Changing Perspectives: Writing Spaces

When I visited San Antonio, Texas in February, the kitchen in the VRBO I’d rented had a counter with some mid-century modern stools that were heavenly for writing. They had a bottom-cradling seat, a buttery leatherish look and feel, and sturdy feet. I sat in that space and wrote in those early morning hours, savoring coffee and quiet solitude – just me and my thoughts.

I wish I had a writing space like this at home, I thought.

When I visited the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina in April, I stayed directly across the hall from the rooms where F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed (his room overlooked the front doors, reportedly so he could see the fashionable women arriving and decide whether to go downstairs and meet them). His writing desk, which has been moved downstairs for display, was of solid oak and of perfect size.

I wish I had a writing desk like that at home, I thought.

Actual writing desk of F. Scott Fitzgerald at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina

What I have is a sage green living room chair and an undersized lap desk – the space where I generally write, which is driven more strongly by the hours I keep; most days, I’m up long before daybreak trying to avoid disturbing my still-sleeping husband and our dogs.

All of these writing spaces have inspired my thinking. I once wrote about famous authors and their affinity for certain fountain pens, which prompted my thinking about writers and their spaces. I did some research and have linked some articles in the sections below.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King says to put the desk in the corner of the room and turn so you’re facing the wall to avoid all distractions (he once wrote on a makeshift desk in a laundry room). That wasn’t the case with Mark Twain; he wrote in his own study, an octagon shape with windows, built for him by his sister-in-law because she didn’t like the pipe smoke in her parents’ house when he summered with them.

Lauretta Hannon, author of The Cracker Queen, has her own writing she-shed in Rome, Georgia. She also hosts writing sessions in The Labyrinth, an outdoor amphitheater in Rome, inviting guests to sit on the tiered seating levels to write.

Other writers, too, had small spaces designed specifically for writing. Roald Dahl had his own writing hut and sat in a comfortable chair with a board propped across the armpieces.

Like F. Scott Fitzgerald at the Grove Park Inn, J. K. Rowling also stayed in a hotel as she completed one of her books.

Edward Albee had quite the rolltop desk.

Ben Franklin reportedly wrote in the bathtub, and so did Agatha Christie, as she ate apples.

These varied perspectives of writing in different places fascinate me. The visual noise of other places is appealing; I find my sensory awareness elevated in places with which I’m unfamiliar. As I write this post, I’m sitting at the table inside our camper on Site 8 at Dames Ferry Campground in Juliette, Georgia – the lake is out the rear living window, and I see pedal boats, kayaks, swimmers with neon colored flotation devices so they don’t get hit by boats, and fishing boats all making waves on the lake. Out my table window, there’s a boy on a motorized scooter driving past a neighboring camper where a family is seated around the campfire at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time on this Sunday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend. It looks like three generations of women are walking past in their shorts and swimsuits, towels hanging from their arms, hair wet as they head in from the lake. The couple camping two sites down from us is driving by on an afternoon golf cart ride with their two little white Westies taking it all in from the back of the cart. And there are two boys with remote controlled cars jumping the speed humps at high speed right down the way.

Swimmers on Lake Juliette

My sage green chair offers none of these sights, but instead the comfort of writing at home – it’s predictable, it’s comfortable, it’s stationary and unchanging. Of all the places in this world that are growing increasingly unsafe, my green sage chair feels safe. But getting out into different places and writing from different locations breaks the monontony and keeps daily writing exciting.

My theme for June is changing perspectives, and I will challenge myself to get out of my chair and write from at least 15 different locations throughout the month. What’s the most unexpected or unique place where you have written, and what are your favorite writing spots? I’m all ears!

Luke 5:16 

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

Special thanks to Slice of Life!

11 Replies to “Changing Perspectives: Writing Spaces”

  1. Interesting post! Apart from the dining table (I don’t have a writing desk) I used to find a table at the Tim Hortons down the street a great place to write. Ten lines or pages… observing people, and wondering about the different cultures each belonged to. What stories were hidden in the wrinkles, the limp, the hunched shoulders or the quiet grace, raucous laughter, or conversations – quiet or animated. Or the shared companionship between a couple. And the walk that preceded before my pit stop and after I left developed ideas.

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    1. Joycee, the stories hidden in the wrinkles, the limp, etc. is fascinating to me. Your place also leads to some possible characters that you can develop using physical description and making up the rest of the story to become who you need them to be in a short story or book. That’s a great idea to generate characters. Thanks for reading and sharing today!

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      1. Thank you Kim! Yes, there are some characters around whom I can build stories! Thank you for the tip. I appreciate it!

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  2. WOW! This is such a rich post. I loved learning about ALL the different places published authors wrote. Thanks for including the links. I loved “sees” all you viewed on Sunday at the campsite. Then you got me at the end – safe vs getting out and seeing new spaces. I love your challenge. I still have 3 weeks of school and then I will pnder WHERE I will spend my end of June and July wiritng. Currenly, I’m at my dining room table that allows me to look up and out on my backyard. Often I go to Starbucks, enjoy the piped in music and write. But your post intrigues me. Place is so important! Thanks for sharing this rich post.

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    1. Thank you, Sally! I also love Starbucks for sipping coffee and writing against the backdrop of some music and voices. I, too, have another few weeks before being off for the summer. It sounds like we might have a similar schedule – I’m on a 210 day contract and not a 190, so my summer is shortened. I hope you can go somewhere fun for your end of June and July writing and share about your places!

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  3. Kim, when I read “On Writing” I loved learning about Stephen King’s writing retreat in his home and long for such a place. I’ve thought about running away to a cabin in Island Park (near Yellowstone) to get away. Hemingway famously wrote in his Sun Valley retreat. Where I write now depends on the writing. I have a separate home office but use it only when crafting something that needs undivided attention. There’s a big iMac screen to assist me on my desk. I often write poetry on my phone while still in. ed. I write letters and post cards from the couch in my front room w/ Snug at my feet. I can see out the front window. I’m the only one who uses that room. I keep my MacAir on the table next to the couch in the family room. That’s typically where I write blog posts wile Ken watches television and Snug sleeps next to me.

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    1. Glenda, I can sure see Snug right up next to you, dozing. It’s neat to me that you write from so many different places – and it seems like maybe each is different kinds of writing in each place. I love that idea of taking off on a writer’s journey to a cabin near Yellowstone. I keep thinking how awesome it would be to have a writer’s retreat. Maybe even a cruise. Wouldn’t that be fun? Thanks for reading and responding today!

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  4. I loved this post- informational and challenging. I loved reading about your writing places- the usual and the extraordinary and also the routines of others. I am writing at my desk in my living room (it is part of my furnished apartment and super convenient- spacious and well located). In two weeks I will head to the US and my writing spaces will vary- fun and a bit scary- I do like my routines. I love the challenge you set yourself and I will do my own version. I will also share the challenge with my fifth graders as we are sharing summer challenges as we wrap up this week.

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    1. Thank you, Erika! I love that idea to challenge the students to write in different places. That would be interesting to see their list of places at summer’s end! Please keep me in the loop – I would love to see where all their writing takes them. Happy summertime writing to you!

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  5. What a fascinating self-challenge, writing in 15 different places! I usually write at my kitchen table. Have never had a private writing spot (am working on that). Most interesting place… on an island off the coast of NC. Love all your writerly-inspirations here. I would like to spend time writing on the old dirt road of my childhood summers. Wondering if my great-grandparents’ homeplace is still standing… would love to spend days, maybe weeks in it, soaking up the past…

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