I’m a bed writer.
Recently, I realized I do my best work while lying in bed with a laptop. I need a Queen-size mattress and some pillows. A couple of cats. A cup of coffee.
Some lessons are a little expensive, as earlier this year I signed a 12-month lease on studio space in the center of town. I went in it with an artist friend of mine, so it’s not too expensive, but I’m realizing, it’s unnecessary. Although the idea of having a writing studio seemed like a good one at the time I signed the lease, I now realize that bed, and a few other venues, make me more productive and less isolated.
Sometimes it’s nice to sit up in my studio amid the treetops in the center of town and think: Ah, my own writing studio. It also makes me feel tired and lonely and stupid. This is not the room of one’s own I need.
Well, live and learn, or as in my case so often, pay and learn.
One thing I need to do over the coming year is reclaim the room downstairs in my house where I spent two years writing my first full-length book, perhaps never to be published, but oh, the productivity: 50,000+ words about the quirky-jerky relationships of my life. I sat in a comfortable office chair I’d brought home with me from a job I left in 1986, with the stuffing popping out of a rip in the green vinyl-covered seat cushion. Next to the writing table (no desk, no frills) I had a single bed. Yes, I would lie down in between chapters or paragraphs, or essays, or sentences. Sometimes I’d lie down in between punctuation marks. And then I’d sit up and write again.
Sometimes Sweetie, my late, beautiful Maine Coon cat, would nap on the bed with me in between my productive spurts.
The room has fallen into a state of neglect. When Sweetie passed away in early 2011, I stopped using the room. My abandonment of a perfectly good writing space may have been part of my mourning process. Soon after her death, I brought home two crazy little felines – Mia and Timmy – and I set their litter box up in the closet in that room. I decided, for the first time, to use Fresh Step clumping cat litter. I’d never used clumping cat litter with Sweetie, but now I had two cats, and I thought it a good idea. If you didn’t know, as I did not, Fresh Step is the best litter for eliminating odors (and giving Timmy’s paws the scent of Fresh Step cologne) but it is the dustiest litter on the market. Every time you pour the stuff, it travels through the air and lands, on everything.
So everything in the room is covered in Fresh Step dust.
Still, every time I walk past that dusty and messed up room, I say inside: RECLAIM YOUR WRITING SPACE. And that is my goal for the end of the year. It’s not just about “where” I write but where I want my body and spirit to be. I want to spend more time at home with my family, which consists of my 82 year old mother, two cats, and a bunny. I’m gone 12 hours a day during the week. I would like to spend some time at home on the weekends.
When I was writing Claudia Songs, I would write so often in that room downstairs, and when I needed more human sounds around me, I would go to a library or to Panera Bread. For a living, I work in an open environment and have for 20-plus years, so too much silence can be jolting for me. I feel like the last woman on the planet as I stare out at those treetops in my studio.
I read a blog entry by the great teacher and writer, Joy Castro, whose novel, Hell or High Water, and her book of essays, Island of Bones, will be released in the coming weeks. In her blog, Joy talks about “a room of one’s own” being something, perhaps, of the privileged, and that a writer should be able to write anywhere with nothing but a pen and paper. I happen to agree with her. Thank you for reminding me, Joy.
This morning I woke up and rather than running to the gym, I picked up my laptop and sat in bed and began rereading what I hope becomes my second book, the one about panic attacks and agoraphobia. I started revising it and thinking: this is the project to work on when you are on vacation in July. Work on it in bed.
And then start cleaning up that room downstairs. There’s a lot of writing to be done.
You go, Cindy. In the end, I think what we have to find is the motivation to get the writing done, no matter where we have to do it. But it’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking, “If I just had a different space…” I do it all the time.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Faye. I agree, it’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking this or that space, this or that PC, will be what I need to motivate myself to write. That’s why I appreciated Joy’s entry reminding us that all you need is a pen and paper and the motivation to work. I find myself lately writing at the oddest times, unscheduled, and I’m enjoying that freedom. It seems to be working for me at the moment. We’ll see what works for me in the next moment. Talk to you soon.
Entering here, here are some of things I liked. I love the photo at the top of the home page, and would love to know more about it — did it go with either a story you’ve written or an earlier blog entry? I love your first line, “I’m a bed writer” — because it faintly echoed more familiar phrases, “I’m a bad writer” and “I’m a bed wetter”, but rather than going in silly directions, was a simple, direct launch into a piece about a writer’s habitat. I like the strategy of combining photos and writing. And then, as always, Cindy, I like your style: very tell-it-like-it-is.
Thanks, Jim. On my way out. More tomorrow!
I’m so glad you read my blog and liked it! The photo at the top of the home page was just a photo I liked, no story behind it. It replaced a artsy female nude that used to reside in that space and who knows what will come next. I like to combine photos and text. You might give it a try, especially since you take such beautiful photos.
Talk to you soon, Jim.
Another fantastic post, Cindy! I also love writing in bed with my snoring dog, Winnie and my tempurpedic pillow. I can’t stand writing in a space all alone. I wrote my entire Critical thesis in the children’s section at the public library.
I look forward to your book about panic attacks and agoraphobia. As an anxiety/panic attack survivor (I like to refer to myself as that because, hell they haven’t killed me yet:-)) I wish mental illnesses/disabilities could be talked about more. Someday, I hope to be brave enough to write about my experience in the form of a YA book.
Thanks for continuing to share your stories! I am always so thankful that I got the chance to meet amazing people like you during my time at Solstice.
That was such a sweet comment. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. I hope to get my book written and have wonderful readers like you! I would love to read your YA version of the story, too. I hope you’re doing well. And you’re right, if anxiety hasn’t killed you, you’ve won. 🙂 Take care and stay in touch. Cindy
I love your post. Your title ‘I’m a Bed Writer’ got my attention. It’s always interesting to find out the mechanics of writers. Each one approaching the job at hand, in a totally different way.
Oh, and by the way, your approach works just fine.
Hello, Joanne, right? I haven’t heard from you in a time. It’s nice to see you here again. I’m so happy you liked the post. It came to me as I was lying in bed, of course. And now I’m at Panera Bread, another place of motivation, and where I can hear human voices.
Keep visiting and thank you again.
Well said. For me, finding my writing niche means the difference between staring off into space and feeling like the world’s most unproductive creative (which happens when I try to write at my beautiful desk in my gorgeous workshop space) or settling happily into an afternoon with my manuscript (which happens at a coffeehouse or a sufficiently-caffeinated library). I can write at my desk during the workshops, but for the rest of the week I can barely compose an email there.
Do reclaim your writing space. You owe it to yourself, and to your book. And try corn litter—you’ll all be happier.
Thanks for reading once again. It’s a relief to hear that you, too, have trouble writing in the “designated” space – the beautiful desk in the gorgeous workshop. I will continue to give my own studio a try, since I have the lease for another 9 months, but I plan to reclaim that space in my house, and take myself out to coffee shops and libraries again. Bring back those days where I was so motivated.
I want to keep at that book. There’s some potential in that one, I think. Thank you for the encouragement.
Okay, corn litter. I will look into it. I promise. 🙂
Great Hook! I’m a bed writer….this is such a complex subject— creativity, how and when it arrives, what we pursue to keep the fires going. There is no magic, for sure. My first poetry mentor (Mary Oliver) wrote every day, rain or shine, and taught that a regular ritual– pen in hand or at the computer- keeps the muse engaged. I’ve learned–the hard way like you–that if I don’t signal my muse by settling in somewhere or somehow–she fails to show up. My sense is that Joy keeps her muse engaged every day. I can resonate how Jim’s muse showed up while he was running. Yes, inconvenient as in the shower or in the middle night when I wake with a line or two. I’ve had to wrestle myself into a disciplined response and write it down and then remember to follow up. I could go on….Thanks, Cindy, this is a great topic that begs for revisiting.
Thank you so much for reading and for the very thoughtful comments. I agree, we must settle in somewhere to bring forth our muse. What I’ve found is if I turn the computer on, or open a notebook, when I have the energy, the inclination, I start writing, revising, thinking, no matter where I am. If I schedule myself for “4 hours at my studio,” I sit there isolated and tired and dumb. I think that I need to have a roaming “studio” which is sometimes my bed, sometimes Panera, maybe even sometimes the actual studio, until I decide to give it up at the end of the lease. And, I hope, the reclaiming of that once productive writing space in my house. I’m glad you enjoyed this topic and were able to provide such interesting insights. Yes, it does beg revisiting. I’m sure we all will be revisiting the topic over time.
Cindy, this entry is a wonderful self-reflective piece written with a twinkle of humor to soften the nature of the loneliness of the writing life. I love the line “Sometimes, I’d lie down in between punctuation marks.” Do reclaim your writing room. Write in your studio when the mood strikes (for the remainder of your lease and then give it up). Take yourself to Starbucks when the mood evades you. Keep at your book on panic and agoraphobia. I will be the first to buy it and tell everyone else I know to read it, too. When I visited your quiet studio in a building of artists, I felt a pang of jealousy. As though a space devoted solely to writing, makes someone a serious writer. You can seriously write wherever you do it …on your bed, on your head, or on the floor.
Thanks as always for being a supportive friend and “writer” friend. I understand the pang of jealousy, but in reality, as you state, a writer writes anywhere, even on her head, hahaha. I’m glad you got to see the studio. It’s not as cool as it sounds, amid a suite of artists’ studios. The artists’ are almost never there on weekends. The place is hot in summer and cold in spring. Well, you know, the honeymoon is over. Over the next several months I will be seriously evaluating whether I want to keep that space or give it up in 2013.
Thank you, too, for your nice words about the blog. I will keep writing the book on panic attacks; at least it’s something I have much experience with so I can write with authority. I appreciate how much you will help me promote the book someday. 🙂
Talk to you soon.
It’s been a while since I last read your blog. I’ve actually moved. My work sent me to San Diego and I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Around here, though, you have to do what you can to keep jobs because they’re scarce.
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed reading this post. Even those of us who aren’t professional writers can relate to having a space of our own. It’s what I call a comfort room, much like comfort food. And, YES, please focus on your book about agoraphobia and anxiety. I also suffer from anxiety and would love to read how you overcame those obstacles.
I will get back to you soon, Kathie. It’s great to hear from you. More to come.
i think where ever you are comfortable writing works well! i’ve been playing around with Siri Dictation on the new iPad – would something like that interest you while writing in bed, or anywhere for that matter.
David in Maine USA
Thanks for reading my blog. I haven’t thought about using dictation software. I’ve always been a writer who needs to see the words. How does the software help you? I’d love to know.
You see the words instantly. When using an iPad, I’m not that fast using the touch keyboard, so Siri Dictation is perfect – when you use Siri Dictation you have to be on-line with wifi or 4G. Spelling errors can be selected for suggestions to what word you meant to use. A very user friendly program built into iPad. There is a key with a microphone symbol to activate it and you press it when you have finished dictating.
Very cool. I have an Android Tablet. I’ll have to check out an equivalent app. Stay in touch.