Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for...


What I mean by dungeon, of course, is workspace. I've heard over the years that having a dedicated work space for writing can help keep you on track. "Treat it like a job," they say. Get up, grab your coffee and breakfast, get dressed and prepare for work, then shuffle to your dedicated work space and get to work. Take a lunch break. Work it like you would any other job. If this means turning off the phone unless you're on break, do it. If this means not taking a "brain break" (as I call it) to check email or surf the web for a few while letting thoughts ferment, go there.

I'm still working on specific space. I do, finally, have an office, which doubles as the guest bedroom and sewing room, as well as my craft space, though I mostly just store craft items/photos down there and do the work in front of the TV in the living room. I set up a computer, got a program I like to write in (I will address that program on the Day of "S"!), put up some photos of my kiddos and started. However, I have yet to figure out how to work 9 to 5 or any other variance of said shift. I am home with a 3-year old during the school day, with an extra 6-year old thrown in on non-school days.

In my office, I have my handy dandy Mac, my notebooks, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and the Bedford Grammar Handbook (I'm not sitting down there now, so I can't tell you precisely what it's called--I simply call it my Bedford reference). I've got pens and pencils of different colors, and I've got photos of my kiddos and a great charcoal drawing done by a friend. The room is a lovely cool blue, which puts me at ease.

The Good: I truly have found that I get more done sequestered down in my office than upstairs with all the distractions that make up the main part of my house. This is true even when I have a toddler playing ponies in my room while writing, which is phenomenal. I have what I need at hand, conveniently. I have French doors, which I always find somewhat inspirational to begin with, but those doors have curtains I can pull when I'm deep in the process. My hubby knows when those curtains are drawn, I need him taking care of business in the rest of the house, because I'm getting something done. It's warm down there in the winter, and cool in the summer. I get distracted far less in my office than in the rest of the house, despite the fact that I have full internet down there, just as on my laptop.

The Bad: Sometimes it is simply not feasible to get downstairs. My kids want to play outside and I *want* them to play outside as much as possible, but I can't visually supervise them from down there, so it really isn't an option. When I am trying to keep myself to writing down there, what does that mean for the laptop upstairs, which is much more convenient for most of the day, and doesn't require me to sequester myself? I haven't quite figured it out yet. Right now, I do my blogs on the laptop and monitor emails and such. I figure it's okay to work on short stories on the lappy, but keeping my novel downstairs keeps it all together. I am more comfortable doing the editing in my office, because then all the changes stay consistent in the same place. I'm terrified of screwing something up and losing my work when switching it between computers. When I have visitors, my notes, map and character "photos" are up for them to see, and I don't have full access to my work and notes, which drives me up a wall. I feel compelled to hide everything from their sight, because it is personal and private at this stage.

In other words, the jury is out, but I do like having a specific space for my writing. It helps me buckle down and feel like I'm in the right place to do what I need and want to do. It's just that I need to work on the little details and how picky I want to be. I also need to relax about it.

D is also for...

Denizens of the night.

As mentioned in another A to Z sponsored post (if you're new here and aren't sure what I'm talking about, or you want to find other bloggers playing along, click on the A to Z badge on the right), I'm a night owl. Not only do I physically have more energy in the evenings and at night, but my mind is eager to be working at that time, too. You'll notice that I post these blog posts at night, before the official entry date. If I have to try to get them posted during the day on the actual day, there's a chance it isn't going to happen until that night, so I'd rather be early than late.

Most of my ideas hit me at night, whether it's while I'm up and about or in bed. That's simply when I'm at my best, mentally. I suspect there's a reason vampires and other monsters have always been written as creatures of the night that maybe doesn't have to do with the night being the scariest time. After all, what's more frightening: the bogey man who attacks you at night, when everyone expects it to happen, or the bogey man who comes to you by day, when you feel at your safest, your most secure and comfortable, and gets away with its evils while people move around, awake, yet completely unaware of the horror going on in the house mere feet from their own?

Am I completely off-base? Probably.

Still, there's also something sexy about the night, a different kind of energy than that frenetic hurry-up-and-get-where-you're-going energy of the day. Night time is languorous, dangerous, sly, and malleable according to your whims. Night time is my time.

This is not to say that I can only write at night. In fact, while working on my writing routine, the vast majority of my writing has been during the day. Maybe it's writing during the day that frees up my brain space to come up with ideas and work through issues in the story while not confined to a computer later on. Who knows?

What do you think? Is there a time of day you do your best writing, or is it any time? Do you have a dedicated work space, even if it is just a tiny desk in a corner of a room used for something else? And was "D" as surprisingly challenging for you as it was for me? There are letters I expected to be hard (X, for instance), but then there were others I'm still not confident about that took me a little by surprise.

Happy Writing!


  1. I am fortunate enough to have an entire room in my house devoted to writing. Well, it also doubles as a guest room but for the most part it's my office.

    I tend to do do my best work at night. I write during the day when my day job isn't demanding my presence but I've always felt I do my best work when I'm pulling an all-nighter.

    M.J. Fifield
    My Pet Blog

  2. Hi Shannon,
    The dungeon-wasn't expecting where you went with that, although a place of torture certainly. I seem to work best at night too, although some nights are more effective than others. I've tried doing teh whole strict routine and I just can't. Too many external forces conspiring against me.
    great post.
    Moody Writing

  3. I prefer the night for writing and thinking. Kids are asleep, dog isn't whining to go out, etc.

    Living in the woods as I do, my surroundings my be bustling with life and activity, but it's almost like I'm surrounded by this white noise that keeps the distractions at bay, almost forming a protective shell.

    There's also the complete lack of the possibility that I may be interrupted. That time is solely my own, with which to do as I please.

    Yes, I like the night very much. :)

    Matt Conlon dot com
    Matt's Brew Log

  4. I'm also a night owl, but have had to change those habits due to my 4 kids and husband's schedules. I write all of my posts the night before too, and schedule them to publish the next day. And I can't ever get all of my seamstressing work done with a 3 year old around. Enjoy them while they are little and know that eventually it will be just you around the house during the day! :)

  5. Dungeons and denizens of the night, nice post!
    For me, I have an office littered with papers, a shed in the yard where I write in the summer and a 'comfy' chair next to the fireplace where all my TBR books are stacked. Somehow, I still end up writing on the dining room table - for similar reasons - huge window on to the yard where I can watch the kiddos. Writing has to be practical for me, not perfect, if I'm going to shoehorn it in somehow.

    As for night, I'm not at all a night owl - I'm sleepy by 9pm and out cold by 11 (barring bouts of insomnia) but ever since I was a kid, sneaking out of my parents house, I've always felt that night time was a cover, an actual physical cover. It made things more possible, good and bad things. That's what makes night seem so exhilarating.

  6. M.J., I definitely have my best luck with an all-nighter.

    Mood, ah yes, the external forces. Evil, aren't they? Well, some are less evil than others, of course.

    Matt, my wish is to be writing in in a house in the woods in the not too distant future. I've always been happy isolated with nature and surrounded by it.

    Jenny, I definitely aim to enjoy my time with the kiddos. It's one of the not-so-evil things that keeps me from writing as much as I might like to, but I like to get in play time with them, as well.

    Magpie, I end up at the breakfast nook table for the windows that overlook the backyard, too. Funny! I tried dragging a laptop outside, but couldn't see the screen and got frustrated. Did you ever see those ads for tiny writing cottages for the backyard (which are, of course, glorified sheds, most likely)? I used to want one of those.

  7. I'm a complete insomniac and totally work best at night. My A to Z blog post was actually written at 2am last night. LOL

    As for the working space, I'm not much of a "set up your workspace" kinda gal. I pretty much write where I can (I actually have my laptop on my coffee table in the living room LOL) because I'm stuck behind a desk for the majority of the day and I find that having a completely formal "space" makes me antsy and unable to write. I pull ideas from everywhere, so most of the time, I'll have the TV going and/or earbuds in listening to music while my 11 month old is rolling around on his walker in front of me. Ha!

  8. My space is more about time than about place. I absolutely can not write when there are distractions. Maybe that's my issue, but I can't bring enough focus to bear with the kids around, with the TV on, even with music on. As long as I can be alone, the space doesn't actually matter.
    Not that I don't want my own space. But we don't have any leftover, at the moment.

  9. I cringe when people say treat it like a job.
    Isn't the joy of writing the freedom of it all? I write in bed, in front of the TV, in my car, at my local coffee shop. Sometimes I don't write at all, sometimes I write ALL DAY.
    It's the most delightful thing EVER.

  10. I am also a night creature and post my entries before I go to sleep. Your dungeon sounds quite lovely. I trade off between my husband's office and my son's room while he is away at college. Thanks for visiting me and I look forward to following you. Julie

  11. Great post! My space is my bedroom, which at times, I find really distracting. I'm comfortable in here but I also find it hard to stay organized and the chaos of all my stuff all around me can be distracting. I don't have anywhere else though, so I'm glad I at least have this space. I'm a night owl too, I'm more awake at night and my ideas come easier, too. Lately I've been trying to get on a schedule where I go to bed a bit earlier than normal, like around 1am, then get up earlier so I can work in the mornings. The light in here is great in the morning (when the sun decides to shine) and as much as I love nighttime, I find the sunshine oddly motivating while working. It can be really hard to find balance, but it sounds like you're working hard to figure it all out! :-)

  12. I am a newbie and hadn't even thought about having a "space" to write in. I usually grab my laptop and sit on the couch to write my blogs. That is all I have written other than some poetry in high school. D was the easiest of letters for me. My dog's name was Dove and I wrote a tribute to her.

  13. Lovely to meet another Colorado writer, Shannon! My office is downstairs but has two windows and lots of light. It's ridiculously big, in fact, and sometimes I have to escape because there are so many distractions. One door leads out to the back porch, and I write there a lot when weather permits. Also in the hammock, at the library, coffee shops, in my car and all over the house. But not so much at night.

    Looking forward to your "S" post! I just discovered a version of "S" for Windows will be available soon and downloaded the beta. ;)

  14. I think we're living the same life--I have a 6 year-old and an almost 2 year-old who make it impossible for me to concentrate unless I'm sequestered....which means naptime and bedtime are my most productive hours.

    My office has become my little hidey-hole and I love it. It's tiny, but it works.

  15. Ani, I also will listen to music while writing. If it's something my daughter can listen to, I simply play it on the computer. Otherwise, I use ear buds so as not to traumatize her for life.

    Andrew, that makes sense and is true for me also, to a point. I can hyper focus to the point that I don't hear anything around me, BUT that's not really safe when I'm the only adult around two small children, so I end up not allowing myself to get too deeply into work unless it's safe (as in, my daughter is sitting right next to me coloring, or hubby is home, etc.). I have found that music that matches the mood of what I'm writing helps me get into it, while the wrong kind of music will distract me and make it harder. It took me a few days to go through music to find the perfect combination for the novel I was working on.

    Jolene, I agree, also to a point. I have the freedom to write anywhere, any time, and I have the flexibility to say a certain day or time is going to be an exception. As far as treating it like a job, to me, I feel like I need to knock out the distractions and try to work in a certain amount of time. I'm thinking I need a new challenge for myself, though, as once I finished this novel I started slacking on writing time again.

    Julie, most of my writing time was spent at the dining room table previous to this house. I'm so grateful for my dungeon, but even when I had a tiny or inconsistent space, as long as I could make it mine for that time period, it was perfect.

    Marie, I have the same clashes in when writing works for me. Though I've been an insomniac since middle school, I've always loved the morning. It has a wonderful vibrancy about it, a warmth and comfort. The sun looks different, the atmosphere feels different. Yet, no matter how many times I've tried to adapt to mornings, even as a mother, I'm just not in a comfortable place in them. It's hard to explain. I WISH I liked mornings more, but they just aren't me, no matter how many years I force myself up earlier. On your space in your bedroom, is there room to hang a sheet or curtain and make two dedicated spaces to separate the two?

    Keena, it's always been wherever I could grab a spot for me up until now, and even now it is a mix of both. Maybe I'll be at Stephen King's level eventually, able to lock myself in my office for 8 hours, but that's not going to be any time soon.

    Cricket, your space sounds wonderful! I believe you've hit my "S" on the nose. How are you liking the beta version? I have a Mac downstairs, but my laptop is not a Mac, so I was excited when they started talking about the Windows version.

    Jeanmarie, that's the most important thing, that it works. Is your 6-year old in school now? I thought I'd have so much more time when mine was in school, but somehow it never actually works out that way. So strange.

  16. The music thing is actually an issue for me. I used to do -everything- with music, but I found when I started my novel that lyrics got in the way of the words in my head. I'll leave it at that, since I actually have done a post about this issue.