Time for another confession. I posted this photo on Facebook last week, and Judith Baxter commented that, now, she could picture me at my writing desk. Well, yes and no. The vase is sitting on my desk, but the photo is carefully staged. Even so, it shows a bit of the mess on my printer stand. I’m a messy writer … not in my actual writing, but in my surroundings as I work.
I’ve read that this is a bad way to work, that a cluttered desk means a cluttered mind. Well, yeah. That’s my mind, ten things going on at once. To be honest, I can’t explain how I’ve managed to write and edit four full novels. Probably my messy ways explain why I have four partly written novels. But even those I know will be finished at some point.
A lot of writers blog and even write whole books about their work habits. Some of them speak as if theirs is the only way to write bestsellers. They could be right about the bestseller part; I haven’t accomplished that—yet. But I wholeheartedly believe there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to writing methods. You can force yourself to work in a way that’s not natural for you. But why should you?
Writing is hard enough without stifling your “muse” with some other writer’s rules. I know. I’ve tried. My brain rebels at rigid systems of outlining, work scheduling, or fast and furious, non-edited first drafts. I don’t dress up like I’m going to an office. I don’t meditate before I begin work. I don’t create music playlists for accompaniment. I don’t use dictated writing prompts. I don’t set daily word count targets.
I write in comfortable clothes, generally without makeup or hair styled—to be honest, sometimes I never change out of my pajamas. I write while I should be doing the laundry or the gardening or a thousand other things. I write because there are stories in my head. And I love stories. And I delight in figuring out how to transform those stories into words.
Today, I sat at my desk surrounded by drawings and trinkets made by my grandchildren. I sat amid scattered papers and sticky notes, and tea mugs, and cookie crumbs. I sat beside the open window that enhanced my workspace with bird song and rose perfume. I closed my eyes and saw. I stopped my ears and heard. I rested my fingers on the keyboard, and the pure unadulterated magic of imagination directed them to create.
That’s the way I write.
Your mileage may vary. And that’s totally cool.
Okay, are you ready? Don’t judge. This is what the rest of my desk usually looks like.