The Write Space and Where To Find It

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Welcome to my workspace.

WordPress recently posted a piece on bloggers’ writing spaces. I wrote a research paper on spatiality, taught by Dr. Christian Beck, and his course gave much needed insight into the interactions and awareness of one’s place in a space and space in a place. With that said, I’d like to add to the conversation regarding those in the humanities. Writers give birth to other worlds, some like our own, seemingly without ever missing a beat. To readers, writers are indispensable gatekeepers of the senses. Just where do they find the words that spin such a yarn? Behind a desk or in a comfy armchair, there are places we would never consider a working space, let alone a writing space.

The obvious place to start would be the desktop. The act of writing before the printing press was comprised of copying original texts in their multitude by hand. As literacy increased among populations, so did the demand for writing. A natural response to the ease of reading included easing the writing process. Finding a surface to write on plagues our existence as writers. Asking to borrow someone’s back, using a wall, the ground or another book are all uncomfortable and tedious options. After the printing press catered to its readers, the invention of the desk did the same for writers. Writers finally had a place to settle and sort their thoughts. The desk became synonymous with thinking and tinkering, a literal benchmark for business.

It is an accessory more so than a piece of furniture. What work and play is performed on and in the desk makes it your place, which directly influences the space it is found in. What you call a desk too is a mental representation of the physical, actual object called a desk. For instance, you could find yourself at a local eatery and begin jotting notes down surrounded by complete strangers. Wherever you are out in public or inside, you can set up your ideal space within a place. This is the common case of signifier (desk) and the signified (desk). A kitchen table can become a desk within a few solitary moments until, of course, others wish to join you for its opposite purpose which is exactly my largest intolerance. I want a space that reflects my manners and preferences sans interruption. I do not need to carry the clutter in your chatter that filters through one ear and the other. What I do need is seclusion and silence, but sometimes you cannot be granted such a simple request. It requires a certain headspace[1], a mental wavelength that weighs more by comparison of the tumultuous strangers near and far. If you can prioritize your thoughts and project them closer and further than the ones around you, your headspace will go undisturbed.

People also find the alternative of background noise helpful to their thinking. Not necessarily a distraction, but noise in the form of idle shuffling or small talk or television can be empowering to the writing process. The sense of dissociation takes over and the words written turn into acrobatic spurs and sudden inspired bouts. In an instant, all you need is yourself. I don’t always feel this way, in public or in the company of friends or family, and because of this I don’t even get to write sometimes. To have others in my vicinity or vacant from it is a dependency. The way I combat this liminal state is through headspace. Thinking about the physical makes the space around me either more ideal or stagnant; it depends on what I think of or attribute to the physical. Photography and daydreaming can be therapeutic means for revamping the approach towards writing. I have a photo of my two-year-old self[2] in a circle of books on my desk that I look at every now and then to make sure I see myself, to make sure I’m still there. No wonder we want an office with a view or take a peek outside the window during class. Having a chance to slow down and reassess our place in space and our space in that place makes our time there all the more compatible.

Along with convenience comes comfort and we all can agree that comfort ranks high on the priority list. Though for some writers, the regimen of a cozy, fireside lull is enough to get words out and onto the page. I have the option of not only a desk but the neighborly warmth of a floral, fanback armchair. You could melt in that chair and not fall asleep which I’ve enjoyed all the time. On the chair’s side I keep a lap-desk for when it comes time to write. It hasn’t gotten to the point where I’ll be half awake or fast asleep on account of my trips back and forth between the chair and desk. The table I’ve shaped into a desktop has been deterritorialized into striated space or a measured, occupied space. The furniture chosen as an accessory has a preferred purpose of a desk (drafting and writing) but can also function as the known purpose of a table (eating and socializing). The top of the desk/table is striated by the belongings that rest there as well. Cluttered desks or organized desks can say a lot about the headspace. Even a desk named Taylor has a lot to say. What do I make of my bed then? To put it simply, I sleep there. I’ve never had the lamp angled the right way to avoid going blind and after sitting up for a while my bottom and lower back give which results in my legs falling asleep and then myself. Sure it’s comfortable for a time, but not long enough before I feel numb and ready for a nap. By the same token, I keep my phone near my pillow when I sleep if I ever have a thought that needed to be saved for later. I should keep a journal or notepad nearby as well, or the current notes that occupy my thoughts daily to keep them coming during sleep and after, something Ray Bradbury called theatre of the mind. Writing should come as an impulse, a surge of energy no matter where you are situated and even if reaching that ideal writing space is never fully realized, it can always be in your sights, always somewhere in front of you.

The striation of my space helps me in two ways. The dynamic I have between my desk and chair is met with two different perspectives. If I need to focus for long periods of time, and that goes for lengths of time that leave you oblivious to any cricked neck or back, I will sit at the desk and belt out as much as I can. When it comes to reviewing and taking a fresh look at the writing before I set out to do it again, I sit in the chair. The process at times goes in both directions where the chair will help me focus and the desk will be for revision. The makeshift desk and the armchair are places inside my headspace, as well as in my physical space. The individual artist is flexible and constrictive, lenient and stubborn. Everything and anything is fair gain and the easiest bit of discrepancy or excuse to hyperbolize over. That stack of books needs to be off-kilter. The yellow sticky note should be wear the green one is. The cat cannot meow between the hours of awake and asleep. Whatever conditions must be set out, adorn them to yourself. In time, the space will become a reflection of the headspace.

When it comes to writing, or any hobby or profession, orientation affects performance. If this is true, then quality is dependent of quantity. I like to think of my desk as, at certain moments, “controlled chaos.” Some disarray is fine by me since I’m the only one who needs to make sense of it. To the neat freak it looks like a papercut waiting to happen. Minimalism is an idea I’ve been working at and seeing less gives me more; taking away unnecessary desk ornaments for instance helps me get to work. I have paperweights that I’ve never used, so off the desk they go. It also allows more accessibility and flexibility for necessary resources. The space goes defined on a physical level and also, arguably more so, on a mental level. What is made of that space will be ultimately thought about. In thinking about your space, you take it from being a fictional, ideal space and make it a realized, physical space. The variations of ideal spaces are countless and to make that stance are podcasters Rojé Augustin and Muy Lang Ung with their show The Right Space. It’s an introspective look at the artist’s workspace and they have a good amount of episodes to listen to now. Episode #101 introduces screenwriter Craig Pearce with his views on collaborative and individual work and his current space. Something to also look forward to is Pearce’s admiration for William Shakespeare and his shared love of words. You can skip to the twentieth and thirty-fifth minute for the talk about each and subscribe to the podcast for free over on iTunes.

When I come to write, be it in my chair or table-turned-desk, I say it depends on what I think of the space outright. I don’t harbor too much on the space I find myself in, with or without discrepancies. Some sentences are thoroughly thought of while others may be natural, spontaneous and without pretense. I find some momentary distractions motivating and rejuvenating to the writing process and others just distracting. After a long-filled page typed or written I take pseudo-breaks or move onto a different activities that might or might not relate to what was just transcribed. In some cases, it will be full on breaks that are unrelated from the task at hand, sometimes dealing in the eclectic through trivia or other research topics. These are rewards more or less for when I found inspiration or am still on the search for it. Placement and positioning within my space aren’t so much meticulous as they are practical. Any choice is personal nevertheless, and so is your space. Therefore, what you think of space is what becomes of it and what you make of it is a reflection of who you are.


[1] Headspace is the subversion of physical space with abstractions or mental space.

[2] Reminding myself where I started is always a kind refresher to where I am and will be.

 

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