Photojournalist, Jill Krementz, published The Writers Desk in 1996, a beautiful book that allows readers a glimpse into the private writing rooms of famous authors. Leafing through the pages of this book years ago, when I began to have enough room to make a writing office of sorts, I imagined myself in such “artistic” alcoves. Photos of John Updike, Eudora Welty, and Stephen King, each sitting at their desks, gave me visions of what I imagined for myself.
Reality check. My writing habits do not lend themselves to such abodes. After several tries at setting up just the right space for my writing endeavors, I have given up. I write on the fly, composing in my head as I putter around my house doing laundry, washing dishes, or
feeding the neighborhood’s stray cat.
Teaching, raising a family, running a small hay farm, horseback riding competitively for 25 years, and just living life at full speed, I have never stopped long enough to really set up a proper writing room, let alone get my work organized in a formal manner. I used to chide myself about this constantly, but over time, have just given in to my ways, and push onward.
There is a rule in my house. Never throw out any paper with writing on it–store receipts, napkins, matchbooks, church bulletins, scraps of paper torn from grocery bags. Any one of these could contain the germ of a poem, a line, a phrase that I want to use in some poem or other. And I keep little pads of paper everywhere–by my bedside, in my car (on the dashboard), in my tack trunk at the barn, and always in my purse. Those little pads given out at hotels are favorites, second only to index cards, which are tough enough to get through the wash if I shove one into a pocket.
So, truth be told, I’m a hopeless mess, but somehow, I get words onto pages, and eventually, onto my computer screen, and “Saved.” That last step, of typing a poem on my laptop, feels like a reward every time. When I write poetry, I rarely compose on the keyboard. I almost always start with a penned line, and move through many drafts to the final, typed version. And I’ve stopped trying to change myself to do otherwise. It’s just how I’ve managed to write over the years, and into my 60’s now, I’m practiced and comfortable with my process.
So now, I shall invite you to take a peek into my “writing room,” which for me only refers to a tiny room in my house where I have a desk, chair, laptop, and three walls of books and things that I collect (I’m a bit of a pack rat too). Things that I like having around: family photos, stones collected on walks, pieces of armadillo shells, New Yorker Magazine cartoons, and little Oaxacan woodcarvings that my 90+ year old aunt sends me from her yearly trips to Mexico.
WELCOME: Enter what my friend loves to call “The Abyss.” (Note the warning tape he put across the door. He truly believes it’s a hard hat zone!)
And now, a look around, inside the room. (My Mother is rolling over in her grave, and my cousin, a de-clutter guru, will be horrified, but I said this blog was to be about truth-telling, and showing….)
Finally, a further glimpse into my process, in a poem about my poems:
They come unbidden.
No sharpened pencils
Or cocked pens at the ready.
They have no respect for
The convenient desk or
But blasting down Interstate 35,
One flies by–
My left hand grabs the wheel
To allow my right to feel for my purse,
Fish around for something to write with,
Something to write on.
This is the game they play–
Let me sit down at my desk,
Pencils all in a row,
Squadrons of pens, staples,
Neatly lined paper,
And they flee.
They mock me.
I had a thought to tidy up my “office” this weekend, but I’m nursing a cold. Maybe next Sunday!