My husband and I are getting ready to move to Portland, OR. We’ve been in the same home in California for 10 years, and for all that time, I’ve worked in the same space: my little office.
In Portland I’ll be setting up shop in the corner of a too-big-for-us master bedroom (in a too-small-for-us condo.)
The space will be different, but it will still be quiet, with an empty table for my stacks of notes and a bookcase for my references. I’ll put my favorite things up on the walls—a goofy picture of my family, a perfect Dilbert cartoon, posters of my books, and artwork that my daughter has produced over the years, dating back to her Kindergarten attempt at a ladybug, when all the dots ended up on one side. I will make this new space into my space.
I know many authors who take their laptop or their pad of paper and venture out into the world, to write in coffee shops, library corners, and park benches. I’ve never been like that. I may scribble notes here, there, and everywhere, but I write in my office. For me, the sense of place helps me shift gears, quiet myself, and focus. It helps me tap back into where I left off, the day before.
I’ve been thinking a lot about writing space ever since I began work on The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy.) For much of the year, Mark wrote in his home in Hartford, CT. But in the summers, the family went to visit his wife’s sister on her farm in Elmira, New York. And there, every morning after breakfast, he took a winding path up twenty stone steps to a special, octagonal study built just for him.
“To keep away the large number of sight-seers who come…to his sanctum,” the New York Times reported, “Twain has posted on the door the following novel sign: ‘Step Softly! Keep Away! Do not Disturb the Remains!’”
Mark did some of his best work in the little octagonal study. “It sits perched in complete isolation on top of an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills,” Mark wrote to friends. “It is a cosy nest, with just room in it for a sofa and a table and three or four chairs—and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lightning flashes above the hills and beyond, and the rain beats upon the roof over my head, imagine the luxury of it!”
It was, he concluded, “the loveliest study…you ever saw.”
Mark had his octagonal study. I’ll have my quiet space filled with my favorite things.
Where do you write?