Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Little Corner of Heaven

I used to take pictures a lot. There was a time I earned a living with it. Now hardly at all, I have to remind myself to take pictures. As I frame all the junk that has accumulated over the little table and chair in the last two hours I keep wondering if my mind is too cluttered. If this odd pile indicates a lack of mindfulness or maybe mental illness. I always fear I have something of my mother in me. Looking at this spread makes me think I should go back to my roots and study meditation. It’s definitely a relfection of the inside of my head.

As I push the shutter and the flash blinks I sense someone behind me.

“What’s that for?”

I want to say “I’m taking a picture for my blog.” But what comes out is “A magazine asked me to take this picture. I dunno.”

Anais Nin's Writing Desk

The girl with the pierced nose and pink hair looks impressed. She looks like she would either be easy to impress or very, very hard to impress. “Why?”

“Why not? They’re doing an article on fiction writer’s and they want a picture of our work spaces. This is my usual work space. I always sit here.”

“You’re a writer?”

“Oh yeah.”

“What do you write?”

“Science fiction. Sometimes horror. Mostly erotica.”

“Like what? Here?”

Stephen King's Early Writing Room

“No, I write short stories.”

Her face changes like someone who has been hearing galloping hoof beats and hoping to see a thoroughbred but instead it’s a zebra.

“Oh.” She strugs. “Well. Good luck with that.”

“Thanks.” My first potential fan wanders off. This is why I don’t do book signings.

Henry Miller's Writing Room

What you see in this picture at the Starbucks in the Barnes and Noble breaks down like this, left to right. On the left chair is a brown leather bag I carry my laptop in. I first got this bag for Father’s Day in Panama in 1997 or so. I carried it everywhere and it has acquired a weather beaten, distinct character. It started out as a man-purse, but now looks knocked around and almost tough. A biker’s man-purse. On the chair is a white three ring binder with notebook paper. Before I write I always warm up by free writing for ten minutes without stopping and letting the stream of words lead me to where the story fairy lives. My scribblings are on top of the notebook; on top of the scribbled notebook paper is an antique Remington Combo fountain pen and mechanical pencil about 70 years old if it’s a day, with a solid gold Schaeffer “Lifetime” nib. It’s my favorite daily companion pen and writes as fast and smooth as thought. It’s my samurai sword.

The Bronte Sister's Writing Room

On the other chair is a bath towel, folded, that I sit on. These are hard working chairs whose padding has been mashed flat by an infinate line of butts. I have to sit on the towel because my butt is so laughably tiny (even my wife laughs at it) I don’t have the padding unless I bring it. I can’t sit for the long hours without something, and the first rule of writing is get your ass in the chair and stay there.

Robert E. Howard's Writing Room

On the back of the chair is my trucker’s denim jacket, a souvenir of the road with lots of pockets. On the table is my elderly IBM Thinkpad R50 laptop. On the laptop is about 3000 words I’ve just typed, which is unusual for me, a short story tentatively called “Someone Like Pandora” which I hope to post here later. It was brewing in my head for two days and when I finally sat down on my towel it was already written. I just had to type. It’s wonderful when its like that. The software running on the laptop is a word processing program designed specifically for writing fiction called ”Scrivener”. You can download a free fully functional 30 day (literally 30 x 24 hours on the keyboard of trial use) trial version here:

So far I love the design of this software, in its ability to automatically back up your document as you work, and allows you to write individual scenes randomly and overview them in storyboards (which is so perfect for an asymmetrical, mercurial writer like me who makes radical overhauls in mid draft) and then compile them at the end into the traditional double spaced and indented format required by many editors for story manuscript submission. I love this program and when my freebie time is up I intend to buy it and I’ll be glad to get it.

Ernest Hemmingway's Writing Room in Havana Cuba

Next to the laptop is a wooden pencil and a pencil sharpener. They are the acoustic instruments of the writer. Hemingway usually typed his first draft of a short story or a chapter and then rewrote it afterwards up to thirty times or more with a wooden pencil and paper. When I get stuck in a narrative, I turn off the laptop and take out my pencil and yellow pad. I always find that this slows me down enough to focus on the story world freshly. Also it’s very tactilely pleasant to sit with a pencil and notebook and write in that meditative way with the scratching of the lead across the paper. I favor a dark black lead such as you usually get in an art store 6B drawing pencil although I’ve heard that the legendary Dixon Ticonderoga Black Wing #2 was the finest pencil ever made and the adamant choice of John Steinbeck for his rough drafts. I’ve also experimented with cutting goose quills but stopping to dip them in ink breaks my train of thought.

Of course when I look at this pile of stuff I wonder how I'd even know.

Ray Bradbury's Writing Office


  1. Oh, Garce, I love this post. Your writing space is similar to mine (though I have a padded bench). I love seeing the writing spaces of other writers, imagining them there creating their worlds. Thanks for sharing your space as well as the others.

    And good luck with the story you were working on. I look forward to reading it.

  2. Fantastic, Garce!

    One thing that strikes me about this post is how dedicated you are. How serious about your writing. Perhaps this is what distinguishes real writers from dilettantes like me (despite what you think, that's what I really am).

    My other reaction is to notice all your rituals. On the one hand, I can understand this - it's like the preparations for a religious event, the bathing and purifying, anointing with oil, spending the night spread eagle on the stone floor of the chapel with your armor on the altar... On the other, I wonder whether you would have difficulties writing if you couldn't indulge in these rituals.

    On the other hand, *you're* the one who writes every single day. Not I.

    Finally, I don't think you need to worry about the cluttered aspect of your writing space, compared to some of the luminaries whose corners you've illustrated here! Especially Ray Bradbury!

    Can't wait to read Pandora.

  3. Hi Kristina!

    Yes, I always`like to see how other people write, it was fun seeing the writing space of some of my literary heroes. After posting it I thought of a dozen more I'd like to look up. You can make a collection of writing spaces. I've often thought it would be wonderful to have a small camper van like Volkswagen used to make and just take off early in the morning for a state park and set up shop in the pines and write there all day.

    An update on the photo, the laptop you see there died yesterday on my way to Starbucks. it ain't coming back. It took a couple of reviews and stories with it, but most of it was backed up. So I took an old laptop out of the closet and now I'm chugging along again.

    With a typewriter like writers in the photos had, none of that would have happened. The exception was that old photo of Stephen King where you can see his big Wang in the background.

    I have a big Wang too, but it died from lack of interest.


  4. Hi Lisabet!

    Any writer on this list is more dedicated than I am.

    Still its funny, when I lay it all out like that there really are a lot of rituals. I think its because I love the process, it's my personal zen. Sometimes I get the full nine yards like in the photo, but often I just stop on the sidewalk where ever I'm standing and whip out a pocket notebook and scribble stuff down.
    I think writing is like that for a lot of people, just snatching stuff out of the air.


  5. Such a great collection of photos in a great post! Garce, you always deliver.


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