The Magic of Setting, Real & Fictional

Posted Jul 2 2010, 2:05 am in

I was catching up on my blog reading, found this post by twitter pal Tawna Fenske, and had a pang of envy.  Um. You’re probably thinking penis (pen) envy (I should caution you not to click this link if you’re at work, like I was), but you’re wrong.

It’s desk envy.

There. I’ve admitted it. I covet writing spaces the way mean girls covet each other’s boyfriends. Tawna’s is particularly hot. A large expanse of smooth, sexy glass, L-shaped for spreading out lots of post-it notes, tons of light… oooo.

Sadly, I don’t have a dedicated writing space. All three bedrooms in my house are occupied, the basement is… well, icky. I usually take my laptop and sit in the family room while my sons watch TV, at the dining room table if I want to concentrate or, on weekends,  outdoors on the deck and soak up the sun.  I’ve always wanted a gorgeous space all my own.

Part me of me believes a good writer can scrawl a best-seller on the back of a diner place mat while another part of me can’t help but feel that setting matters as much to the writer as it does to the story. Setting has the power to transport us off the sofa and drop us right into the story.  In Where Love Grows, author Cynthia Reese did such a masterful job, I swear I could smell the soil from the farm her characters were trying to save. It’s hard for me to imagine I can conjure settings this powerful when I’m curled into a corner of my sofa with my sons playing Xbox around me.

Then I read On Writing, by Stephen King.  It took him years to get his dream writing environment but when he finally got the behemoth desk in the center of a room, he hated it. I’ve been planning my dream space for years. It would be big, large enough for a glossy desk to hold two computer screens – one for my manuscript and one to display internet research. There would be a spot for my giant three-foot newsprint pad, my preferred outline method. The walls in front of it would be papered with tack surface so I can shuffle my scene cards – oh! And underneath it, a mini fridge to store the Hershey’s.

Tip: cold chocolate does not melt on your keyboard. Trust me.

When we bought our house in 2001, I’d hoped for a fourth bedroom to set aside for me, but we couldn’t swing it. For now, my dream writer space remains on my Some Day list, along with my perfect reading nook.

Do you agree that a writer’s setting is important? What’s your dream writing space?



8 responses to “The Magic of Setting, Real & Fictional”

  1. Kelly Breakey says:

    I almost don’t want to admit it, but I have a dream writing space and a great Book Room. I am very lucky. But I do understand the need for your own writing space as well as a place where you can go and curl up with a great Cynthia Reese book.

    On the bright side, when you Rob goes off to college you can turn his room into your very own writing space.

  2. Tawna Fenske says:

    Thanks for the shout-out! You’re inspiring me to blog about how that space came to be :)

    Might have to do that in the coming week…


    • Patty says:

      Wow! I’ve inspired someone toward a positive thing. Usually, I inspire people to flee so this is new.

      Seriously, it’s waaay cool. Someday, Tawna… someday.

  3. I’m the same. I’d like to have a dedicated writing space but it just hasn’t happened yet. I’ve worked on my MS in bed, on the couch, and at my gaming computer (dangerous).

    Lately I’ve setup at our very small dining table. It’s just me in the hubster at our house so I can leave my netbook setup at one and and there’s still room for the hubs and me to eat at the other end. It’s not ideal, but it works.

    Definitely redo Rob’s room. =D

    • Patty says:

      I began writing while doing the “mom taxi” thing… ferrying the boys to sports practices, music performances, and so on. Since I’d just come from work, I had my laptop with me and to fill the time, I began working on my first novel. Back then, it was great, having the work in progress be so portable.

      But it’s become tiresome now. Especially on days like today, where my husband sees the computer on my lap and says, “Oh, since you’re not doing anything, we could use some groceries.”

      *shakes fist*

  4. I love my writing space. I sit on my love seat, with plants behind me and three hugs windows. That said, I’d love it if the view was of Paris or something.

    I have a laptop, so I’ll write anywhere, anytime. At this point, I can tune anything and anyone out.

    • Patty says:

      That sounds like a great reading space, too. I read on my sofa, beneath a huge bay window with a view of my lovely neighborhood. Since it took us over a decade of marriage to be able to afford this house, “lovely” has special meaning for me.

      But I find it challenging to write there. Just can’t get “writing” comfortable. Thanks for posting, Theresa!