Wednesday, November 18, 2015

365 True Things: 234/Creative Space

A couple of weeks ago I came home from a writing conference all fired up. Unfortunately, I also came home to a pile of work-work, so my ability to focus on writing, reading, and my own creative juices was fragmented. I did what I could, partly thanks to a couple of friends from my MFA program, Kim on Kauai, Sherilyn in Los Angeles: every morning at 9:30, we "howl" together—that is, spend an hour and a half writing, each in our own corner of the world. I wrote about this last month. Since then, I've been the least consistent member of our little group, but I've been showing up when and as I can. It feels very good.

Another aspect of my writing work that had fallen by the wayside is what I call "15s": at least 15 minutes of writing—about whatever—every single day. It's part of a practice outlined by writer Priscilla Long in her book The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life. I share my 15s with my sister-in-law, a fine writer. It's a way to stay in touch and to stay accountable. And to do the work.

As I said, I'd fallen out of the habit, but this week I've been trying to get back to it: first thing in the morning. (After feeding the critters and making coffee, that is.)

It's tough having only one "first thing" a day (though I'm considering how I can arbitrarily create at least one more, with the help of an alarm), and deciding what the most worthy activity for that special time is. For now, I'm making it a 15.

In that blogpost last month, I also mentioned wanting to watch a TED talk and read a short story every day. I've been doing okay on that front: not daily by any means, but frequently. (I've decided a TED talk a couple, few times a week is actually plenty.)

Yesterday during my howl I created a master list of things I'd like to attend to every day. Of course, there are way too many. So I need to prioritize. For now, this blog and the 15 are my top priorities. From the rest of the items on the list, I will pick and choose each day as time allows.

Today, for example, time has allowed for nothing on my list besides the top two—and it's okay. Because I've been taking care of business.

First thing (after my 15), I helped my gardener plant some plants, now that rains seem to have arrived. That gave me pleasure in several ways: I had a chance to chat with her for almost two hours and learn something about her; it allowed me to get my hands dirty digging in our rich soil; and it saved me money, since it cut the time needed to plant the plants in half. Win-win-win.

I came back inside just as Kim and Sherilyn were finishing up and participated in their post-howl check-in. And the subject of where we write came up. Sherilyn, for example, writes in her Poet's Corner. Today Kim, who's feeling under the weather, was reading and writing on her couch. Me, I've been reading on the bedroom couch and writing (laptop) at the kitchen counter and (longhand) at the dining room table.

But this morning in my 15, it struck me—hard—that I have a beautiful office space—an entire studio/suite that's mine all mine, but that I barely use. And why not? Well, at the moment, mainly, because it's got no window coverings, and the south-facing windows get way too bright for me to be able to work effectively for at least some of the day. (Really.)

Remedy: get window coverings!

I also felt a need for a dedicated chair at my third work table (I have two drafting tables and one desk for my iMac).

Very easy assembly!
So that's what I did today: I got started on the purchase of new window coverings (I'm going with Roman blinds, cloth, in some nice reds for the downstairs and gray for the upstairs), and I bought and assembled a new office chair.

In the meantime, Kim, Sherilyn, and I exchanged photos of our respective workspaces (both Kim's couch and her official office), which was inspiring.

My next step: hang art on the walls. I haven't had the heart to pound holes in what I still think of as brand-new, pristine walls, save to put up three calendars and one Chinese kingfisher scroll a friend brought back from China for me. But in fact, it's been three years. It's time. Don't you think?

I am now determined—and inspired—to create a few creative nooks, where I hope to really get things done. Today was an excellent start.

New office chair installed: my writing-by-hand corner
(and book arts corner once I retire from editing)

Writing-(and editing)-by-computer corner
—and photography workspace once I
clean off the drafting table (the printer is in this room)

Reading corner and meditation spot
(also a third of the guest bedroom: take note!)

Getting there! And yes, feeling excited. It's going to be a good, productive winter—I can feel it in my bones.


  1. So much good energy in this post. And I really like all the different little spots in your creative space. It feels like a huge world in there : )

  2. I like the part where you go, "Oh, gee, I have this great office suite that I completely forgot about." As if, I don't know, it were a box of cookies purchased at a school fundraiser and then completely forgotten about!