The Environment for Your Genius

Thursday Postcard

The desk contest is over!

Sincere thanks to all who entered.

As our judges review the entries and tabulate the results (kidding–it’s me!) I bring you one of the entries, with kind permission of its resident writer.

This nest is home to the creative labor of JC Keough, creator of the Laramie Harper Chronicles and Cheese Louise Cozy Mystery series.

The red skull on the shelf came filled with candy! Sweet memento mori!

Does it have to be a desk?

It’s easy to assume that writers work at desks, and it’s probably true at many points, especially toward the end.

But writing is a bit like farming, as author David Mitchell has said. He was talking about the fact that you’re not always writing new scenes. Sometimes you’re revising, or fixing continuity issues, or polishing sentences.

Even if you’re on a first draft, writing isn’t just writing new stuff. Writing is thinking, looking, and reading, feeling, learning, remembering…the entire depth and breadth of the human experience is called upon when one writes. Therefore, you can most definitely write without a desk anywhere in sight!

Here’s a wall in my office with the novel I’m working on now. Not the novel ITSELF, but all the ideas it’s got happening.

I’m lucky to have a wall nobody else can see, though I leave it up even when someone visits my office, because 

a) most people aren’t that curious, and 

b) it’s a lot of work to take it down.

My favorite bit of this wall is the inspiration for a scene’s setting, the picture at the top called Dance at Insane Asylum, done by George Wesley Bellows in 1907. 

Can’t wait to write the first draft of that scene (…except for the part where I dread writing the first draft of that scene…).

Here it is in closeup. A bit spooky!

It’s not you, it’s your environment.

If you’re having trouble settling down to write, you’re not alone. It’s an epidemic among the writers I’ve been talking to and working with, me included.

Luckily, there might be a cure! It’s described in more detail here, in the finale of “6 Key Principle for Writing a Book.” Principle #6: Focus on the present, rather than the past or future.

In a nutshell, it’s about giving yourself no choice except to be present with your book.

For me this takes the form of signing up for free online sessions at Shut Up & Write, a nonprofit organization that hosts free in-person and online writing events for writers all over the world. I believe you sign up, show up, and work on your stuff. I’m looking at 6:45 a.m. 2-3 days a week so I can still start work on time.

I’m terrified at the commitment! I’ve never felt more alive!

How’s YOUR writing going? Send me a note–I love your emails!