Last week I had the privilege of speaking to 100 eighth-graders about the process of writing a book. They had great questions about vetting quotes and sources, working with an editor, tackling revisions – and the most well-timed question: “What do you do when you’re stuck?” Last week, I myself was helplessly stuck…not about what to write, but rather where to write. Very affected by my environs (okay, let’s call it what it is: high maintenance), I found myself moving all over the house with my laptop trying to locate comfortable space that would inspire me over the next few months. The cavernous third-floor space (the so-called Imaginarium) had been ideal for brainstorming, but with three tiny, high dormer windows, there was little natural light and it felt too big, secluded and remote. And much as I love my first-floor home office, it’s got a cold, dark northern exposure, it’s in the front of the house so I get distracted by the cars and trucks that go up and down Sprucewood Lane, and it’s essentially the nerve center of the house, so it has visual reminders of everything else I need to do – bills I need to pay, field trip slips I need to sign, gifts I need to buy, invitations I need to respond to, grocery shopping lists, calls to return – you get the idea. Plus it’s right near the front door, so the male Reisers feel no compunction about popping in and visiting whenever they come in the front door, go to or from the kitchen, or up or down the front stairs.
Two weekends ago when I was working on the preface, I decided to hibernate in my quiet bedroom and climb onto my comfy bed with my laptop – and miraculously that’s where I crafted the bulk of the chapter. I loved being in an uncluttered space, with big windows overlooking my snowy backyard; a sophisticated, soothing icy gray-blue on the walls, warm lighting…and, oh yeah, a fireplace to boot. It was a happy space, and I felt quite prolific and productive. Only problem was, I didn’t exactly think it would be a capital idea to write a whole book from bed. Might be especially awkward and creepy the days my housekeeper was here.
And so I wandered from room to room with my laptop last week, searching for the ideal place to set up shop until it finally dawned on me: the useless sitting room off the master bedroom! We had thrown my Nana’s white sectional sofa in there when we moved in – because it fit – but we never, ever went in there. Actually I take that back. Last winter when I spent weeks sorting through cartons of photos my dad had given me, I sat on the floor in there and made piles that I knew would never be touched or toppled because no one ever used the room. Brill! It’s the perfect size, it’s got the same lovely carpet as my bedroom, it has a triple window with a southwestern exposure, and it’s not on anyone’s way to anywhere else in the house.
So late last week, we moved much of the pretty new furniture from the third floor downstairs into my new writing space, including the desk, three tables, a club chair and the ginormous cork board, which looks superb on the long wall across from the window. We moved my iMac upstairs from my home office, and Saturday and Sunday I sat down at the desk and Chapter One just flowed. Goldilocks has found her writing home. Now if only I could arrange for fresh flowers to be delivered every week for the coffee table…HA! (I’ll have to put that in a rider for my next book contract!)
Ironically, I had mentioned to those eighth-graders in my introduction how important it is to write in a comfortable, inspiring space with no distractions. Turns out I just needed to follow to my own advice.
This week: working on profiles for Chapter Two based on interviews we conducted with two fascinating characters over the past couple of weeks. Enjoying every minute of it – especially since we had a service transcribe the latest interview for us. Whew! The other thing I worked on for a while yesterday was a synonym list for the word, “says.” It’s one of the most frequently used words in these profiles because I include a lot of direct quotes, and I’m not a fan of the word; I’d rather find something more expressive. “So now I can consult my handy-dandy list and select just the right synonym,” she explains.
And now the only thing distracting me is the cast album from the musical Hair, which is perpetually playing in my head. Today’s selection: “Breathe deep…while you sleep, breathe deep! Deep! Deep-de-deep!” This too, hopefully, shall pass!