Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wide Open Desktops

At home, I have an office. It's my very own space. My files spill from the black metal drawers; cardboard boxes and stacks of paper litter the desk and floor; books cram the shelves. I feel fortunate to have a nook I can call my own--cinderblock walls, pockmarked drop ceiling, buckling linoleum floor and all.

Truly, I'm grateful. It's just that I never write in there. In fact, I never go in there if I can help it. I write on my laptop, in a chair in the middle of everything--in my living room.

My office has become a time-out place, a "get me out of here, NOW" zone. The tiny room seems more like a hall, a breezeway--if only there were a breeze--between the children's former playroom, now morphed into a saggy-couched entertainment center, and my husband's office.

His office? My husband's mother gave him an apt nickname: kudzu. Last night, when I was trying to squeeze past the flight attendant who was pushing the dinner cart down the economy aisle, I said to myself, this experience reminds me of something. What? Ah, yes. Trying to get around in my husband's office.

Every day some of kudzu's stuff migrates into my space.

Here, in a hotel in Doha, Qatar, I have a curvy wooden desk holding only the books and the one manilla file I brought with me. Nobody passes through. Nothing piles up. All I hear is the hum of the airconditioning. I could get a lot of writing done here.

But I could at home too. In a tiny corner of his house, Paul Silvia wrote How to Write A Lot. The book features a workplace photo--desk, lamp, laptop, trash can. Period. Kind of like my photo above. His modest setup proves, he tells us in no uncertain terms, that we don't need retreats or fancy office digs in order to write, that complaining about our space, or lack of it, is just another excuse for not writing.

In my dreams I'm writing at a clear-surfaced home office desk--the room clean and quiet. Right now, awake, nothing trumps a hotel.


Nasser said...

Hi...I came accross your website via Maryam's blog read her post about the writing workshops here in Qatar in which you took part in and I myself would have liked to attend had I known about it since I think my writing needs to question is, I often feel like I have so much to write about, but don't know how to put my thoughts into words. It never really comes accross the way I want it and I struggle to express do I go about overcoming this? I know it helps to write as much as possible, and I've read on Maryam's blog that I should write about 15 minutes everyday to help sractice, but I struggle to do even that...I have seen other people who write effortlessly with such ease and I think maybe writing isn't something everyone can be better at,...that only some people are meant to be writers? would really appreciate your feedback..

Carol Henderson said...

Hi Nasser:

Most excellent writers struggle a lot to get their writing to sing--to express well what they are trying to say. Writing is not easy. Yes there are those for whom it seems effortless, but those people are rare. If you look at all the drafts many good writers produce to try to get their work right, you will feel better.
And I agree with Maryam that practice is essential. Give yourself different things to write about each day--a snatch of overheard conversation, a moment from your life. Or just start writing. What is in front of me? Answer that question on the page.
I hope to be back to Doha in January. Maybe you can take one of my workshops. You will write a lot if you do!

Nasser said...

Thank you Carol for the reply. I would love to go to attend your fact I wish I didn't have to wait till January! lol
Thing is, I find that there are so many things that I've been through in my life that I wished I had documented in a journal...even things that happen to me now...but I never write it down as much as I ponder about it because I feel defeated, like there's no point, it doesn't come out...and I hate that, because I do have something to say, and I would like to share it...hopefully I'll achieve my goal, I would really like for this to change, as muchas I feel like I can't...

Carol Henderson said...

It's important to just start now. The act of writing is itself a process of revelation and meaning unfolds as you write. So those questions about writing: why bother to write? get answered by doing the writing. Even if no one but you were ever to read your writing, you would still learn from having done it. Writing is a process that reveals truths, opens memory, and informs the heart.