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THE LABORATORYPosted Friday, April 22, 2011, at 10:48 AM
Every mad scientist - um, author - needs a laboratory. Your workspace. Where you do all that important thinking, plotting and creating. It might be an office in your home, a partitioned-off corner of the family room, or a table at your neighborhood coffee shop. Where you work doesn't matter so much as that it's comfortable and offers you a reasonable amount of privacy. If you're a busy parent, that may be a luxury yet out of reach. In that case you might have to get up every morning an hour before the family does, to find that precious time for yourself and your writing. It can be done.
My first couple of books were written in a spiral notebook in longhand, often sitting at the kitchen table while supper burned - I mean cooked - on the stove. I made it work because the compulsion to write was so strong and all those stories swirling around in my head needed to get out. I now have a home office, a separate office in town, and a laptap that makes it easy to take my work with me. I no longer have children underfoot, but there are three dogs who always seem to need me for something. Plus the laundry beckons and the window over my desk constantly steals my attention.
Did I say privacy? I guess that depends on how well you're able to block out surrounding distractions.
J. K. Rowling famously wrote portions of her first Harry Potter book at a cafe near her home in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her small child in a stroller beside her. Stephen King wrote in the furnace room of the trailer he lived in, his portable typewriter balanced on his knees. George Bernard Shaw had his own private "writing shed" in his back yard (about the size of a large bathroom) that he called "London" so his family wouldn't be lying when they said he'd "gone to London."
Speaking of distractions, I received an email this week asking about writer's block. Do I ever get it? And what's the cure? I'll tell you what I told her: On the rare occasions when I get writer's block, it's because I let the view from the window distract me or my mind wandered because we're having guests over later and I need to vacuum. Or because I'm in a public place with my laptop and there's just too much activity going on around me. When my mind doesn't want to stay on my writing, I become frozen, unable to move forward.
My cure for writer's block is simple: I write in longhand. There's something organic about that mind-to-hand-to-pen connection that transcends the limitations of the keyboard. Typing is faster, sure, but writing in longhand is magical; the writer has time to think, and the words that flow onto the page have a special beauty and poetry to them.
You need a place of your own in which to create, but that doesn't mean you should limit yourself to only that space. Inspiration can strike anywhere, and you must remain open to the process.
Your creature will thank you.
"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Virginia Woolf
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Jean Tennant has been writing professionally for more than 30 years. Beginning with short stories, newspaper and magazine articles, she eventually branched out to full-length work, with several novels published by Warner Books, Kensington and Silhouette. Now the owner of Shapato Publishing, LLC, in Everly, Iowa, she teaches writers' workshops throughout the Midwest, for which her schedule can be seen at: www.jeantennant.com. Jean lives in Everly with her husband, Grover Reiser, and their dogs, Kirby and Dakota. Favorite quote: "Outside of a dog, man's best friend is a book. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx.