Unlike the nihilistic waiter in Ernest Hemingway’s short story, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, I have never required my comfort zone (translate: my writing space) to be clean.
I don’t want it slovenly, of course, but definitely not dusted and polished. Very small settings, either out-of-doors, or with lots of light and windows, is where I get my best writing done.
Over the years, I have had my fair share of lovely, large offices, with beautiful old desks, loaded bookshelves, and commodious swivel chairs. I would sit down to work and my mind would freeze. There was too much space, air, and silence. My psyche shriveled up and all I wanted to do was crawl under that big desk and suck my thumb.
This was a huge problem, until it dawned on me, that I wrote best in uncanny, little spaces either out-of-doors or with lots of windows. If possible, I also preferred places where I could be immersed in my own eclectic collection of weird stuff.
It didn’t make sense. I was a bona-fide claustrophobic. But I was doing my best work in kitchen corners, sheds, gazebos, tents, teepees, playhouses, laundry rooms, sailboats, duck blinds and root cellars. What was going on?
It wasn’t until I did an exercise for a creativity class, that all became clear. Part of the class was to write a description of my muse. I tried and tried, but was not able to personify that pesky creature. When I thought about the best, most productive and creative writing I had done, it was the place I kept describing, not the images. Eureka! My muse wasn’t a person it was a place!
Recently I moved to the mountains of New Mexico. There is sunlight and nature in abundance. I have plenty of room for a big desk and lots of bookcases. It is a clean, well-lighted place. BUT you will find me writing away in a wee corner of my bedroom looking out at the trees from the small-paned window. Papers are scattered, all my talismans and trinkets surround me and I can barely turn around, BUT IT’S MY SMALL, WELL-LIGHTED PLACE AND I LOVE IT!