JM Williams

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My Writing Space (Or How Not to Follow Stephen King’s Advice)


Fortune favors the bold, or so they say.

I have been reading Stephen King’s great treatise on the craft, On Writing. While I do intend to extract and discuss many key points of the book later, there is one bit that is likely not to make the cut for me: the discussion of proper writing spaces.

This is because my writing space, according to King’s advice, is wholly inadequate. I know this, my cats know this, but it is largely because of them that I am forced to work as I do.

King suggests, amongst other things, that a proper writing space should be a room with a door–a closed door. It should not have a telephone, TV or other distractions. Shades should be drawn and you should be sealed away from the world as best as possible. Closing the door not only insulates you from the chaos of the outside world, but it tells the other people in the house that you are hard at work–unless those people are cats, cats don’t give a damn about your work.

And thus I find myself unable to follow his rules, despite agreeing with them for the most part. I live in a small but reasonable apartment with my wife and a perhaps unreasonable number of feline cohabitants. Ten to be exact (that is a story in and of itself, the abridged version of which is that our most recent rescue came preloaded with six additional color schemes, so to speak). I have a computer room that doubles as a library, but it also triples as a storage area and litter box space. In all we have seven litter boxes, so finding a place where the air is relatively dust-free is difficult.

So I do my work sitting on the living room sofa, typing away on a laptop that rests on a wooden TV tray. I have to place two or three cushions behind me to give enough support to work for hours straight. And as is likely to evoke King’s chagrin, I sit right across from my widescreen TV. The PS4 cannot help itself but call to me. And when it does, I think just a couple rounds of Vermintide won’t hurt right? Then after several hours and many failed levels (Quit running off on your own and getting yourself killed elf! You’ve lost it for the rest of the team! Bastard! I mean how is it that the game is easier with AI teammates than real players?), I feel the pangs of guilt.

Honestly, I don’t know how I get by. I must have some incredible willpower to actually get 4+ hours of work in everyday in such conditions. But loving what I do surely doesn’t hurt.

I’m hoping to make my fortune soon, mostly so I can move into a bigger place and actually have a writing space with a door…and a proper desk. I suggest against trying to struggle through work like I do. Find yourself a nice King-approved space to work in and get it done.

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