I remember the first place where I saw someone writing. It was my father’s desk — a big, dark, hulking rectangle that seemed immovably anchored to the floor. It was always messy: piled high with papers, folders, newspaper clippings, pencils, old chewed up erasers, scotch tape, paperclips and pens. As soon as I was old enough to peer over it, I found myself entranced: it was like a little chaotic island strewn with treasures.
Long ago, a friend told me a story about her ill-fated foray into publishing. She decided to start a small publishing company and in order to “look the part,” she rented an office at a pricey address and spent lots of money furnishing it just so. The only problem was that by the time she finished setting up her perfectly appointed office, her fledgling business was on the verge of bankruptcy. In order to survive, she ended up dumping the office and working out of her home.
Creating the perfect writing space can become just one more excuse for avoiding writing, according to Natalie Goldberg. Here’s what she says in Writing Down the Bones: “I have watched friends who made perfect spaces and couldn’t bear to go into them. They felt more comfortable writing at the kitchen table. It’s hard to sit in an exquisite space and rub up against our imperfections which writing brings up. We make these exquisite rooms of silence and then long to write in noisy, chaotic cafes.”
A bit of chaos in one’s writing space is a good thing for several reasons, observes Natalie: “A little apparent disorder is an indication of the fertility of the mind and someone that is actively creating. A perfect studio has always told me that the person is afraid of his own mind and is reflecting in his outward space an inward need for control. Creativity is just the opposite: it is a loss of control.”
Mmm…creativity as the loss of control — intriguing concept. I wonder if that’s just a way for Natalie to justify her messy desk? Well in any case, I’m right there with her on the messy desk front. How about you?