Writing Particulars

My favorite corner at my weekend writing spot—which I’ve started to use a couple mornings a week, too—it’s been compromised. My corner has been taken over by a new member. The corner is made of two desks away from the wall of windows, so it’s nice and dim. The two desks face in opposite directions, so though you may be sitting close to another writer, you have your backs to each other, so it feels more private than it sounds. I love writing in the dark, or in some semblance of it, so I like sitting there. But this new person has dragged a standing lamp over there and turns it on full-blast, completely illuminating the two desks—including the one she’s not sitting at. I’m afraid she’s going to be here again this morning so I’ve chosen to sit somewhere else.

I was outlining in my head all the things I could say to her: “Do you really need that lamp?” (There’s already a lamp on the desk.) “Are you trying to blind me?” “I was here first!” “Could you please move somewhere else?” But confrontation stresses me out, and I find myself wanting to avoid the whole issue by sitting in a new place on the off-chance she even shows up this morning.

I am so. very. passive. It annoys me.

I’ll probably sit in my favorite spot on Saturday, so I’ll have to nicely, sweetly, pathetically say something to her then. I’ll avoid it until the weekend, until the moment she returns and switches on that lamp.

Light is one of my biggest issues. I can sit writing in the middle of a café with noise all around me, just as long as there isn’t a bright light on me or my computer screen. I feel more creative in the dark, so much so that I long to be a night writer so I could make use of it. Sometimes I write with a black scarf pulled over my head—that must look strange.

In public, I must sit with my back to a wall.

I can’t write with any proximity to a television set, even if it’s off.

I can’t write in places that have been tainted by work—I could not close my door during lunch and write in my office. I can’t have day-job thoughts invading my page.

So, how about you… What sets you off? Where can you write and where can’t you? And, now that I have you here, what should I say to the writer with the big bright lamp?!

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12 responses to “Writing Particulars”

  1. This past month or so I can’t write ANYWHERE so I am not very helpful or interesting there. I’d suggest that you ask her to move the lamp further away from your desk – is that possible? It’s OK to sort-of lie and say you have sensitive eyes, implying that it’s a medical issue.


  2. I can’t write anywhere near my husband. My entire brain transitions so that I forget my novel and my writing and only think and care about HIM and what he says. The bad side to being in love, I guess.

    I’d just be frank with the BBL writer. You know, something like, “Hi. I don’t know if you know, but this has been my regular writing seat for the past year. I really like sitting here and I think we could both sit here and get work done…but I really can’t write with the lamp. I wwas wondering if you could move it?”

    But then again, that would only happen on a Perfect Day–you know, when I am feeling pretty and I feel confident and well liked and everything’s going well and I don’t feel bad and if the writer with the BBL is mean to me or rejects me I know I’ll still be okay because it’s been an otherwise Perfect Day.

    On anything but a Perfect Day I’d probably slink around and try to find another place to sit and blog about it. 🙂


  3. I can’t hear any words when I write. If I’m in a coffee shop I generally blast the Twin Peaks soundtrack or something similar on my headphones as loudly as possible just to avoid hearing some inane conversation about a fight that started on facebook. This includes not being able to listen to music with words: everything has to be instrumental.

    I also write much more easily if I am in a coffee shop setting. Writing at home or at work is surprisingly difficult.

    I also have this irritating conundrum where I need to be connected to the internet in order to use my reference tools, yet the internet is the playground for procrastination.

    Nice blog, by the way. I can dig it.


  4. I writer standing at the bar in our apartment- if I sit on the barstool it aggravates my lower-back pain, Mebbe a compacted disc? I dunno.

    I also write on the company computer on teh Loading Dock. And sometimes at Cassy’s dining room table. Those are the three places I have written in the past year.


  5. I have discovered that I like writing in unofficial places, potential places, places that are not yet what they will become.

    I discovered this about myself by accident. I was working for a cultural center during a major renovation that added a three story art gallery to the facility. It was late. All was quiet, and I was looking for a place to write that would be away from the rest of the staff. I entered the new gallery space, still empty and new. I placed my laptop on a folding table, made myself as comfortable as I could on a crate. There in that dark, empty room my imagination kicked into high gear and a dangerous story story took shape. That was the night I became a horror writer.


  6. For a long time, I thought I wasn’t picky about this…I am really good at denial. I always need a beverage at my side so I can’t use it as an excuse to get up. If I’m not at home, my phone HAS to be on the table, otherwise I sit there and think about what time it is, is it ringing, etc. If I’m not with my occasional writing buddy, I absolutely need my iPod. I have various little tricks that provoke various types of writing, but those are some of the basics.

    As for the writer with the light — is there any way to place the light so that it only blasts on the other desk? If it were me (and I could easily see that), I’d start with that question — explaining that I chose the desk I did a while ago because I find bright light too distracting. (I also like the sensitive eye excuse up there!)

    If the lamp junkie is like 98% of the writers I’ve met, she’ll be so apologetic that you might find yourself backing off…resist that temptation. If she’s a jerk, well, at least you don’t have to feel badly about it.


  7. I think you need to kill the lamp lady with kindness. Something like “I’m terribly sorry, but that bright lamp is really hurting my eyes. Would you mind turning it so it’s just on your desk? Thank so you so much, I really appreciate it.” You get the idea. In my experience, if you are overly nice and polite people don’t feel like they can refuse.


  8. That strikes me as rude on the lamp person’s part. It illuminates TWO desks?! That just seems really… inconsiderate.

    I can’t write with the television on & I can’t write without my headphones on, playing music (they lock me in). Other than that, I’m good to go.


  9. Thanks, everyone, for the advice. I am nervously awaiting this weekend’s confrontation. I have to say something.

    It’s a lamp like this:

    So you can’t really point it at once place. When it’s on it brightly lights up everything around it.


  10. I generally write in my geek room (which is really just a home office filled with lots of silly things). Sometimes, when stuck, I’ll write in restaurants and coffee shops because I find being in a crowd helps kick start my brain.

    Revising is a different story. I have to be at the local library and I have to be by the window.


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