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Question of the Month: Where You Write

by Susan Henderson on February 3, 2014

Tell me about where you like to do your writing.

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Many of you know that my favorite place to “write” is on long walks. I leave the house with a question or scene in mind, and I walk until I have an answer or have figured out a crucial incident or relationship in the book. Once this happens, I grab my phone and talk the scene into my voice memo. My best ideas happen when I’m outside, walking fast.

Alas, in this weather, I have to do my writing inside with my butt in a chair. I feel restless and caged sitting in one place, but  I do love my writing space, and that helps me stay put. My office is inside my garage and decorated completely differently from my home. It’s girlie and playful with vibrant colors to wake up my senses and remind me to enjoy the process. The quilt and painting and pillow are from my mom, the typewriter was my grandmother’s, and the little angel was given to me by a friend after I ran this blog post.

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The other walls are bulletin boards, where I tack up my work when I’m stuck or need a different perspective. Sometimes I pin the chapters I’m working on to the boards and look forward to seeing more and more cork as I finish them. I write at the big wooden table that Mr. H and I ate our meals at when we were first married, and there’s an elliptical machine by one of the windows, which isn’t pretty but is necessary for clearing my head.

So that’s my space, and now I’d love to hear about yours.

Next month, I’ll talk about how the revision’s going. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while—I have a lot to say—but didn’t want to slow my momentum by taking the time for it just yet.

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So that’s it for this month. A few thank you’s before I go… to The Never Dusty BookshelfSmashwords, and The Robbing Mind Podcast for kind thoughts about my book, to everyone who has “liked” my author page and participated in the discussions over there. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate my time with you! Also, if you have an extra two minutes in your day, my friend, Amy Wallen, started a fantastic new blog called Living the Better Half. I hope you’ll check it out!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa Stevens February 3, 2014 at 2:35 am

I often write at my desk, in my bedroom, but sometimes I’m on the sofa in the living room. During children’s sports seasons I also write at various fields and in my truck. I guess the simple answer is that I write wherever I happen to be.

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Susan Henderson February 3, 2014 at 3:08 am

Hi Melissa! I’m guessing the best writers aren’t picky about where they write; they just write wherever they are. Love to know you’re writing in fields and trucks!

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billie hinton February 3, 2014 at 2:56 am

I love your walking/writing routine. I tend to move my writing spot inside the house depending on what mood I’m in. My desktop and desk are very comfortable and I can glance out at the horses and the pony and the donkeys during the days and often they are standing out there looking back at me. :)

Lately with the cold weather we’ve had, I’ve been on my iPad and Zagg keyboard on the sofa by the woodstove. Right now I’m in my green chair in my bedroom, feet up on the ottoman.

Once in a blue moon I write in bed.

Sometimes I write up in the sandplay studio.

And yesterday I went to my new office space (for my psychotherapy practice) and wrote for a few hours there.

Once a week I write in the front seat of my truck while waiting for daughter at her riding lesson.

You get the idea. I’m all over the place.

If I didn’t have teens and equines and cats and Corgis I think I would take my iPad and go on the road – one of my most favorite ways to work is to drive in the mountains on back windy roads with the windows down and stop at the pull-offs to write.

I’m eager to read about your revision!!

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Susan Henderson February 3, 2014 at 3:12 am

Every time you mention your donkey, I’m jealous all over again. Love how you gave us all a walk-through of your house via your writing spots! I work well on the road, too. I also find, the less I bring with me, the more I accomplish because I stay focused rather than kind of dabbling and dancing through a stack of pages.

I’ll talk about my revision next month. And maybe the month after that. I have so much to say… and by the way, I’m still revising!

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Cindi Morgan February 3, 2014 at 5:05 am

I think I could write anywhere – because once I have an idea going, it takes me away from wherever I am at the moment. Most ideas sprout unexpectedly, usually while I’m driving or gardening or washing dishes. I’ve been known to pull the car over to jot down phrases. And once I’ve got a train of thought on where I’m going with a piece of writing, I rush home to my writing area in my 1930′s apartment, sit at an old scarred minister’s desk, surrounded by books on writing, pictures of my kids and a storyteller doll that I made in a writing class. She is my muse – made of clay with her mouth wide open to remind me to tell my stories.

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Susan Henderson February 3, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Cindi, Same here about the ideas coming when I’m driving or semi-occupied. I’d love to see the science on what happens to our brains, but that’s definitely a magic state for creativity. I get a lot of ideas in the shower too. I love your description of the desk and doll… wow!

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Frances Brown February 3, 2014 at 10:45 am

I’m am fortunate enough to have a home office, complete with brick fireplace. Ours is an older home (1950s vintage) and the rooms are small. My office used to be a “parlor,” or formal living room, small in comparison to the larger family room. It is long and narrow, but cozy and far enough away from the TV and kitchen so it provides reasonable privacy for a writing mind.

My desk is obscenely massive & spectacular. Years ago, when we lived in the North Carolina furniture mecca, we found a dark wood monstrosity with shelves above, carved pillars down the side. Way too big for a normal home. And yes, it consumes the one long wall in my office. But, as my husband argued, “You’re a writer. You require a special place for your writing.”

Can you guess now who my muse is?

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Susan Henderson February 3, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Frances, Your office sounds like heaven with the fireplace and massive desk. And a pretty heavenly husband, too.

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GC Smith February 4, 2014 at 12:50 am

I write in my office which is a converted bedroom in the front of our home. The office used to be in the rear of the house but that’s the salt-marsh view with my boat on the lift, the backyard tidal creek, the Intracoastal waterway with cruise ships, eagles and ospreys, and all sorts of distractions, so I moved out of there and made it the guest bedroom (perhaps someday you and Mr. H. will visit, the invitation is standing).

On moving the office I deemed it better Martinis on the back porch after the sun is over the yardarm than having the view during working hours.

My genius wife MiMi was always disturbed by my mess but knew she should not mess with my mess. So, one day when I was on the golf course she pushed my desk into a wall closet. She added bookshelves right and left. Then she added a fireplace to the room, a flat screen TV, and two really comfy recliner chairs. It’s the greatest office in the world and when she wants neatness she simply closes the closet doors, touching nothing of my mess.

My muses are two gargoyles that sit on my bookshelves and a bear footstool that looks like the real thing, but smaller. I identify with bears.

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Susan Henderson February 4, 2014 at 12:57 am

You think I’ll want to visit a salt marsh and tidal creak and eagles and ospreys? Heck yeah!

And your wife is absolutely brilliant because you can cause terrible damage to a writer’s work by tidying up their space, and a writer can cause terrible damage to the family’s emotional state by leaving everything mid-thought. It’s part of why I moved my office to the garage–(1) so I could leave everything messy in a way that helps me think, and (2) so I could have the experience of physically leaving my work behind at the end of the day, though I still suck at that.

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GC Smith February 4, 2014 at 3:25 am

MiMi is brilliant. A Merit scholar who married me instead of wherever that brilliance might have taken her. We’re together 54 years, married 52, it’s gonna stick. And yes, you and Mr. H. must come and visit. The SC Lowcountry is like nothing else in the world. A magnificent piece of our world.

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Susan Henderson February 4, 2014 at 12:37 pm

You are a lucky man, but I guess you know that.

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GC Smith February 5, 2014 at 2:02 am

Uh-huh!

Jessica Keener February 4, 2014 at 12:59 am

Sue-Your red couch looks comfy. How good to hear that your revision is going well, too. That’s splendid. —I made a big move this year. Handed over my former office to my husband and relocated my computer and printer to our dining room table. The dining room is enclosed on 3 sides. If the house were full of little people it wouldn’t work. But, that’s not an issue, anymore. The house is quiet. The dining room is open, full of light, which matters hugely for me, and I still have views of my tree outside the dining room window. The tree is a good partner. It’s also a roadway for all the n’hood squirrels and birds that come to visit, preen, play, and rest there. Altogether, the space gives me a feeling of peace and sanity.

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Susan Henderson February 4, 2014 at 1:12 am

I can’t even tell you how great it’s going after (as you know so well) how desperately badly it was going. There’s still much to do but I have a strong vision and my confidence is back.

My red chair is really comfy, but I’m almost always in the straight back wooden chair at my desk, sitting Indian-style.

How important it is that you feel you have light and life and sanity in your space. Interesting, also, how you can reconnect with spaces that didn’t work before. I need light and windows, too. And I don’t do well with background noise, although I learned to work in noisy waiting rooms out of necessity. And for some reason, I can write like a fiend in Penn Station because the noise is so non-specific, like those sound machines for helping you fall asleep.

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Mikel K February 4, 2014 at 12:42 pm

For years, I did most of my writing on the run, always carrying a notebook with me to be prepared to capture those poems and memoir entrees when they came to me. I actually wrote most of my memoir, “The Delivery Guy,” in my vehicle as I delivered pizza and Chinese food. I have hundreds of notebooks stacked on bookshelves as a result. Sometimes, I open some of the notebooks and grab poems from them to post on Facebook, or submit to a publication, or two. I joke that when I pass, if I am successful as a writer, that The Smithsonian will want all my old notebooks when I am dead!

These days, I mostly write at my desk, though I still keep a small notebook and pen in my back pocket when I go out. I love my home office. It is the third bedroom in the old house in Mableton, Ga. that my love, Joan, and I live in. I have a small aquarium on the desk in front of me, which houses my small turtle, George H. There is a larger aquarium to the right of my desk which holds my older turtle, Rue Paul. My turtles give me pleasure and inspiration. I often write about them and the 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 1 bird that live here with us. I have pictures of my kids and my love on the wall in front of me. My desk is a little cluttered. I need to clean it.

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Susan Henderson February 4, 2014 at 12:52 pm

An aquarium, that’s perfect. I have noticed how often you write about turtles but I didn’t know they were sitting on your desk! How great is that. Sounds like such a loving home, whether you’re human or animal, there’s a place for you.

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Mahendra Waghela February 4, 2014 at 7:08 pm

I woke up from a unfinished, unresolved dream and wrote the first draft of my story ‘How To Commit A Perfect Murder’ at about five in the morning; the acidic dinner of previous night was still rumbling in my tummy. I was travelling at 70mph, in a 3-tier compartment of a railway train. I typed with one finger, still do the same way. I couldn’t sit upright because the passenger in the upper birth was not awake yet. It was October and pleasantly cold; people were waking up, waiting for the next station and scalding hot tea. The power back-up was going down fast in my ancient Toshiba. The compartment light was barely enough to make out the letters on the keyboard. I had less than one hour to pin down the elusive draft, pack the left over food of the previous night, gather my blanket and laptop before the train stopped for 15 minutes or so.
I edit at leisure but this is how I write, always in the moment. Whenever I decide to ‘sit down to write’, it becomes a structured process, designed for specific result. I could be sure my story would be pretty cut and dried, lacking that something crucial or fundamental or magical.

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Susan Henderson February 4, 2014 at 7:46 pm

What a gorgeous piece of writing this is, and such a great window into your writing life. Magic, indeed.

I can’t wait for those magic moments in my writing life because they only come two or three times a year. But so glad the writing is this way for you, and I just love imagining you typing it all out with one finger. Wonderful!

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Ric Marion February 6, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I, too, have converted half my garage into an office – completely separate from the rest of the house. I sit in my comfy office chair, feet on the desk, Microsoft ergonomic keyboard on my lap. Of course, the biggest problem is being connected to the internet, emails coming in (I’m up to four email addresses now), so distraction comes way too easily.
To edit, I print a hard copy, sit in my big blue recliner next the the picture window where I can see the birds at the feeders, the river flowing past the house, the flowers waving in the breeze and the minor traffic we get hereabouts.
Or, a cup of coffee at my local restaurant, where distractions are minimal.

In my office, there are two desks, three tables, pictures of the farm where I grew up, pictures of my Grandfathers, a Miro print, a couple Irish sayings, my college diploma (yeah, that was a great investment). Oh, a lots of windows. I pretty much glassed in the space where the garage door would be, plus there are two large windows on another wall. Can’t bear not being able to see the outside. Though, at the moment, it is lightly snowing on top of the two feet of snow already on the ground – we have drifts of 8 feet – just like when I was a kid. Didn’t like snow then, either.

And the yearly calendar – which is to keep me encouraged as well. This year it is scenes of Ireland – the ancestral homeland I hope to visit one day. Last year was Tuscany. That keeps the mind on the goal at hand. Eyes from the blank sheet to a stone bridge in County Kerry, knowing you have to put the words down to sell the book to someday walk across that bridge.

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Susan Henderson February 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm

I just love this description, can totally see it! So glad you included details about your keyboard and what grounds and distracts you and the pictures of Ireland. That 8 foot drift’s going to take a while to melt!

I may be deluding myself, but I use the internet to give myself a charge of energy and inspiration. Looking at blasts of color and photos and other people’s random thought processes pulls me out of one-track thinking. Walking seems to jumpstart my head, too.

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Julie Gilbert February 8, 2014 at 2:41 am

We have an old armchair we inherited from my mother-in-law. When it came to us, it was upholstered in a delightfully ugly orange plaid. We took it to a local furniture shop to see about reupholstery. We picked out fabric, left the chair and they were supposed to call us with an estimate. Well, apparently they forgot because we got a call a few weeks later….that the chair was done and ready for pick up.

When we got to the store, we discovered they had used $500 of fabric and the labor was $500. So now I write in what we affectionately call the $1,000 chair. Lately I’ve pulled it up to the fireplace and tucked in with my ancient laptop.

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Susan Henderson February 8, 2014 at 5:10 am

Ha! What a great story, Julie! Big smile on my face.

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Jim Nichols February 27, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Late as usual…what else is new :)

Anyway, love your writing space, Sue. Me I often write in bed because it often seems to be 0430 or so. Otherwise in various place. I like a recliner and a laptop quite well.

Soon I’ll have a real writing space – work happening as we speak – so I’m looking forward to getting that just right.

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Susan Henderson February 28, 2014 at 12:48 am

Jim! Better late than never!

When you have your real writing space, will you show me a picture? Personally, I love your outdoor space best but I guess it’s impractical to work outside in the winter… especially this one.

We’re having renovation done on our kitchen right now so the pets spend the day with me in my office and we’re all getting a little claustrophobic. I think, tomorrow, I might do the writing-in-Starbuck’s thing, just for a change of pace.

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Jim Nichols February 28, 2014 at 1:20 am

I’ll send you a picture…we’re finally (twelve years in) getting around to the upstairs, and I’m to have a bedroom/office for those late night/early morning sessions. We don’t have a Starbucks but I’ve been spending some time at the Rockland library trying to finish a revision…it was promised a couple weeks ago (urp) but I’m claiming Act of God (good carpenters qualify as acts of God, right?)

So I guess I know what you’re going through on two fronts!

And yeah, this winter can end any time now.

xoxo

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Susan Henderson February 28, 2014 at 12:39 pm

We’re on the same timetable. Twelve years after deciding to renovate the kitchen (we’re going to have a dishwasher!!!!), we’re finally getting to it. Looking forward to your picture and your writing! xx

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