My supervisor at a college where I once taught said to me one day as I was freewriting in my journal, “Ah, the life of a writer. Sitting along the bank of a river, leaning against a tree, feeling the breeze in his hair as he writes.”
Well, maybe that was his ideal writer’s space. (I was actually sitting at my desk in a cramped office at the time.) It’s not mine.
Do you have a writer’s space? Where is that one physical place where you can return to day after day to concentrate on your writing and researching? In these Covid-19 times, that place probably is your home whether you like it or not. But the quarantine will end. Life will resume to some sense of normalcy.
Let’s Visualize Your Writer’s Space
Do you prefer absolute silence when you work? At home, find a corner of a room at a quiet time of day or night or an empty room with a door. On the road, try a library. Many of them have glass-enclosed rooms where you can plug in your laptop and work peacefully.
The Restaurant Attraction
Or do you prefer the buzz of activity in the background to stimulate your senses and keep you alert? Try a restaurant, or a coffee shop for writers, or a dining area inside a bookstore.
As long as I’ve been writing for publication, restaurants have been my primary office. Sometimes it was a restaurant where a friend worked. At others the attraction was the food.
But more often than not it had a booth where I could spread out my books and papers, the wait staff and management were friendly, and they kept my coffee cup or iced tea glass full.
After I purchased my first laptop, an electric outlet became necessary. Anything else — air conditioning, good music, herbal iced tea, a booth by the window, real cream instead of ersatz, cleanliness — was a bonus.
Catastrophe Becomes Bonus
Then the Covid-19 catastrophe hit. The whole world turned upside down and we were confined to our homes.
Lo and behold, I found an office I didn’t even know existed: on a reclining chair in the family room in front of the TV. Next to me is our picture window that looks out at our spirit garden in the backyard. Music plays on Pandora all day long.
I look forward to working in restaurants again but I’ve made a successful pivot.
What’s your writer’s space?
Postscript: I Eat the Bill
Before the pandemic, my office space for years had always been restaurants. I saved all of my restaurant receipts. Then at tax time, I told my accountant they were business expenses that I made because the restaurant was like my office, which made my food purchases the equivalent of rent for office space.
He said, “You’re just eating a meal, like everyone else.”
I countered, “But I only ate to preserve my space; I wouldn’t have eaten otherwise.”
But he didn’t buy it. He said the owner would have to give me a rent receipt for me to call it rent, and then the owner would have to record my payments as rental income. And that was that.
Now I have to, well, eat the bill.
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This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. The complete book is available here. For book coaching and editing help, email Ken at [email protected]. Subscribe to Ken’s blog here.