Your Writing Space
my writing space needs to be quiet. I look in amazement at people who go off to Starbucks or Pete's and right. Um, but maybe it's kind of a white noise situation. I don't even like I'm a little bit funny about this. I don't even really want somebody in the house. My dog. Yes, but nobody else. Um, when I'm working, um, that's more possible now than it used to be when I when I had kids at home. Um, I don't have a very fancy writing space. I don't even really like a fancy writing space. I want a window and I want quiet, and I believe in treating myself really well. I'm going to have just a good chair and a good window and a nice smelling candle. And, um, there's no way that I can take away, um, or diminish the hardship of going into the story, but everything that I can make Nice. I will. And I dio, um I'm one of the things that I think is really important. Nobody talks about this, um, is exercise, you know, writers there sometimes a pretty unhealthy bunch. And I'm just gonna be a little b...
it of a standard bearer for being a healthy writer. I don't believe it's a good idea to sit in a chair for eight hours a day. One of the ways you can solve this is to stand at a desk to have a standing up desk. Actually, in Guatemala I have an ironing board that I put my laptop on and I don't iron. Believe me, I haven't done that in years, but, um, but it just engages your muscles and you don't You don't just sort of drift off into this kind of apathy. You you are fully engaged. Maybe this is partly because I have no sport but writing. So So this is my sport, and one of the things that I do is leave my desk and move Andi. I'm sure it's a good thing for our brain to do it. It doesn't mean it ceases to be my writing day, but I'm thinking about my work as I hike or as I swim or as I fold the laundry. It doesn't work to do it as I shop, you know, it really needs to be a very solitary endeavor. Um, and it doesn't look particularly impressive, which is one of the dangers here. Do people have a hard time sort of carving out the time and having people take you seriously? When you say you're writing, you know your home, you're the one who can pick up their kids or, you know, drive them to the airport. You're available, your Onley writing, that's all. Uh, you don't have a uniformed toe where you don't have, ah vehicle to drive. You're you're just sitting there at home, and nobody is going to make those boundaries around your time. But you you have to claim it. One of the first things you need to do is believe yourself that what you do is important. If you don't believe it, why will anybody else respect it? You have to respect your time. Many people have a hard time. You know, I said how difficult it was for me to say the word wife. Many people have a hard time saying the word writer used toe applied to themselves, or they'll very quickly say, Well, I haven't published anything. I don't have an agent. Those air, not my measures of whether you are a writer. If you commit to the work If you commit to this hard work and you dedicate yourself to telling the story in the way that we've been talking about all day here, you can call yourself a writer and you could tell other people that you're writing and make sure that they respect that. And they know that that is every bit as important. They're probably not likely Thio interrupt your If you said you know I'm going to the gym, they're not going to say Oh, well, no, why don't you not do that? But, you know, um, go cook me a meal instead. But you're a writer. Take it as seriously as all the other things that you do and take it as seriously as you take all the other things that the people that you love do started my day. I make my coffee. I often play music. I don't I cannot play music while I'm writing. I can't do that. I didn't even want music playing in the studio when I was thinking, because music really distracts me. But maybe I like music too much, so I really listened to the music. But before I write, I listen to music almost every day and I create a playlist. This is my own little thing. I create a playlist for the particular book I'm writing. Um, and sometimes, um, if I'm writing a novel, I'll create a playlist for a character. Um, for the best of us, Um, you can actually hear the playlist for the best of us because I put it up on Spotify. It's a bunch of riel heartbreak songs, but also falling in love songs. Um, there was a novel that I wrote. Uh huh. A couple books back that was involved. A teenage girl in the summer of 1979 is pretty dark. Novel involves a killer on the loose and a couple of teenage girls who decide Thio catch him by using themselves as bait. Summer of 1979. Teenage Girls. First thing I did was Google. What? The top hit waas of the summer of 1979. Anybody know my Sharona? I played my Sharona probably 500 times. If anybody I mean more than that. If anybody had been living in my house that summer, they would have gone crazy. I played and actually I have to tell you this story that has nothing to do with helping you, right? But I just It's just such a such a miracle. Miraculously, Torrey, I put my Sharona. It was exactly the right tone for that novel because it was this kind of driving, pounding, somewhat ominous, very sexual song. My, my, my my Sharona. I could, of course, sing it for you. And I had the lyrics, little pieces of the lyrics all through the song, and my editor kept on saying to me, You've got to take my Sharona out because it would cost a whole lot of money to get the rights to quote my Sharona and I kept on putting off putting, putting off taking out my Sharona because my Sharona mattered so much to me in that in the in that novel, and I was down to the last day and I hadn't taken my Sharona out on. I had actually rented out my house for reasons I won't go into, um, I had to do with a sorry finances of writers, probably, but and the guy who had rented my house came and I asked him what he did for a living, and he said, I'm a musician and I said, Oh, really? What do you play? The bass and e said, You playing any bands? And he said, Well, um, I used to play with the knack. Uh, the author of My Sharona, Doug Fieger, had died in his arms a couple of, um uh, years before, and he called up Doug Fibers, Sister and my Sharona is in that book anyway, back to our story. Music music is really important to me. And if you're trying to convey a period of time or a mood, there's little that's better than music s o. I play the heck out of my soundtrack and then I turn it off and then I write in silence. But that music has gotten into my head often. I begin my writing day by re reading, Um, what I wrote the day before, and sometimes I read. I read it out loud. I don't I don't read the whole book because, you know, some people get really stuck and they go back and back and they can't move forward. They're always fixing. Does anybody have that problem? You're You're so attached to revising you don't move forward and you get so sick of what you've written. Move forward, but read a couple of pages of where you left off, um, and read it out loud. Um, I don't do a lot of reading of other people's books while I'm writing because I'm a kind of imitative person I pick up, you know, if I'm hanging around a friend who comes from Tennessee for more than a now, er, I'll start talking like her. Um, so I don't read people's novels, but I read poetry and I find books of poetry, and I keep books of poetry on my on my desk at all times, and they're they're short and the language is is very pure, and and and that's a regular source of inspiration for me. Um, I have a book. I guess I don't need the book anymore. This is all on the Internet now, but it's It's a book called The Chronicle of the 20th Century, and there's a page in it for every single day off of the 20th century. Of course, now it's out of date because we're well into the 21st. But I wanna know what were the movies, what were the clothes I want to And when you're writing memoir, those are triggers that will touch off memory. You know, the person who mentioned the Trapper Keeper? I hadn't heard the word trapper keeper for a long time, but it came back to me then, um, you your memories are all in you, but it is likely to help you to trigger some people find smells very powerful triggers. Um, if you watch a movie that you watch during a particular era of your life, certainly listen to music. Um, go to a place that triggers memory. Um, put yourself in situations where memory and feeling and and, um, uh, experiences where you experienced the story that you now want to tell. Put yourself back there. Sometimes it's painful to do that. I don't believe particularly in research. Um, some people, when they're writing a memoir, say, Well, I'm gonna call up my sister and have her, you know, tell me, Remind me what it was like, You know, back then and, um, or I'm going to ask my mother to, um, Thio remind me about you know, what I was like is a teenager. Well, we know Irene's mother is not going to give us. Ah, very complete picture of Irene. What we would get would be Irene's mother's picture of Irene. Um, and even your sister, as much as you may love her, is going to have her story, not yours. You know, um, years ago, I for many years I wrote a lot for magazines. Um, it's lucky that I've moved on to books because so few of the magazines that I used to write for even exist anymore. But one day, I I gave myself the assignment. I went to a magazine that usedto exist, called more, and I suggested my sister is also a writer. My older sister, Rhona, um, is a very fine writer in Canada. Also goes by the name Maynard. And I suggested that each of us be given the assignment off writing about being the sister to the other one. Um, I would write about Rhona. She would write about me. Um, we've had a complicated, difficult relationship as sisters. Um, uh, certainly love each other, but we've had periods where we didn't speak periods where we were very angry and very distant from each other s. So when the editor said, Well, one of the ground rules is you cannot consult with each other. Um, on these stories, that was no problem whatsoever, because months go by that we didn't do that. Anyway, we each wrote about the death of our mother. Mm, which was, in fact, the event that triggered ah, falling out that lasted several years. We each wrote about it. Each of our stories was scrupulously honest and completely different. We were two people who had grown up with the same parents with many of the same circumstances and responded in radically different ways. And there it was not that one of us was right, and one of us was wrong. We just There was my truth. And there was her truth. There was not the truth. So asking somebody else to tell you what happened is only going to give you their story. And likewise, um, you know, I do think that journals are could be a very helpful tool, but I've also seen people get really bogged down with their journals. They take out their journals, and it's a little bit like what happens when you start surfing the Internet and one thing leads to another, and before you know, it you've spent all day? Um, looking at you know what the stars of sixties television look like now or something? Um um so and ultimately, your journals, people would love it. And many people have tried to just, you know, paste in bits from their journals to their writing. But journal writing is not what we're talking about here. It's what you did to write to yourself. You didn't need to communicate to anybody else. So I would use the research in your own journals sparingly, Um, and same with letters. You know, you can get so tied up. So bogged down with the research. I've seen writers who spent years during the research for their book and not writing their book.