PHS columnist, AlTonya Washington talks to us about finding the perfect or imperfect space to write while travelling through life.
If I count the time before I was a published author, I’ve been writing stories for over 20 years. The memory of drafting my very first romantic story in the summer of 1994 still makes me smile. I should say it makes me laugh when I recall my mother’s and sister’s concern that my bedroom was the only spot in the house I’d ever visit again. They had reason to question that since it’s pretty much where I spent most of my time for the duration of that summer.
Writing was never something I intended to do, it just sort of happened. I was actually in the process of reading a novel I’d come across when I decided to take a stab at writing my own. My bedroom was where the magic of drafting those first few lines occurred so naturally I believed it was the only place the magic would continue. That belief would change in ways I never imagined.
The thing I love most about writing is its ability to take me out of myself and my surroundings. I tap into parts of my mind I never knew existed even as I cruise into environments I would never expect to visit. I’ve learned that wherever I write, serenity follows. Of course my earliest writing days were just about crafting a story that I’d kick back and read later for my own enjoyment. It would be years before I even thought about letting anyone else read my creations. It’s now years later and I no longer write just for my own enjoyment, but for others to enjoy. With that reality, comes expectation. Readers who are hungry for the next part of the story are almost as much a motivator as the place I select to conjure that next part of the story.
I speak with lots of writers who talk about having the perfect place to write-that soothing corner that rejuvenates and gets the creative juices flowing. There are some who say having that perfect place to write is as important to them as what they will actually write. I suppose I agree with that to an extent. While that perfect place is tremendously important, I believe the perfection of any writing space is what I make it. When I moved away from home to join the working world, I took writing with me. Literally. I wrote everywhere! During my 15 minute break times, during my hour long lunch times even on the route to and from work.
I spent a lot of my early ‘real world’ work days on the city bus which transported me to my job at the local newspaper. I still surprise the occasional person when I tell them that I wrote a lot of my first traditionally published books in that environment. I suppose if ever there were a more imperfect ‘corner’ to write in, it would be a crowded, cramped and noisy city bus. Nevertheless, I created. Again, perfection is what you make it. I proved this every day I took the bus into and out of the main hub. Aside from the infrequent query about what I was doing, I wasn’t interrupted that much at all. In all honesty, bus writing allowed me to hone my ability to focus in the midst of chaos. Let me tell you, as a mom this is a highly valued ability!
Still, I too hunger for that more perfect writing corner and I’m constantly in search of it. Amid this search, I’ve discovered that there are corners you select out of preference and others you select out of necessity. I appreciated my ability to do this once deadlines became a part of my world. When I think about my ‘preferred’ writing spaces, the library is usually at the top of that list. There are few things I enjoy more than finding a nice big square table where I can spread out with my notebook, notes, pens, etc. and get to work. Nowadays though, even the library isn’t all that quiet of a space. For me, that’s not much of an issue, but if I ever need to really tune out, my IPod is the perfect remedy. For those of you, who don’t write with music, see the librarians at the desk about getting a study room which is totally quiet and private.
Restaurants and coffee shops are other terrific spots. Writing and eating? I couldn’t ask for a better combination! Home is a wonderful writing venue, when I can have the place to myself. I get lots done writing in my bedroom or the dining room. Be warned, however, home is chock full of distractions. The city bus had nothing on my refrigerator!
I’m a mom though, so many of my writing spaces are chosen out of necessity. No worries, serenity is not lost to me. As a mom-and a mom on deadline-I’ve written in all kinds of environments. From sleepovers to parties at bounce house amusement centers; if I could find an unoccupied corner, I was writing. You’ll find me most often, at a practice field. Actually, you’ll find me in the practice field parking lot. Talk about magic! My car has been witness to some pretty steamy love scenes-on paper, folks! On paper!
In truth, finding that ‘quiet corner’ may be difficult and often impossible to find, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. There are numerous ways to make use of whatever space you’re lucky to find. Start with an unoccupied corner and then let your writing and reading do the rest-you can lose yourself in any environment. Whether your perfect corner is chosen out of preference or necessity, remember, perfection is what you make it.
AlTonya Washington is a college librarian, award-winning author, insatiable movie buff and proud mom. For more information about her and her latest release - The Caterer's Wife: A Mystery Novella - check out her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.