Peace, Please

23 Sep

DeskThe peaceful desk you see here is where I normally sit down to write.  

There are times, though, when I cannot focus for the life of me while at this desk, or anywhere at home.  I get wrapped up in life’s infinite to-do list, distracted by dishes, dirty clothes, and other necessary tasks that beckon my attention.  It certainly does not help that over the weekend, we adopted a second kitty.  His name is Dexter, and he’s the most adorable three-month-old bundle of fluff who chases my feet, swats my curls, and runs around the room with a worn workout sock dangling from his mouth.  Cute, yes.  Also?  A fun distraction!

When I get in these can’t-focus-funks, I head to Starbucks or La Madeleine.  The problem with this, though, is familiarity.  Not only am I on a first-name basis with every Starbucks employee, but they’re my friends, as well.  Plus, it’s hard to focus when five chatty businesspeople take the seat right beside you – seriously, two feet away – even though it’s plain you’re trying to concentrate.

One day last week, I ended up writing 1,500 words from the passenger seat of my car, for lack of other private (or quiet) options. Rain splattered my windows the entire time, the sky was gray, and I parked in a place overlooking a green field lined with tall, green trees.  It turned out to be an amazing place to write, something I’d never tried before.  I’d go there now, except my battery is about to die.  

I don’t know what my problem is.  Some days, I can write until my wrists hurt in any location, no matter how loud, no matter how many chores are begging me to spend time with them.  Other days, I feel like I have to have just the right environment or else my productivity (in terms of writing, anyway) is doomed for the day.  Sometimes this depends on where I am in my novel.  Sometimes I just feel like life is cluttered; the clutter closes in on me as I sit in the midst of it, whether it’s noise clutter or chore clutter or too-many-thoughts-about-other-things clutter.  

When this happens, I either push through it, go elsewhere, work on a different project,  read, or succumb to the clutter.  If this happens, I try again later in the day, sometimes with better results, sometimes still under a fog of funk.  Today is finally getting back on track, after writing this blog.  Victory!  Hopefully that will translate to my ability to make necessary headway in my novel this afternoon.  

How much does location affect your ability to write?  How do you beat the clutter, the to-do lists, short of forsaking your writing time to eliminate them?  If you have no place else to go, do you have any tricks for setting your mind to work, and then getting it done?

16 Responses to “Peace, Please”

  1. waggledance Wednesday / 23 September 09 at 3:21 pm #

    You have my sympathies. I’m struggling with a similar fug. Today, instead of sitting down and writing I went shopping, went to the post office and cleaned the oven…maybe tomorrow for both of us…?

    • owlandsparrow Thursday / 24 September 09 at 10:52 am #

      Yes, hopefully today will be better for us both! So far, the creative juices are flowing well, and I’m feeling much more focused. I hope you have good luck, too! Or good discipline, if luck’s not working so much.

  2. Laura Best Wednesday / 23 September 09 at 3:44 pm #

    Just seems like some days I have it and other days I don’t. I try not to beat myself up over it, though. If it’s there and aching to get out it doesn’t seem to matter where I write.

    • owlandsparrow Thursday / 24 September 09 at 10:54 am #

      Ahhh. That’s so true, and freeing. I decided to take your advice and not beat myself up over it, and things worked well that way. Things got done, I stayed out of a funk, and I didn’t end up with pages full of forced words. 🙂

  3. Merrilee Thursday / 24 September 09 at 3:37 am #

    I haven’t actually tried writing anywhere except home. Here, it’s usually at the dining room table, where I’m left in peace to wander off on my flights of fancy.

    But yes, some days I have trouble sitting down at the table. On those days, it’s cup of tea and butt in chair. The words come, as long as I’m physically there.

    • owlandsparrow Thursday / 24 September 09 at 10:57 am #

      You know, that’s a good point – as long as you’re physically there. At first I thought, “Well I sit down, too, and still have problems…” but then, it occurred to me that it’s not the sitting down that is key, it’s the staying seated part. I need to just plant myself there with coffee or tea, too, and try to stay in the chair. Like you, words tend to come, as long as I stay physically there long enough to let them (and as long as I make a point not to get distracted by the Internet, which I’ve gotten better at).

  4. jenniferneri Thursday / 24 September 09 at 9:30 am #

    I like writing outside. Where I am headed now actually, to take advantage of unusually warm weather for Sept. But, it normally doesn’t make a difference where I write, editing though does require more focus for me.

    I have a very small amount of time to do a million things, but when it’s time to write, I tell myself so and let the rest go. Does that means it always flows? No, but most of the time it does, and it has nothing to do with my setting but about head space. If it’s not coming it won’t come anywhere unless I figure out why.

    I see your desk, and I think you would cringe if you were to see mine. I hardly have any space for me, yet I concede because I don’t want to give up writing time.

    • owlandsparrow Thursday / 24 September 09 at 11:05 am #

      Good idea, Jennifer! I like being outside, too, and there are plenty of places within walking distance from me. My battery is fully charged this morning, so perhaps I’ll try that out. If I run out, maybe I’ll do it the old fashioned way, like Merrilee, and write by hand for a little while.

      “…Nothing to do with setting but about head space. If it’s not coming it won’t come anywhere unless I figure out why.” This is a great point. Physical locations can be peaceful or chaotic, but if my head space is cluttered, my characters have a hard time squeezing themselves into the forefront of it. I attribute these things to physical clutter, when really it’s probably just mental clutter I need to deal with.

      Don’t let the picture fool you – it’s not always that tidy. That was a particularly uncluttered day.

  5. islesam Thursday / 24 September 09 at 11:36 am #

    First off, I love your writing space. I don’t have a space right now because my daughter & I are presently sharing my old room at my moms house since the move back a la divorce. It’s a full house, no space. I’ve gotten most of my writing this week done at my temp job because her desk is isolated & it’s generally really quiet here. Before this, my daughter was in Florida, so I holed myself up away from everyone & tried my damndest to make something out of nothing.

    Also, I love La Madeline. Kayla, you are quickly escalating to Awesome in my book.

    • owlandsparrow Friday / 25 September 09 at 8:44 am #

      Thanks, Melissa! (By the way, I love the anagram islesam…figured that out yesterday) That sounds like a nice place to write, and I’m glad you’ve found a good place despite the full house. Have you started on your Weatherman novel this week?

      Yes! Another La Madeleine fan lover…I just love the atmosphere in there, especially when it’s rainy outside and they have the fire going in the stone fireplace. No matter how busy it is there, I can almost always get some quality work done. And thanks, by the way. Escalating to Awesome always makes my day.

      Hope your writing is going well and I look forward to your next post!!

      • islesam Friday / 25 September 09 at 9:31 am #

        Awesome! Not many people pick that up. & my maiden name started with “Sam”. I always thought I was super clever, but no one else got it. Ha, oh well. Anyway. Eh, Weatherman is for NaNo, but I’ve been working on the research for my Military Exes novel. I think that’ll be my first real project & I’m pretty excited about it!

        Have you had any success in getting the peace you need?

  6. Paul Maurice Martin Friday / 25 September 09 at 10:27 am #

    “Cat clutter” can be tough, lol…

    I used to get up at 2 or 3 AM to write before going to work, and our cat was under the impression that I rose at that hour for a cat love-fest. I often ended up having to pick up the cat and deposit her on the other side of a closed door. You just can’t write with a cat sitting on your paper.

    • owlandsparrow Friday / 25 September 09 at 3:12 pm #

      Wow, 2 or 3 AM…it makes me sleepy just thinking about it! I see you’ve published your book, though, so it must have worked out well for you. So very true, you can’t write with a cat sitting on your paper. I’m finding out (as I type this, actually) it is also quite hard to type when tiny paws swat at your wrist, and the kitty flails around so he can gnaw on your fingers constantly.

      Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you around again. I checked out your website and intend to do more reading than browsing in the near future. 🙂

  7. cynthia Sunday / 27 September 09 at 9:03 am #

    I love the picture of your desk–just beautiful with the candle and the pens ready to go…

    Writing at home is difficult–too many distractions. I have learned to walk away, to leave the dishes on the table, the newspaper on the floor, the clothes in the hamper. But even in my study…let’s see I could alphabetize the books in my TBR tower or look for that song on itunes that I heard yesterday or order that gift for my father.

    I think, as a writer, you just have to go with your mood. And sometimes you have to find a new spot. I have often written in my car, overlooking a beautiful view, or just in the parking lot of Starbucks.

    I used to think I could only write in the morning in my study. Now I know I can write anywhere, anytime. Writing is my favorite thing. Still some days, I feel like I’m working a deal with my mood–I give her what she wants and I get what I want.

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 27 September 09 at 10:58 am #

      Thanks, Cynthia! It was my grandfather’s desk, so that’s special, too. I like candles and coffee at my desk, especially when they’re accompanied by rainy days.

      I appreciate your comment – it seems we identify with the sitting-in-the-car days, or the too-much-distraction-at-home days. I’m so glad you overcame the feeling you could only write in one place and only at certain times. That’s certainly encouraging to me, since obviously, I go through phases of that, too. Your last sentence sums up my past week perfectly. Thankfully, that only describes “some days” and not every day. 🙂


  1. Breakthrough! « Owl and Sparrow - Friday / 25 September 09

    […] wrote the other day about the need for a peaceful place to write.  After reading the comments, it was increasingly clear to me from all of your experiences that […]

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