A separate space

One of the things I loved about moving to this house was that it had enough bedrooms that I could finally have a space for all my books — not on shelves surrounding the computer desk or out in the living room, not with half my books packed in boxes because there wasn’t enough shelf space for them. So one bedroom here became the library, and lots of shelves went up along two walls, and I finally unpacked everything.

The center of the library, though, I could never quite figure out what to do with. While it occasionally served as useful floor space when we needed room for an air mattress, otherwise it stayed empty. The library was a place I went into to get things — books, art supplies — and go back out again, but I never spent much time in the room itself. It needed a piece of furniture, but I never really settled on what it should be. A reading chair? A futon? Giant beanbag? Maybe a drafting table for art?

Then, last month, I found out that my work schedule was changing, and I realized that, with the new schedule, I could potentially have two hours every weekday morning to dedicate to writing — before starting in on the day job, instead of after, as it is now. Still, the thought of sitting at this computer desk and writing, then opening up the transcription programs and logging in to work, wasn’t all that appealing. Like it or not, this desk has come to signal my brain for Work (as in Day Job), and also Internet Distractions and other Stuff I Have To Do, none of which is conducive to the mindset I need for writing.

And then I knew what the library had been waiting for.

So, here’s my awesome new cheapo desk with its inexplicable teal-colored drawer, a tiny bit wobbly but also feeling delightfully casual.

library

My Writing Desk.

And I realize that, even though I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years now (“this” meaning “writing stuff and sending it out and hoping it gets accepted for publication”), this is the first time in all those years that I’ve had a space completely dedicated to writing. Just mine. Just for that. Not a computer desk (though I’m sure I’ll be using the laptop there, when that time comes in my drafts). Not the coffee table or the couch or some other open space where I always have the TV or the Internet beckoning.

A private space. Somehow, a safe space. Maybe even a tiny bit of a sacred space.

All in all, not bad for 63 bucks at Walmart.

 

(As a footnote, since I’m sharing pics and don’t think I ever mentioned this, here’s one of my Cóyotl Award for By Sword and Star, sitting on my shelf of author/contributor copies. Yep, they use little coyote plushies as statuettes, which is completely and utterly adorable. I’ve named her Lucky, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that maybe she’ll get a friend some year.)

coyotl 2012

Signal boost: KLINE layered sketchbooks Kickstarter

As those of you who’ve read this post already know, I’m something of a notebook junkie, so when I saw Neil Gaiman tweet about a sketchbook Kickstarter, I had to check it out.

I’ve been wondering for a little while if some kind of new sketchbook/journal company was going to come along to be a true competitor for Moleskine. Not in the sense of creating a cheaper version (that’s been done pretty well by a couple of companies now), but in the sense of taking a similar idea but improving on it, particularly in terms of using better materials. (I’ve always hated the Moleskine paper in both the regular notebooks and the sketchbooks; it doesn’t seem to truly take anything well, or at least not any media I use.) And there’s also the aspect that, in trying to appeal to the broadest market possible, the Moleskine brand has gotten… well, kind of diluted. While the pop culture geek in me thinks it’s fun for them to have Star Wars and Lego and Hobbit tie-in versions, the creative iconoclast in me (smaller but vocal) can’t help feeling a bit turned off. Call me a notebook snob, but it’s harder to trade on the elite caché of being the notebook of Picasso and Hemingway when you’ve got Darth Vader on the cover. *shrug*

At any rate, when it comes to being the next sketchbook that all the really cool artists are using, I’ve got my money (literally) on KLINE. I’m impressed by the quality of the materials and construction they’re using (look, actual artist-quality paper and not slick beige stuff!), I love that it’s been created by artists for artists, and while I know I’ll probably wind up doing more writing than art in mine, well, there’ll be that watercolor paper in the back just waiting patiently for something to be done with it.

And their Kickstarter’s a chance to be able to someday say that, yeah, I got one of the very first KLINEs. You know, back before they were trendy and you could buy them anywhere. (*arches eyebrow, sips exotic tea*)

There are still a couple days left to contribute and get your own:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/klinenyc/kline-layered-sketchbooks-and-journals

 

My Name is Renee, and I’m a Notebook Addict

Back in January, the awesome blog Notebook Stories posted my notebook collection as part of their Notebook Addict of the Week feature. (At first I wasn’t sure how I’d missed their tweet about it, but then I realized that was the same time as a four-day Internet outage and me subsequently working like crazy for the week after that, trying to make up all those hours.)

Needless to say, when I read June Thomas’ Slate piece on the subject this week, I understood it completely, on an almost embarrassingly profound emotional level.

I know there are writers who don’t keep notebooks. Intellectually, I understand that composing on the computer has a lot of benefits that paper can never match — for starters, not having to retype things, the ease of making backup copies, and simple searchability. I’m not against composing with a keyboard when that’s more convenient (full disclosure: I’m typing the first draft of this blog post on my Alphasmart Neo) or when the mood strikes me to change materials and methods to break through a block.

I also get what Stephen King was talking about when he once advised writers not to keep a notebook, that if an idea is good enough to be written, if it connects with you enough and is important enough, you’ll remember it, and the things you’ve forgotten weren’t worth pursuing anyway. (Though I counter that with the notion that there’s a certain psychological comfort in knowing that even if that idea that just came to you is crap, it’s at least written down, so you won’t forget it and then have that annoying nagging sense of having forgotten something even though you know you’re probably remembering the notion of it as better than it actually was.)

That said — to me, a writer without some kind of notebook is like an artist without a sketchbook. (Though there are probably those now, too, given digital media.) It’s a place to experiment, fool around with materials, catch stray thoughts and try to fit them together like puzzle pieces. For me there’s a definite tactile pleasure in writing longhand that a keyboard can’t match, especially since my job requires me to spend full-time hours at this computer as it is. And oddly, I find that writing on a keyboard feels public (probably from all those LiveJournal posts and emails and so on over the years), while writing on paper feels inherently private (maybe because of all those paper journals I kept off and on growing up). Even if I’m writing out a story that I hope others will read later, when I’m writing it in a journal, it feels like it’s only meant for me, and that feels safe. And when I feel safe, the writing is easier and, I think, better.

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