Making the "Write Space"

Sinead MacDughlas

I’ll ask your forgiveness in advance, as I’m about to commit a contextomy. Virginia Woolf stated “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”  Taking this excerpt of Woolf’s famous essay literally, as many do, my question is; what do you do if you have neither income, nor space?


While I’m blessed to be able to stay at home with my two children, as my husband works two jobs to keep the expenses paid, I have no income of my own. Our home is cozy but small, making it a challenge to find the space to write. Our dining set is not conducive to extended periods of sitting, and there’s no room to set up a writer’s haven in any of the bedrooms. As such, I’m limited to the living room. Most evenings find me sitting on the sofa, feet up, with my laptop balanced on my lap.
Until the rest of the family is firmly tucked into bed, I cannot write. Experience has taught me that writing with a two year old and a three year old climbing me like a jungle-gym is impossible. Concentration isn’t any easier to achieve when the children have gone to bed and my husband reclaims control of the television, to watch sitcoms or sports. I use the daylight hours to surf the net; socializing, networking and research. My writing day usually begins at 10 p.m.
If I’ve finished the laundry before my two little ones have gone to bed, there won’t be piles of folded laundry teetering from the back of the couch. I don’t always get the obstacle course of toys cleared from the floor before I settle in to a writing jag. As I don’t own a coffee table, I usually pull my son’s Fisher Price© Garage to the side of the sofa to rest my coffee on. The back of the couch is where I balance the case for my laptop, in which I store a pad of writing paper, several pens and pencils, my mp3 player, my kindle and other assorted writing tools, to keep them close at hand.
I’m sure I’m not the only writer with such obstacles to overcome. Few aspiring writers or new authors can afford to set up a full office dedicated to their craft. So how do others arrange their writing spaces? I asked a few fellow writers where they do their best composing. Their answers were as varied as their personalities.


“Being as it may that I am low on funds and am isolated in a small, remote village, I dont get to go many places to write. The best I can do is have my laptop open ready on my bedside table, next to my bed. I would love it if one day I got the chance/oppurtunity to go to a writers retreat, though.” – Jamie Sullivan, author of The Venom of Enigma.


“I have an office which is mostly glass and looks out on my back garden – I often watch our bevy of cats cavorting in ours and neighbour’s gardens, plus when it rains the noise when it hits the roof, be it gentle or thunderous, is meditative and calming… this is the nerve-centre of my ’empire’, whether it’s my writing or the editing or the publishing, as well as the painting and drawing… “ – Simon Marshall-Jones, Owner/Editor/Publisher at Spectral Press.


“I sit in my overstuffed leather chair and matching ottoman with pillows at my back, wrapped in a small quilt my Mama made my 23 yr old son, Mac on my lap, purse and junk on the back of my chair. I have a coffee table to my right with all my ‘stuff’ on my corner, within arms-reach. A corner fan on, a dog on either side of me on the floor, no tv, no radio; only the sound a passing vehicle here and there. Very peaceful and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” – Ressa Empbra, author of the upcoming novel The Dragon Dimension ~ Caught in the Dragon Cove.


“I have 6ft long desk with all of my reference books lined up along the back edge. I have a dry erase board, that I use for laying out my storyboard, hanging on the wall beside me. Everything I need from pencils to paperclips are in containers that line the side edge of my desk. It’s my own little cubicle and I love it.” – Sheriden Kerr, author of the upcoming novel The Daughters of Krelis.


“I have my own studio with art supplies on one side and a desk on the other with my lap top on it. However, when I write, I take the lap top into the living room, boot my cat out of my husband’s favorite chair, and that’s where I write.” Janice Leotti, author of The Prop.


Perhaps I’m selfish, being reassured by some other’s lack of a “proper” office. However, I believe the advent of the laptop, the tablet and wi-fi, have certainly made it easier for those of us with limited options, to construct a creative space. Perhaps we replace the structure of a physical working space with routine.
Like professional baseball pitchers setting up for the throw; many of us make our adjustments, check all our bases, get a good grip, wind up, and go for it.
I know I couldn’t possibly begin working until I’ve checked to be certain every member of my family, including the cat, is sleeping comfortably. Then I prepare a snack I may, or may not, nibble on sometime in the next two hours. My cup of coffee is steaming and sitting on its toy-garage throne. The power cord must be double-checked to ensure the laptop won’t shut-down if I get “in the zone”. Once I’ve listened to a song or two on the mp3 player, (to set the mood for a scene), I can finally begin…as long as no notifications pop up on Facebook…or Twitter…or Google +…or Hotmail.


“I do have a ritual. I get up at 6am, without fail and without an alarm clock, go to the gas station/conv store and get one of those 32oz drinks (Mountain Dew!), cigs, aspirins (Goody Powders – it’s a Southern thing). As long as I have those three things on my desk, I can write. If I run out of one or the other, it blows my concentration… And the drive wakes up the muse. I call my van “The Magic Bus” because if I’m ever stuck, driving that van around the block seems to work wonders.” – Astrea Baldwin, author of An Ordinary World


“I write every single day and I give myself enough time to complete a chapter in one sitting…I usually shut off my phone, I make sure that I’m not sitting on facebook and I announce that I am writing, to avoid calls and what not. I also, (in the beginning), purchased a dry erase board to list my characters on. Even small details such as eye color… Also, for me I usually make it a point to take a trip somewhere, sometimes I write in different places… Other prepping I do may include a nice cocktail, to relax and I wear comfy clothes. No shoes or socks and I like to play music while I write…All and all I have to say my prepping is ritual now…I also like to wear my devil horns sometimes and it makes me more sassy than I already am. Lol” – Rue Volley author of Rue Volley Blood & Light Series.


Perhaps the “write space” has become more of a routine and a state of mind, than a physical place. Author Brent Allard, (published in the anthology Grindbone), has, “Mostly (a) mental space. I need to see that any looming phone calls and such are taken care of first. I have a writing desk, but I travel a lot so (I’m) usually lying around with my laptop plugged in.”


Aspiring author Cassandra M Griffin says, “It really doesn’t matter where I write, as long as I have a pen and paper. As soon as the ink seeps into the page, I’m transported to where I need to be.”


Many modern writers are leaving the traditional desk and chair behind. Where, or what, is your writing space?

Find Sinead and the other IWA Members on our Members Page

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4 thoughts on “Making the "Write Space"

  1. Elizabeth

    Great article! My “office” is not traditional at all. Like you there just isn’t enough space in our house for an actual office. So my workspace is actually me on my bed with my laptop propped up on my legs, my Music player playing my playlist for which ever story I’m working on, a drink and snack close at hand along with all of my notes. I hope one day to have an actual office that I can work out of, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. For now this works for me.

  2. Pingback: Space. | RandomThot by Dray

  3. Andraya

    Thanks for such a great post! I definitely agree that “write space” is partly a state of mind. With most of our household in college (parents, my sister, and I), the little one, with all her 8-year old energy makes sure that there is something on my mind no matter what. If it isn’t the laundry piled on the couch, then it is the tea set I tripped over, etc. In order for me to write (which I do mostly at the kitchen table), I must clear away all the clutter. A single paperclip out of place needs to be chastised.
    Of course, it is rare that I can make all the clutter, laundry, toys, and dishes disappear, but once I clear off the table, I am good to go. A steaming cup of coffee or hot chocolate, a pack of gum (to get the creative juices flowing), and good lighting are all I need then… And perhaps some quiet. 😉
    To all the writers out there who have neither space nor money, press on! Someday your “write space” will emerge, and hopefully the money will trickle in.

  4. Ressa

    Sinead: Thanx for quoting me in your ever-lovely article.

    What a difference we all make, don’t you think? Rituals, routines, or whatever you name your own ‘deal,’ are what transports us into our ‘comfy-zone,’ and rattles our Muse’s cage. I am truly blessed to have the space, freedom, and time to write to my heart’s content.

    It always intrigues me how everyone, doing virtually the same thing, does it so differently, hoping we’ll all (God-willing) get the same end results; amazing, well-forged relationship with so many wonderful, talented, fellow-writers, and even better, a great following of awesome fans who, again (God-willing) will be loyal throughout our writing careers…

    Thank you, Sinead, again, for quoting me and sharing this well-written article, and for giving us a peek into the style of a few other writers.

    Brava!! *smiles*


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