A friend was visiting my home recently. While we were walking around upstairs she noticed a small alcove that appeared to be filled with closets. Curious, she took a peek inside. At the far end was my desk piled high with papers, files, dusty diskettes, scribbled interviews, magazines with articles I’d written, and books. I apologized. I told her it was my office and “please excuse the mess.”
“Oh,” she said. “So this is where it happens.”
Her words made it sound as if this postage-stamp of a place was something magical, where stories live and breathe, where characters fall in and out of love at the stroke of a key. It made me stop and realize that maybe, just maybe, she was right.
I probably take this place for granted, this office of mine. Perhaps all writers do. We walk in, sit down, stare at a blank screen for awhile (or maybe a blank pad, if that’s your preference) and (hopefully) begin this crazy process of storytelling.
But what else is in this writing space? In mine, there’s a photo of New York Yankee greats Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, along with other Yankee memorabilia: a clock, a candle, a nutcracker, a wooden carving, a bobble head. There’re also photos of my husband, my Westie, love cards, a poster of a show I acted in, cassettes of music I love: Billy Joel, Judy Collins, Barbra Streisand, West Side Story. It’s crowded and confined. Private and quiet. Cold air seeps through the window cracks in the winter; there’s no electrical outlet for a fan in the summer. This space is mine. No, better yet. It’s me. It has things I love, that portray what I am as a person and as a writer. My writing space speaks of my likes and loves; my passion, my past, my present. It has stories to tell.
If you’ve ever taken a tour of some historic figure’s home, you’ll always see a beautiful desk, gleaming like a mirror, not a paper scrap in sight. The rope around it prevents you from getting too close thus avoiding curious fingers from leaving prints. If the Smithsonian called me tomorrow and told me they were going to exhibit my writing space, I would insist that museum visitors see it as it is now in its current glory—clutter and all. Indeed, they will feel the beating heart and pumping blood in every clutter corner, the labor, the detail, the hours of trying to get it right.
Where we choose to write can have repercussions. In my workshops, I challenge participants to change their writing space for the week. The results are mixed. Some discover that different surroundings increased their creativity; they delight in the “new,” create stories or ideas they’d never thought of before. Others couldn’t wait for the experiment to end. They feel uneasy apart from their comfort zone; their minds focus more on the strangeness of the environment than on the words they want to write.
One’s writing space can gift us with inspiration, persistence, and serenity. Yes, magic happens whether it’s a precisely arranged work of art, or a place littered with chaos. Just make sure that it contains items you love and things that define you. Make it a place where things do happen.
About Lori M. Myers
Lori M. Myers is an award-winning writer and Pushcart Prize nominee of creative nonfiction, fiction, essays, and plays. Her work has been published in more than forty five national and regional publications where she’s written on topics ranging from the arts and home decor to business and health issues. She has also written extensively about the Holocaust; her article of survivor interviews is included in the archives at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
As a playwright, Lori’s work has been performed on six regional stages and has included drama, children’s musicals/plays, and comedic sketches. Her short fiction has appeared in various print and online literary journals both in the United States and abroad. She teaches writing workshops, is a part-time professor of writing at York College of Pennsylvania, and is Senior Interviews Editor for Hippocampus Magazine http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com where she has interviewed many noted authors. Lori holds a MA in creative writing from Wilkes University.
By using a touch of humor or a dash of poignancy, Lori enjoys discovering and writing about what makes people tick. She likes getting under the skin and to the core of her subjects, many of whom have remarked during interviews “Gee, I never thought about THAT!” She encourages students in her writing workshops to use those same insights in their non-fiction and fiction work.
Bronx-born and New Jersey-raised, Lori now lives in Pennsylvania.