This is the view from my writing desk, and I’m in the midst of assessing my writing space. It’s rainy this afternoon, so the skies are grey and cheerless, but at least light still comes through. On a clear day, I get a more joyful view. You can see a bit of my basic configuration: two computer screens and a cabinet topped with a shelf of family pictures and mementos.
If I turn a bit to my left, I see my water feature, framed covers from my two books, a picture of myself on the Great Wall of China, and a small bookcase filled with souvenirs and dolls.
If I turn a bit to my right, I have a container of wooden tulips, a clock, a lamp, and a figure of Snoopy advising me to “do what makes [me] happy.” And, oddly enough, there’s a meat thermometer. I brought it up about a week ago, because I want to look up how to check its accuracy. One day, probably when I’m trying to declutter, I’ll look up the directions.
ASSESSING MY WRITING SPACE
A work space is a space for work, but if the occupant is unhappy, the work is not only drudgery, but inefficient. I’ve checked several sites, and whether they purport to take a zen approach or advise an efficient structure, the advice is similar. So I thought I’d compile a list, and see how I measure up.
1. Every site I visited advised the elimination of clutter. Clutter slows our creativity and makes it hard to find what we’re looking for. Clutter makes us late for appointments. Next to stress, clutter appears to be the bane of modern existence.
On the charge of clutter, I plea that my desk top is clearly visible. Therefore, I am presently innocent.
2. Light. In the category of light, fluorescent light is the enemy. So, if artificial light is needed, it should be soft and without glare. Natural light gives us contact with the outside world and a place to look when we raise our eyes from the computer screen, which we should do every 15 minutes. In the category of light, I pass. In the category of looking up every 15 minutes, not so much.
3. Plants, especially green plants provide oxygen and visual refreshment. Succulants qualify. Cut flowers can lift a room. My writing space has no plants. Instead, I have wooden tulips. In the category of plants, I plead better a wooden tulip than a dead plant.
4. Meaningful pictures. Pictures that inspire. Pictures of family friends and special places.
My pictures fill the bill.
5. A site specifically concerned with bringing “zen” into the office recommends a water feature or sand garden. I’ve got a water feature. When my ideas stagnate, I watch the water flow until my brain unclogs.
A sand garden isn’t such a good idea for me, because my writing lair also includes Koa Kat. Mostly she impersonates pillows and naps all day. But she knows to the minute when it’s time to go downstairs and eat, and she makes sure I know it too.
Virginia Woolf wrote that a writer must have a room of her own if she is to write fiction. I add, it should be a happy, comfortable room, because I spend a lot of time here.
It’s good to occasionally assess the space where I spend the most time. And if my space not only pleases me, but complies with “best practices,” then I can take a few minutes to congratulate myself before getting back to work on my next novel.
Photos by Author.
“13 Easy Ways to Create a Zen Office Space on a Budget.” Snacknation.
Jacquelyn Smith. “How to Create A Stress-Free Work Environment.” Forbes. Nov. 18, 2013.
Sivana Spirit. “5 Simple Ways to Add Zen to Your Office.” Siolvana East.
Sandra Wagner-Wright is the author of Two Coins: A Biographical Novel and Rama's Labyrinth. Both books are available in digital and print editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. Rama’s Labyrinth and Two Coins are available as audiobooks.
Sandra blogs weekly about topics related to her travels, writing life, and the incongruities of life in general.