my spaces are neat it's because I have a real "office-office" at my RE company, so that frees me from businessy-type clutter.

Kathy, I hear you: the fewer the distractions the better! And Susan, I wonder where you spent your summers?

TBT: your tipi sounds amazing! How cool is that? And Julia -- do you write mysteries? If so, maybe we'll meet at a SinCNE function one of these days. And let me know if you want to follow your friend to Camden, and I will help you find a FAB house!

thanks everyone for great comments. Whereever we write, we are so lucky to be doing it!

Keith Raffel said...

I write in a nearby cafe. I put on noise-cancelling headphones and they bring me my special green tea. The key is this: I do not have internet access there.

Carla Olson Gade said...

How much fun learning about your writing spaces. Maine certainly inspires the muse and I also love to write outside overlooking the lake. Anywhere quiet and serene.

Our need for writing spaces do evolve as our children grow. For me this includes the space in my head that allows me to write guilt free now that my kids are grown (unnecessary guilt as it was). But it is freeing to go to my "roost", as my husband calls it, my own little writing studio where I craft my novels without the distractions of life.

Vicki Doudera said...

Keith, you and my friend Rick (the famous guy) have something in common. I can write with Internet access -- for some reason I am disciplined enough not to go there, but it is nice at the camp where there's no connection at all.

Carla, just checked out your website. Congrats on your upcoming books. Are you ever on the coast? (Forget where you live...) I'd love to see you one of these days!

Shannon said...

I love hearing how other writers do it. (writing, that is) Usually my time is limited and I write in one hour increments or less. I can write anywhere. Lunch hour in the car, at my pre-dawn kitchen table, waiting for appointments. I even have an ancient AlphaSmart that is virtually indestructible. I can take it on hiking trails or on the kayak.

Jeanine Cronin said...

OT to PjSchott: Are you the novelist and poet that I knew in N. Andover, MA? Please contact me!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Ooh, I have Maine envy too (although I love Wisconsin.) I have a nice study in my home, but now that my husband has retired, I get easily distracted. I often escape to coffeeshops.

Vicki Doudera said...

Shannon, you are a writer after my own heart... an hour here, an hour there... they do add up!

And Kathleen -- come and visit anytime. I'm jealous that you can write in coffee shops -- I love the whole romantic idea of it! If my husband retires, I may need to make a plan B...

Angela Roe said...

I sit in a recliner in my family room and write. I'm not seperated from the family, I can see when the dog needs to go outside and I am handy when someone needs a drink or a snack. When my family talks to me, they usually have to repeat themselves, but they rarely get annoyed. It works for all of us.

petemorin said...

Large portions of my first novel were written at the bar of a Joe's American Grille in a busy suburban Boston shopping mall. I was only asked "what are you writing?" once.

I wrote a dying scene on a commuter train coming back from Boston. The elderly woman sitting across from me was sure I was writing an obituary, patted my hand and told me I'd be alright, we all have to move on.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I'm pretty firmly entrenched in my office. I love my books, the view of my back yard, my stuff around me...

But I'm about to go back to my laptop and turn off the internet so I can draft this latest book in peace. I might sit outside some then.

Deborah Sharp said...

What a great post, Vicki, and lovely pictures, too. Thanks for sharing. Good thing I'm Little Miss Curmudgeon, because I do write in public places, and only rarely do people come up to talk (of course, I don't pick the hang-outs where my fellow procrastinating writer friends might be found!) My hubby calls me the Goldilocks of Authors, because, like you, I move around a lot. Fun!

Keith Raffel said...

Deb, I would guess your hubby calls you Goldilocks because he thinks you're just right.

G.M. Malliet said...

Oh, I'm envious! Beautiful photos.