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Where You Write, Where You Dream

June 6, 2012

A couple weekends ago, during the long Memorial Day holiday weekend, Dear Wife, Little B.T., Shasta Dog and I all packed in the family car and took a trip.  We went to place we’ve been often, a wondeful hideaway in the nearby Nantahala National Forest in the southeastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It’s a frequent retreat of ours, and one we love deeply.

I didn’t do any writing while we were away.  Circumstances worked out that I wasn’t able to – although I did do plenty of reading.  Mostly this little family trip was about relaxing and enjoying our time together.  And for me, there is very little more relaxing, little more enjoyable, and little more soul-enriching than time in the mountain forests.  Up there, on top of the world, everything feels clean and fresh.  The sky is bluer.  The sun more friendly.  The trees breathe with a vibrant life, and you feel connected to everything.  The views and vistas are inspirational – the blue mountains rising all around you, the wildflowers in the forest clearings, the cultivated flowers in the gardens, the trees swaying gently in the breeze.

I always just feel more alive when I’m up in the mountains.  I’m lucky that my Dear Wife feels much the same way.  Shasta has always loved our excursions to the mountains, and it looks like Little B.T. is developing a similar fondness.  In all my fond dreams and hopes for the future, this is what life looks like: a family-supporting writing gig living up in the mountains.  I mean, there are a lot of ammenities associated with living near the city, near civilization.  So maybe not living up their full-time.  But for significant chunks of the year.

So Dear Wife got to talking and thinking about it, as we often do, and dreaming about it.  We ask each other a lot about what our ideal this or our ideal that would be.  Even though this particular trip didn’t involve writing, it resulted in us talking about what my ideal writing environment would be.

So while I realized that, in practical terms, I couldn’t live cut off from civilization full-time, at least not at this time in my life, the mountain and forest environment inflects my vision of the ideal writing space pretty strongly.  In my idealized vision of my writing space, I have a small-to-moderate sized office.  There are bookshelves (filled with my own books, of course, as well as my favorites and the best of others in my genre, and the like), and places to store various knick-knacks and bric-a-brac that are evocative of the sort of fantasy and speculative fiction I write.  Maybe a sword on the wall, you know, or a shield or a family crest, things like that.  I have my desk, and ample storage for my notes and doodles and drawings and art and everything associated with my work.  On the desk there’s not just my computer/implement-to-commit-writing, but space to draw, doodle, or commit art as well.  I’m not a true artist – art and drawing is more of a hobby, really – but drawing and doodling and such makes up a part of my writing process.

And never more than a head-turn away would be a window with a view out onto that mountain forest world I described above.  Because that is my deep connection to the fantastic.  And on a moment’s whim I can be out there, strolling the mountain paths, taking a picture of something that piques my inspiration and curiosity, or drawing a sketch of a some vista or scene.  In the evenings, after the sun has gone down, I’d take a stroll outside in the early dark to walk among the fireflies.  For my money, there are few experiences in life more magical than being surrounded by fireflies in the dark.

And then, just as quickly, I could be back, traveling from one fantasy world to another – whether reading, writing, or experiencing the fantasy of mountain life.

That’s my ideal.

What does your ideal writing space look like – or, if you’re not a writer, what does your ideal personal space (for whatever purpose you’ve reserved it) look like?

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2012 9:23 am

    Wow, Stephen, you’ve set the bar pretty high there. 🙂

    My ideal writing space looks quite similar. In fact, my ideal LIVING situation would be as follows: Live in an apartment in the city during the week, and on the weekends, or evenings, or holidays, stay at a small cabin on a lake where I can write in fair seclusion. That way, like you said, I have the convenience and energy of a city while I’m working, but while I have some time to spend, have the placidity and calmness of a lake so I can focus.

    As far as an office, I wouldn’t mind a table and chair by the dock. I’ve never been that good at organizing creative material, so I wouldn’t readily commit to having a desk with compartments for different projects. 🙂

    • June 6, 2012 12:05 pm

      Well, I figure everyone’s got their own tastes and preferences, so I didn’t think of this as setting a bar. Just my own idealized writing world. For instance, if I’m talking ideals, I wouldn’t go with an apartment in the city. I’d still have a free-standing home close-in to the city.

  2. June 6, 2012 4:01 pm

    About two years ago, I took a job that allows me to work from home full time, so this sort of thing has been on my mind a lot. I now have the freedom to live wherever I want. Except that we’re deeply upside down in our mortgage, thanks to the lovely economy. The only up side is that my wife and I have had a lot of time to think about what we want to do next.

    I love homes with a sense of history, a sense of hearkening back to an older time. It ties into that sense of wonder that I love in fantasy and that I hope to bring to my own fiction. My ideal home is one built around the turn of the 20th century, with red or yellow brick, gables, transoms, wood floors, and all that, or maybe a farm house with clapboard siding and lots of built in storage. I’d want a spacious yard with big trees and a barn or a cabin where I could set up a quiet little office for those times when I need to focus but don’t want to be too far away from my family. I want to have majestic mountain views, because that really inspires me, but I also want to be part of a community so I don’t feel too isolated. Perhaps a small town in a wide valley with lots of open space and nearby farms and mountains towering nearby. Perfect example:

    My office itself wouldn’t need to be anything special, although it would be nice to have a window with a peaceful view. I’m picky about my desk, though. I have long legs and can’t stand those desks with backs that prevent me from stretching out my legs. For the same reason, I don’t like putting my desk against a wall. Just give me a small table with four legs at the corners so they don’t get in my way. Maybe a filing cabinet or something with a few drawers so I can keep things tidy.

    It’s nice to be able to dream.

    • June 6, 2012 4:37 pm

      It is nice to dream. (I think dreaming is one of the ways we sustain ourselves from day to day.) Your ideal sounds pretty wonderful to me. I too, often get annoyed at confining spaces beneath a desk. Hmm. Something to think about as I consider my ideal space, and maybe someday plan for a real (non-living-room-couch) writing space.

  3. June 6, 2012 4:28 pm

    I’ll take your ideal writing place any day. Sounds heavenly. I have a small office in my home with a window that looks out over my tiny rose garden. In the back of my chair is a jeweler’s bench where I create in metals and stone. I like it here, but I find that I need to get out and find other places to write to break things up. One of these days I’ll pack up my trailer and go to the mountains for the weekend. I am feeling inspired.

    • June 6, 2012 4:35 pm

      I don’t suppose you’d mind sharing more about your jeweler’s bench, etc. My wife is looking at getting into jewelry-making for fun and/or profit. Anyway she’s excited about metal-stamping. As for the writing space… at least you have a window overlooking a garden. 🙂 Right now, in the real world, my writing space is the living room couch. Ergonomically, aesthetically, and inspirationally it’s less-than-ideal. But yeah, a trip up to the mountains is pretty much definition of a refreshing and inspiring get-away.

      • June 6, 2012 5:09 pm

        I’ve been an artisan jeweler for 16 years. I have a circuit of large scale events that I sell at throughout the year, although this year, due to the economy and health reasons, I’ve scaled back my event circuit to the bare bones. I’m spending more time these days writing. I bought a used jeweler’s bench from a retiring jeweler six or seven years ago so I’d have a sturdy surface to hammer metal on, a place for my pin when sawing, and to secure my various bracelet/necklace anvils, and it is a handy place to store tools. My jeweler’s studio is not as fancy or well equipped as other artists perhaps, but I find that I am comfortable working here. If your wife is into stamping metal, all she needs are the right type of hammers, fun metal stamps and a few things like a dapping block set, small flat anvil/bench block and a place where she can make noise to her heart’s content. A full bench is not required.

  4. June 6, 2012 9:47 pm

    You paint a beautiful picture. I grew up in the Rockies of northern New Mexico and I miss them greatly now that I am not only in the city but also in the South where mountains are rather rare. But, like you, I can no longer envision myself too far from the amenities and resources of a city. My ideal space is a small, single room home in the middle of a garden, some distance from the main house. Preferably a Japanese garden with pond and bridge, nearby trees shading the home itself.. During spring and summer months, open doors and windows would allow the breeze to flow through. The home itself would have nothing more than a single bed, a small desk to work at, an end table, and a shelf with a few, choice, old books.

    • June 7, 2012 8:51 am

      Well, yes, in the South mountains like the ones those of us who spent much time in our childhood out West are rather hard to come by. But I’ve found that the Appalachians are good enough to meet my needs. So if you live down here, I think it is possible to stay near a city and also have nearby access to mountains.

      • June 12, 2012 12:23 pm

        Need to add those to my list of places to visit.

  5. June 7, 2012 12:10 am

    Alright, dream muscles: Whisk me somewhere idyllic…

    I’d want variety. A grand estate with sundry bits.
    A small forest (or something aspiring to forest-hood) to be my private Sherwood.
    A secluded, rocky duned beach — on lake or sea, it matters not.
    Marshland. I’d love a dock stretching out into a marsh, among the reeds and cattails and dragonflies (that had better not fly too near me) and bird- and frogsong, etc.
    And as for the house… oh, I hardly know. A soaring library (think Beast’s gift to Belle) with tall, spiraling stairs. A cozy den complete with some fictional sweetheart to cuddle against. A bright, roomy kitchen. A loft with a view of…mm, make it the lake/sea; such a view is ever-changing, depending on what the sky is up to, and ever-gorgeous, too.

    There. I’d say it’s too wonderful a place to live to write in, but if I stay there long enough, not writing isn’t an option, so it’d get done. Argh, you’ve got me wistful now…

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