Refreshing/Cleaning My Writing/Pondering Space Because You Need To Do That Every Once In A While

Again, I got tunnel vision on one project and found myself without something in particular to write about.

This is the part of the post where I talk about what’s going on behind the scenes and don’t actually give writing advice. Thanks.

As it turns out, I’m now trying to write material for two blogs – this one and my one on Substack. Usually, what I try to do is cross-post my material on both sites. However, I can’t always do that. For example, while I am posting my writing journals on this site, I’m not sure that I’m going to do that on Substack. The audience for just me talking about writing numbers might be slightly limited (lol).

I’m also trying to continue to write the A Writer’s Biography posts on both sites as well. I’ve really enjoyed writing these (and it might be turning into a memoir), but this project is at different points on the different sites. On WordPress, I have been writing these stories for a while, and am trying to put together some new outings describing my past as a writer and my writing life. On Substack, I’ve just begun to post entries from this series, but I decided to start from the beginning. Since I am interested in expanding the series to book form, I’ve decided to post these expanded and revised entries as a sneak peek on Substack. So, that means I’m trying to write one thing for one site, revise another thing for another site, all the while researching the latest thing I’m hoping lets people know about me (Mailchimp), and trying to write my next novel project. All of this during a limited amount of time in the evenings and weekends of my life.

Basically, I’ve got a lot on my plate. But I am trying to write more. And there is a new book being published soon in early 2023 – The Yank Striker. Watch this space for upcoming details.

[Somewhat random explaining and complaining over.]

I’ve talked before about how having a dedicated writing space and taking care of it is something essential. As you can see from the featured photo at the beginning of this post, my writing space is relatively modest. In the first house I owned in Clinton, Iowa, I commandeered a former back porch converted into a four-season room as my first real dedicated writing room. Despite the fact it also happened to be the main entrance into the house for me and my family, it worked out well for what it was. Then there was the spare bedroom in our home in Muscatine, Iowa, where my wife Laura and I raised our two kids through their school-age years.

The spare bedroom/office in my home in Muscatine.

It wound up being essentially my clubhouse for the next 12 years, and my wife would say that since I didn’t clean it up enough, it started to take on the… essence of a guy’s locker room by the end of that run. It wasn’t a bad little writing space.

When I moved to Chariton, Iowa, I first took charge of a spare room in the front of our new house. Family circumstances, however, required me to vacate that room and for us to convert it into a spare bedroom so both our late-teen kids could share our house. Instead, I found a little landing that sat at the top of the staircase from the main floor to our main bedroom, which was converted from existing attic space. When I get to the top of the stairs, I have the bedroom to my left and the landing on my right.

This is absolutely the smallest writing space I have ever had. I only have half the bookshelf space I had in my first two homes, and at least one of the bookshelves I have is now in the bedroom rather than within reach. The total floor space on the landing is roughly 40 square feet but my effective space is probably more like 30 square feet. Much of that is taken up by two bookcases, a three-stack plastic storage case, and a desk that is only half the size of my desk in Muscatine. (I use the vintage desk that my wife previously used when she had her own consultant firm and worked out of our Muscatine home). I can’t quite stand up straight underneath the sloping ceiling above the desk, and I don’t have a door to close to keep the noise in the house out.

It might be the best writing space I have had yet.

For me, it seems to be just enough space. I’ve got enough light, people down on the main floor can’t see me up here type type typing away (but they probably hear me). Everything I absolutely need (light, notebooks, audio-visual equipment, a laptop, the Internet) is within a stretching arm reach. Despite not having a door to close, I can feel pretty set apart up here, which is a good situation to have for a writing space.

You also need to clean up the place every once in a while. My wife suggested today might be a good day to do it, and I took her up on it. After a while, a home office can accumulate quite a few things, like dust over everything, books, pop cans, and notebooks scattered around, and paper. There is often lots of small slips of paper scattered around the flat surfaces of a home office, and if it’s been too long since a sorting out and cleaning, you often have no idea of why they are there.

Anyway, I have two bits of related writing advice tonight.

  1. Make sure you clean and reorganize your writing space on a regular basis, at least once a month to prove that you’re not some degenerate derelict taking up space in your residence. If you have a clean and organized space, your thought processes tend to be cleaner and more straightforward as well. You’ll also feel like you accomplished something if you do it even without writing any words down that day.
  2. Despite the temptation to have a massive home office, consider the possibility of using a smaller space for your writing. It forces you to keep things simple and uncomplicated, which helps make your thinking simpler and uncomplicated. It also has the side benefit of making it a faster process of cleaning and reorganizing your writing area. For example, it just took me about 40 minutes to fully dust and reorganize my space.

That’s about it for tonight. I’ll try and see if I can post something on the weekend earlier than after 10 p.m. Central time on Sunday (lol). Take care everyone.

Writing When You Are Away From Home

“Did you remember to bring your laptop?”

Those were the words I heard from my wife a few days ago when we were leaving for a quick extended weekend getaway from everything. I had already planned on doing so beforehand, but it was really sweet for her to have a thought for that even while her head was filled with issues regarding our plans and what we were going to do when we get there.

Laura does not, under any circumstances, has a passion for writing. She is a good writer for her profession (city management, in case you were wondering) when she needs to be, of course. But she is not someone who relaxes with trying to write a story or poetry, or try blogging. She has read some of my work before (especially this blog), but she has not made it a habit. Regardless of that, the question she asked me before I left was one more thing of many that let’s me know how much she realizes writing is important to me. And that really means the world to me.

All right, enough with the mushy lovey stuff, let’s talk about writing.

One of the views from where I was at.

People who know me and some of the people who read this blog realize that I talk about Stephen King more than a little bit. In some of the past interviews of his that I have read, King talked about how much writing was a habit for him that the only times that he didn’t write was on Christmas Day and on his birthday. As I recall, he later admitted that was just a tall tale that he had spun for that reporter, and that he wrote on Christmas Day and his birthday as well.

I appreciate that dedication and productivity in a writer, a level of which I will likely never reach on a career basis. However, this whole process I have been attempting to commit to has been an effort to make me a better writer and get some King-like productive years out of me before everything is over. So, I have tried to emulate that with varying degrees of success.

Then there is writing when you are on vacation. That becomes a different situation altogether.

Another pic from vacation.

The first thing that gets complicated when writing on vacation are logistics, of course. You need something to write with, which can be pretty complicated if you’re not one of those Luddites who insist on writing everything with paper and pen or pencil, or the even bigger insanoes1 that insist on using typewriters. Usually, this means carting laptops (or desktops? No, more insano2 behavior) to wherever you are traveling to. If you are basing your vacation plans around a hotel, you’re in luck – most of those places if they are not in the Stone Ages will have at worst a coffee table and power outlets and at best a designated writing desk and USB ports nearby.

As for all of you whose vacations involve physical challenges like canoeing down the Mississippi River or hiking the Appalachian Trail… I guess you’re screwed3? My best possible advice might be to bring some lightweight writing equipment (Chromebook, iPad, something lightweight that isn’t a power-guzzler), some recharging ability, and some water-proof storage? I guess?

Enough of that. So, even if you are in a hotel, bed and breakfast, AirBnB, or whatever, it’s not exactly a straightforward process to just get writing. For example, what if the desk or writing surface you are using isn’t the same height that you are used to? That can get awkward, even to the point where your arms are cramping up by not being where they usually are.

For me, not having the right chair is one thing that can really throw me off. I honestly can’t concentrate on anything if I’m worrying about backaches or whatever. In the hotel room that I was in recently, I had to try out two different chairs before figuring out what works. If you are sitting somewhere for a while, you want to make sure that it is a sustainable writing position4.

Lighting is another thing. I typically want a place to be lit well enough so that I can see to grab, say, a pencil or notebook or something. However, I don’t want it to be so bright that I feel like I’m Spalding Grey5 sitting behind a desk on a stage with however many spotlights above or in front of me. You want it just right.

Of course, there are other items that come into play. When you are on vacation, especially with a significant other and/or kids, you are expected to do some activities. This might involve museums, art galleries, tourist attractions, kids’ parks, or various other entertainments. Obviously, this takes a bit of time away from when you can write. But then again, unless you are actually doing this for a full living, or retired, or living in a hovel alone, that’s going to be the same situation as it is at home. You just manage to carve out the time the best you can, whenever you can. Hopefully, you also have traveling companions that realize that even on vacation and even if you don’t spend a lot of time with each other back home, everyone does need some alone time.

The actual fact is, you’re likely not to get as much writing done on vacation even if you promise and dedicate yourself to that goal. There’s plenty to do, and you want to have at least a little bit of a mental vacation as well.

The point is, that is all right. You don’t have to be. Take it from someone who procrastinated for so long, you can forgive yourself if you are not quite as productive. Just get something done. It could be a five-line poem; it could be a 200-300 word section of your latest story; it could be you tour around some beautiful place and get inspired to do a new story or add something to an old one. Get done what you can get done and the rest will sort itself.

Take care, everyone, and you writers keep writing.

1. I just made that word up.
2. See #1.
3. For me walking around a city center is the height of physical exercise, so I wouldn’t know about hiking the Appalachian Trail or other such nonsense. To be fair I’ve been walking a bit more than I used to3a.
3a. Frankly I would be the one enjoying the night air when the comet or whatever it is comes by to wipe out Earth rather than scrambling to find an underground bunker. Although I was intrigued by The Last of Us when it was released a few years back, I in no way would do as well in that world as Joel and Ellie, for example. I know my limits.
4. I refuse to believe that standing desks are a thing, so don’t even bring that up to me in the comments. Writing and exercise are two totally different things.
5. Google it kids.