the migratory writer.

When the painters and drywall guys repaired the water damage in the bck half of the house, we took the opportunity to move the two kids into the smaller of the two back bedrooms.  They were only sleeping in there, since they use the second living room as a playroom, so all the space in their bedroom was unused.  Their former bedroom is now the new office/guest bedroom, and the former office is now the kids’ room.

The new office is more than twice the size of the old one and has twelve-foot ceilings, so it feels substantially more spacious.  We’re splitting it between the two adults for office space, and there’s a queen-sized bed in there as well.  Even having only a third of the new office as my space, I feel like I can spread out just a bit more than before.

Here’s my new office for the scribbling of the words and such:


On occasion, I talk about my writing habits and methods, which have changed over the last few years, regressing from the computer to the typewriter and then to longhand.  One thing that has been constant, however, has been my inability to do my work in just one spot all the time.  I’m a highly migratory writer—in the course of a day, I’ll work at my living room desk, on the couch, lying down in bed, at the office desk in the picture, and occasionally at the local coffee shop.  That’s why I prefer devices and tools that can be hauled around with a minimal amount of fuss.  Even though my favorite writing tools have changed (I’ve been writing longhand now for a year and a half), my least favorite writing tool has always been the immobile desktop computer set up in one specific place. 

With two kids to parent all day long, I basically write in the cracks of the day: in the quiet hours of the morning before the kids wake up, on the couch while they’re watching a movie, on the bench at the playground when we go out, or in the evening when everyone else in the house is asleep.  Because of the stop-and-go, irregular nature of my writing sessions, being able (or having) to write only in one spot with one stationary desktop system is a recipe for not getting much writing done. 

In contrast, the notebook and pen are supremely flexible writing tools.  I can grab them at a moment’s notice and change rooms, or stuff them into a bag to haul to the playground, without having to worry about bringing along power adapters or checking battery status.  I can work indoors or out in the yard in bright sunshine, and when I have to put the writing kit aside to give Lyra a boost on the swings, I don’t have to worry about anyone snatching my expensive stuff and running off with it.  Nobody cares to steal paper notebooks full of handwriting.

Every writer has a different set of tools and methodology, but when you’re a writing full-time parent, inflexible writing setups, firm writing times, and elaborate rituals are not your friend. 


3 thoughts on “the migratory writer.

  1. Jeff says:

    Congratulations on the new space. Having room in an office is a too seldom luxury these days.

    You are in good company in your writing habits. Robert Ludlum, at least when he was starting, wrote his drafts on legal pads with #2 pencils. Said he didn’t want anything to get in the way of writing whenever the chance arose.

    We don’t have kids and since retirement I can do most of my writing on the 1950 Underwood desktop. But the Alphasmart is always by my easy chair and a composition book is always available in the car. When the words are ready, I don’t want to have to find something to write on. Fortunately, Susan is used to the moments of an unfocused look followed by reaching for writing tools.

  2. Will says:

    I can’t see the whole room, but it appears to be a poor location/orientation for your desk, as far as Feng Shui goes. I would suggest turning the desk around, and putting your chair in the corner. That way you can see the doorway and the window. (And that’s the sum total of my knowledge on the subject!)

  3. Chang says:

    I like that setup!

    I often think it’s bourgeois of me to have a desktop & laptop but then I am also a migratory writer. I may start off at the desk, move to the couch or on rarer occasions go to a cafe or something or do it at work while waiting for something or other to develop.

    And yeah, the pen & paper thing rocks. Sure beats lugging around the laptop & wondering if it might get stolen if I go to the can in a cafe.

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