Lea Wait here.
People often ask writers what their writing habits or schedules are. My schedule isn’t as set as those of many writers … research, plotting, marketing, and taking time to be with family and friends all take hours and days away from writing time. But I do work on my writing in some way every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
For the first time in my life, about seven years ago I got my own study, and that’s where I spend most of my life. I designed it the way I’d always dreamed my study would be, and although sometimes I wish it were a little bigger, most of the time it’s just perfect.
Although a room filled with my “sometimes used” reference books is down the hall, my study has room for the wide assortment of dictionaries I use often, an entire shelf of books of names, atlases, references for the book I’m currently writing, press clippings and reviews, nineteenth century texts I take when I visit schools, file cabinets to hold manuscripts in waiting, and folders full of ideas for future books.
I converted a nineteenth century wardrobe to hold office supplies. On my desk are other essentials, like the ceramic pencil holder my daughter Elizabeth made that I keep filled with sharply pointed pencils, even though I do 90% of my writing on a computer. I just like having the pencils there.
Another necessity? A mug of Tootsie Roll Pops, for encouragement and solace, in case a plot needs a little more contemplation. My appointment calendar for this year and next. A wonderful wooden file card holder from Levenger’s where I can arrange (and rearrange) my plots.
Next to my desk is a small bar-sized refrigerator full of bottles of cold water. On top is an electric kettle, so I can make an emergency cup of tea. That comes in especially handy on cold Maine winter afternoons, since my study is on the second floor, far from our kitchen.
Above my desk hang several inspirational items: a small oil portrait of Edgar Allen Poe my husband , Bob Thomas, bought for me at an auction, my Agatha nomination, a lifetime achievement award in literature from my college, a button reading “Another Deadline, Another Miracle,” and the arrow of a 19th century iron weathervane, pointing up, which I hope is the direction my career will take.
On my desk there’s a small brass statue of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity, that I brought back from Calcutta, and a framed picture of a rainbow over our barn. (Any questions about those symbols?)
Other good luck pieces include a tiny glass iron that a friend of my great-grandmother threw to her as she stood on the deck of the ship taking her from Wales to Boston in 1880 to marry a man she’d never met. A carved stone face my mother found on a beach in Maine. A piece of sea-glass in the shape of a gull. Several heart-shaped sea-stones. My sterling silver baby mug, complete with tooth marks, holding paper clips. They all set the stage.
What does my typical day look like?
I’m not a morning person, so unless I have a tight deadline I don’t write then. Usually after a cup of tea and some oatmeal with blueberries I post about this blog on Facebook, answer my email, and take care of any necessary marketing or accounting. tasks. Often those chores take me a good part of the morning. My artist husband, who has likely been up since before dawn and painted for several hours before breakfast (he IS a morning person,) is probably still in his studio in our ell, or out doing errands while I’m doing that. Late in the morning he makes lunch, we’ll take a break to eat and watch the news, and then, while he takes an after-lunch siesta, I’ll start writing.
On a good day I’ll write until 5 or 6, when he’ll call me (from downstairs) to suggest it might be time for a glass of wine. If I’m ready to stop, I will. If not, we’ll delay
dinner for another hour or so. Usually CNN is our dinner companion. We’re both news junkies and we don’t want to lose track of what’s happening in the real world while we’re lost in art and words. Sometimes after dinner I’ll go back and edit, or finish a scene. Sometimes I’ll check email or Facebook again; sometimes I’ll read or watch television. Weekdays usually end with The Daily Show and Colbert.
There’s a pad and pencil next to my bed in case any word or phrase or solution to a writing problem pops up while I’m doing something else, including sleeping. And then it all starts again the next day.
When I’m under a tight deadline I write all day, email and accounting chores get less attention, and my mind moves further away from home and closer to wherever my plot leads me. My amazingly patient husband knows when those times are, and has been known to silently place a cup of tea on the side of my desk, answer my telephone line and take messages, and generally act as a guardian for my frazzled world. He knows when he asks me a question and I don’t respond, or answer with a blank look, that it isn’t personal.
He’s also more relieved than I am when that phase of writing is over and we can celebrate another completed book with champagne and hope and send it winging off.
And I can begin again.
What a rich portrait of your office. Mine just looks like a bomb went off. The only mystery being whether there’s a body somewhere under those papers.
It’s nice to surround yourself with inspiration and with things that have personal meaning. Often I think readers don’t know how much we are into noticing. Not just for ourselves, but when we visit experts, and when we furnish the places our characters inhabit.
Lovely post, Lea.
I love the idea of a body under all the papers in a mystery writer’s study . . . .
What a wonderful tour. I love hearing about “writing places.” Your routine sounds very much like my own, dividing the day into “business of writing” and “writing.”
Yeah, that sounds about right. Maybe I’m given to much credit for those predawn painting hours. Does thinking about pictures count? Pictures to be made, I mean. Yeah, I think it counts. Probably also too much credit for my “amazing” patience. It’s not amazing. It’s love mixed with respect and gratitude for her patience when a picture is kicking my butt and I’m acting out of frustration.
All in all, we’re a hell of a team.
That’s for sure, my love. This was a post about my life — and my life wouldn’t be the same without you! Pictures and words … they do go together ….!
(Relatively) newly weds are so cute!
I love seeing and hearing about a fellow writer’s work place. This is fascinating! Can you tell me where I could get one of those wooden file card holders?? Thelma Straw, MWA-NY in Manhattan – a Humongous Maine Lover!!!!
Absolutely, Thelma! That holder comes from a store/catalog I’m totally addicted to — although I can’t afford much in it! http://www.levenger.com will take you to the site, and prepare to drool if you’re anything like me. That holder they call a “note card bleacher.” I call it a life saver. I use it to organize research notes by topic, historical events by dates, and then scenes, chapters — sometimes even characters, with key information I don’t want to forget to include about them. So easy to change things around, too. (See, I told you I loved it!)
I am sadly, totally addicted to Levenger, too.
Like in a that woman needs a twelve step program sort of way.
Thank you – I’m going to look for them asap! Thelma