A Glimpse Into An Introverted Writer

I thought some lighter fare would be nice today. How about a tour? Nothing as exciting as an exotic location. But something more personal—a view of my writing corner.

Actually, I’m lucky enough to have my own office while my husband shares his with the family/exercise room. Stephen King would be proud. Well, at least he’d approve. But the one thing I can’t do is shut the door to block out the world. I’d feel too boxed in, like I was missing out. So the door stays open, contrary to King’s advice. And this is what you see.

Not as neat as I’d like

That’s it? There’s nothing else in it?

Nope. I can’t work in clutter. This is messy for me. There’s that paper you see by the desk and a manuscript you can’t see on the floor. And there’s a pile of stuff on the storage cube. Also, I would never choose pale lavender for a wall color. But we’re renting and don’t want to paint. We’d just have to repaint to something neutral when we buy another house. So I try to ignore the color.

Below is my writing desk. That’s where my WIPs and blog posts take shape. Some of you may recognize the active program as Scrivener, which I highly recommend. As you can see, there’s no extra room on that table. But a larger one wouldn’t fit. That’s another reason you don’t see much furniture. The room is really small. And if you look closely, you can see I’m a PC girl, and my beverage of choice is water (not vodka!).

This is where the writing usually takes place.

So if I want to write anything by hand or lay out a manuscript, I have to switch desks. That’s the small one in the corner here:

Both desks are old dining room tables, but they work fine for me. And the chair that matches so well? That belonged to my father-in-law when he was a schoolboy. My husband refinished it a while back, and now it’s serving a similar purpose again. Ugh—that tangle of cords. I’ve got to do something about those. I still use my old notebook for some day-job work. It’s slow as molasses, but I’m not sure I could ever send it for recycling. That’s the one I used when I started writing my novels. There’s sentimental value there.

Moving back to the other side of the room is my storage cube. It’s handy for keeping smaller items contained and looking neat—even if what’s hidden in the blue bins is a jumble of supplies. At least the outside looks tidy! Except when I forget to put the batteries away….

Some books and assorted small supplies like pens, pencils, staplers, and such go here.

We’re getting down to a few more essential items. Like my writing books below. When I’m away from my computer, they’re my go-to places to jot down ideas or bits of scenes. They hold ideas for the current works and sequels. Even though many don’t make the final cut, it’s still fun to read through them sometimes and wonder What was I thinking?!

These are what I use when I jot down ideas and scenes by hand.

And if you’re curious, here’s a sneak peek into their contents:

I tend to use lots of different ink colors.

I hope you weren’t too disappointed.

Finally, I try to be organized about my writing. Keeping track of the timelines is critical. I make a lot of calendars and note when the different scenes take place, or at least the key events. The three below are for Summer at the Crossroads.

If you’re going to write a book set in different universes in different years, it helps to be organized.

So there it is. My writing space. And a little glimpse into me, which is not easy for this introvert to do, even in blog land.

How about you? Do you have some space that’s yours for creating? dreaming? imagining?

64 thoughts on “A Glimpse Into An Introverted Writer

    • Even though it’s easier for me to be relaxed around others in the blogosphere, I’m just not the kind of person who enjoys talking about herself. I can’t see what others would find interesting. :) But I know I shouldn’t think that way. So there will be some periodic attempts to be a little more open. Baby steps. :)

      I can’t imagine trying to write novels completely by hand. How did anyone do it before computers, or even typewriters?!

      • Patrick White always wrote the first draft, at least by hand. He said the process was organic, this way, and helped him to think. For others, I guess there was a great deal of map making, and calendars, too, and folders devoted to character sketches and pot development – a bit messy, in other words :)

  1. Nice set up :)

    Unfortunately, I share my corner office writers space with the TV room (its not easy writing in the evenings, when everyone else is watching something loud and interesting on TV at the same time).

    • Hi, thanks for stopping by and joining in the conversation! I think the TV would drive me to distraction, but then again, if that’s the only place for my writing, then I would find a way. If I remember correctly, in “On Writing” Stephen King said he had a small table and typewriter in the laundry room. If the dedication is there, I suspect we find a way to write, no matter the obstacles.

  2. I am quite envious of your space. While I am lucky to have my own study, it is cluttered because that is where I do all of my freelance work and where I keep my personal files and school information for the kids, etc. However, I should say that it is organizationally cluttered, if that makes sense. My space is really small, too, so I have to make do with piles of papers here and there. But I know where everything is because my piles are specific by topic or due date. Hubs is horrified when he comes in and often tries to test me by asking if I know where such-and-such paper is. I can always find the item in a matter of seconds. Still, I would love a bigger space where I could get a file cabinet or a storage unit (I love yours) and put away those pesky piles.

    I love your idea of using actual calendars to construct a timeline. I never thought of that. I always did my timelines in an outline form on a word doc. I should try your idea!

    Seems like you get a lot of natural light, what is the view outside? I positioned my desk so that it has a view of the conservation land behind our house. So, I get to see lots of birds and the wind in the trees. It’s probably my favorite part of my study. Besides the writing time, of course. :)

    • Maybe I should have included a photo of the closet. ;) Previous drafts of the WIPs share space with some of the Christmas decorations and archaeological reports. That area doesn’t look quite so tidy!

      I didn’t mention the wire storage bin next to my computer desk. That usually holds day-job supplies and drafts. It’s a bit empty just now, but it’s a good way to separate different projects and keeps them off the floor. I like the storage cube better since it has a cleaner look. And this one is a very inexpensive version from Lowe’s. :) The fabric boxes are sold separately, so you can choose how many you want from a variety of colors.

      I would love a view of a conservation area! But for now I have to make do with a strip of commons between two more rows of townhouses. But the light is great—too good at times. Nothing in Maryland seems to be based on the cardinal directions, so my window faces west/southwest. When the summer afternoon sun comes in, the room can really heat up. We broke down and replaced the original plastic blinds with good honeycomb shades to help cut the heat. That helps. But thank heaven for AC!

      But even if the view from the house isn’t great, we can walk to a really nice park, a C&O Canal access is only a 15-minute drive away, and it’s also a 15-minute drive to a Metro Station, so we can be on the National Mall in DC within an hour. Not a bad overall location for a writer’s inspiration. Madeleine, Meghan, and Catherine/Katharine/Kathryn/Katarina seem to like it. ;)

      Calendars are my lifesavers for Summer at the Crossroads. There’s a site where you can generate any month or year over a 10,000-year span for free: http://www.calendarhome.com/tyc/

      I use it a lot!

  3. A pale lavender room? Oh my goodness, I love it and now have the sudden urge to go buy some paint! :-)

    Lovely post, today JM. It’s always nice to see where writers work. I have a post coming up soon with favorite items I use when I write.

    • Thanks, Christy! I’m trying to give people more insight into me, or at least, part of me. :)

      A different shade of lavender could be fine. (Obviously I’ve got a version of it on my blog!) This one seems to have an odd brownish-gray undertone that gives it a somewhat dingy look in a lot of lights. So it’s often not real appealing. If you make that change, keep an eye out for that!

  4. J, I’ve got my space for writing/office. If at all possible, I think it’s a must. I did read Stephen King wrote in a space in his small laundry room balancing a typewriter on his lap. Now THAT’S dedication. I love his book, “On Writing.” Anyway love your space and I’m going to get that program you’ve recommended. Checked in the Apple store last week and they’d never heard of it!

    It’s nice to share your space with others (pictures this way with your blogging buds). I’ve been redoing mine some so maybe I’ll have a reveal one of these days. Happy writing, my friend. :).

    • Thanks, Brigitte. “On Writing” is an absolute must-read for writers, even if they’re not King fans per se.

      Interesting that the Apple store hadn’t heard of Scrivener because that was the only platform you could get it on originally! They only released the PC version last fall. I love the program. And I hear rave reviews from both “outliners” and “pantsers.” However you write, the program will work with you. Personally, I would hate to go back to Word for my WIPs. Like any program, it takes a little getting used to, but it’s not difficult. There’s a good tutorial with it, and I hear the YouTube videos are helpful, too.

      I’d love to see your writing space, too. It is nice to see how other writers/bloggers work. Have a great weekend. :)

      • I suspect that the reason the Apple Store hadn’t heard of Scrivener is a combination of two factors. First, it’s kind of niche software. If you’re not a writer, you likely don’t know about it. And second, I believe it’s only available as a download, so a physical store wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

  5. I always wondered if novelists kept outline calendars to remember time and place like that. Thank you for the tour!! I love seeing where people keep their pcs!

    • I know I couldn’t keep track of my timelines if I didn’t keep calendars with detailed notes! Since I don’t seem to write anything that stays in one time frame, I’d better be organized or readers will have a field day pointing out the errors! Not what a writer wants! :)

  6. This was a cool post. I love seeing where people create, and I must say, your space is much more organized than mine. It’s hard to break out of the introvert casing, and share parts of yourself, but from one introvert to another, I’ll tell you this was interesting to me.

    • And as an introvert yourself, you know how hard it was for me to write this one. :) I know I enjoy getting to know the bloggers I follow and interact with. I don’t need to know too much—and I’ll never post about politics, religion, or other hot-button issues. But little insights are nice, and I’ll try to do more posts like this now and again. I have to remember I’m not as boring as I think. ;)

  7. I love your space JM! In our apartment, my writing space is a milk crate next to my chair in our living room that holds my laptop. I recently started a from-home assignment and am having a little trouble creating a formal work space, which I desperately need, so it’s really helpful for me to see how others manage.

    As to the wall lavender, perhaps thinking of it as a neutral and livening with splashes of color might be an easy fix? Must be a great poster or fabric remnant out there you’d like to look at! xoxoM

    • Thanks, Margarita. :) When you see the color on the walls, you can see it’s really a tough shade to coordinate with. But I keep hoping I’ll find something that pops out. For now, my astronomy posters have to suffice.

      Finding a space that is for work, even if it’s just a corner, is really helpful for work-at-home tasks. And training the spouse/significant other/kids/roommate to respect that boundary is important, too.

      Places like Ikea have lots of nifty solutions for turning small space into workable “offices.” Have you looked at something like that?

    • Overall, I tend to be organized. So it’s a mystery why I’m a pantser when it comes to writing! I think the Muse just wanted to mess with my head. ;)

      And you’re welcome—I thought your post was a great complement on the introverted theme. :)

  8. Fun to see your little corner of the world. I need to have some writing books lying around. I rely way too much on sticky notes…

    Thanks so much for your Amazon review of my book! I appreciate it–I know you’re not a fan of leaving reviews. As you were one of the first seven ‘blogging buddies’ to leave a review, as promised, I’ll send you a signed copy of the paperback when it’s out in 3 to 4 weeks if you’d like to receive one. You can email your address to me at carrierubin1@gmail.com. I promise to delete your address when done. I won’t put it on any lists! Or you can give me your work address if you prefer. Just let me know what you’d like me to do, and thank you again. :)

    • I’d love a signed copy—it’ll be my first ever! :) And I’ll send you my address for it shortly.

      Amazon’s rating system is hard for me. I know the stars aren’t an objective measure. And when I read reviews, I focus on the content and not the number of stars. I went with four because personally, I think I’d reserve the top rating for the absolute classics. So I’m sure I’m not using them the way Amazon intends. :) I also tend to distrust a lot of the 5-star reviews—it’s often obvious the reviewer isn’t quite objective. For me, it was most important to say whether or not I would recommend the book—and I definitely am. I shared the Amazon link on FB, and one of my cousins has already said she would buy it. :)

      • That’s lovely to hear. Thanks so much for sharing it! I’m going to look into FB this week. I just want to have something useful to post or it doesn’t seem worth it. Maybe I’ll post a health tip or something. I need to think it through.

        I am happy for any honest review. I, too, get suspicious of a book with only five-star reviews. Even successful best sellers have a wide range of stars. A four-star review lends more credibility to my book, I think. :)

        • Someday I’ll set up a “jmmcdowell” FB page. But for now, I’ve only got my personal page that I use mainly for keeping up with far-flung family and friends. Charissa Stastny and 4amWriter both have FB pages for their writing that you could check out. You may have to sign up for FB before you can see them. But they’d be good for getting ideas for your own page.

          Health tips would be great, books you’re currently reading, links to new blog posts (can be set up automatically), photos that evoke the scenes in your books, upcoming appearances, updates on the progress of your second book…. Hmm, I sound like I know what I’m talking about. That’s odd. :)

          • You do know what you’re talking about! And thanks for those suggestions. I’ll have to check out Char’s and Kate’s pages (if I sign up for it–always need more time…)

  9. Nice post, JM! Your space looks so lean and mean compared to mine! As Kate mentioned, I have my freelance work files, files for my kids’ school info, books, office supplies, a box of my son’s computer software… it’s much crazier. Maybe one day if I decide to dust, I’ll post a photo, too! I love to see where other writers work.

    I like the idea of the calendar generator, too. The timeline (at least year by year) is important for my novel, but not necessarily on a day-to-day level. I have to keep track of when the MC’s birthday is so I can keep her age in mind as I’m writing.

    BTW, I’m just starting your novel… I’m running behind but should still have enough time to meet your deadline. ; )

    • Thanks, Anne. :) See, that’s the beauty of that storage cube with its fabric storage bins—clutter magically disappears! There is a jumble of power cords, chargers, desk supplies, check registers, and more hidden away in them. And a closet. I didn’t include a photo of that. ;)

      The calendar generator is such a simple thing, but so helpful for me. You can print the basic black ones from the web site, but okay, I admit I like color. I use the website as a template to make Word tables and color code them for printing my own versions. Please don’t laugh. ;)

      Don’t worry if you need more time to read my draft. I’m keeping busy with some slash-and-burn revisions to my other WIP. Your own responsibilities and writing come first! :)

  10. Nice work space. I can’t work in clutter either. The clutter seeps into my brain and I’m good for nothing. I do my writing at home at our kitchen table. It affords a lovely view of the backyard. I spend a lot of time staring out the window thinking brilliant thoughts. Or, lame thoughts. My favorite place to write is on the porch of our cabin. There, I stare into the forest.

    • Based on your posts, I don’t believe there are too many lame thoughts while seated at your kitchen table. And a cabin in the woods sounds like wonderful inspiration. I wonder if any other writers have thought of that…. ;)

      Of course, yours is at Lake Tahoe, which I have visited from the California side once. Beautiful as I recall. My views don’t compare, but the proximity to DC is an amazing creative stimulus. We’ll be there next weekend for a play and dinner at my favorite restaurant. :) My muse will come back from her tropical beach for that, I’m sure.

  11. Will you come organize my space here in Oregon, jm? We created a home office around this time last year, but my desk area is a mess of bills, old letters and fun things that have landed there over the past few months. I tend to do my writing at the kitchen table so I can listen for the kids waking up. But it’d sure be nice to have that desk in functional order. Maybe this fall, on some rainy days, I’ll make progress. I sure do envy your organizational skills, though!

    • Hey, I’ve got it much easier—no children. If I did, I suspect I’d be lucky to find my desk under piles of miscellany! I’ve always needed a clear place for working, even in school. If there’s too much clutter, I can’t concentrate. So I’m very fond of drawers and storage bins for keeping things corralled and out of sight—especially the small things that get lost or end up scattered all over the house. :)

      The kitchen table tends to be a convenient spot for writing, even though some folks say it’s not a good choice. I know King’s book says to have a place where you can shut the door while you write, but I don’t like working behind closed doors—it’s too confining.

      Rainy days are great for organizing—and I think you get a few of them in parts of Oregon…. ;)

  12. You are so organized. Such a nice mix: old re-purposed furniture (which are bound to hold their own stories that may seep out…), organic feel in the notebooks, modern equipment and clean lines. Funny you mention the wires – they would just be invisible to many…I can’t figure out what to do with them either….and I wish I could) Great space!
    In my old house I had a terrific office on the second floor with huge windows that looked out on tree tops – it was like a tree house…did a lot of writing there.
    But here – the oak desk and all my bits of odd things like cow vertebrae and assorted feathers are all still packed – no room from serious downsizing – so I’m usually standing at the end of the kitchen counter….sot of a home command post more than a writing area…I have tended to snarl if the interruptions come too often…but the new dog is catching on to the routine and naps underfoot.
    Great post….love the calendar idea – have used that site, but never thought to use it for writing organization…
    one benefit of writing on paper…you can actually cut and paste together your story if you decide the sequence is odd and needs to be redone…and you can tape bits on the wall….things that were ejected from a piece, but there’s something about them – and they may fit in something else…..OK it’s messy, but some of us deal with that….and have great posers to tune stuff out
    In ideal situation, my real desk area was neatly arranged…even artistically – I’ve always thought workplace environment critical to good writing.
    Sorry to go so long, but good post – and great title.

    • The downsizing sounds very familiar. We did that two years ago when we sold our big 4-bedroom single-family house and moved to a 3-bedroom townhouse that’s nearly 1,400 sf smaller. Larger furniture had to go, including a beautiful Amish oak desk that would never fit the new place. It’s not obvious from my office, but most of our newer, smaller furniture is very modern. Those clean lines don’t take up too much floor space.

      I did some of that literal cutting and pasting before “personal computers” were available to the general public. Oh boy—did I just date myself?! To be honest, I loved the computer version of it from day one. :) But I still do my serious edits from hard copies, and my office closet holds all the old drafts of my manuscripts.

      My astronomy posters are getting a bit beat up from all the moves, and I’d like to find something new. But this wall color is hard to coordinate with. Right now it looks more like puce than lavender. Some nice artwork might make it “disappear.”

      Never worry about the length of comments. I always enjoy reading and responding to them. :)

  13. You know, I do have my space, but I would never show it on display. It is a true mess! Since the stroke, cleaning is much harder, as is keeping up. So, my normal messiness wins out. Perhaps, I can get someone to clean once a month and I can do some organizing myself. We’ll see. Thanks for the look.

    • Luckily I have a husband who helps with the cleaning. Doing it all myself wouldn’t be fun. :) I never mind if other people’s houses look messy or cluttered—just mine! After all, who ever decided we should always be neat and tidy?

      • Holland from what I have seen and learned – they have huge picture windows in the front. If they are closed then the house is dirty. I am not sure I ever saw a closed window when I was there, but that was in ’76.

  14. I have a desk that I love that is old, funky and painted red. It sits facing out the window. Kinda like me :-). Thanks for sharing your space. It makes me feel like I have been a guest in your home.

    • Your desk sounds fun and welcoming, which is how I picture you. :) These photos are probably a better glimpse of me “really” at home, as opposed to preparing for guests. There would have been NO clutter (or any speck of dust) in this space if anyone besides me or my husband would be coming in. ;)

  15. What a fab post, JM! Great to see where all the magic happens! I’m very impressed. I seem to attract clutter, but you look very well organised! Planning to do a similar post sometime soon, will just take me a little while to get round to it – same as everything else right now! ;)

    Love the chair and love your neatness. Looks like a lovely space to work in. :)

    • A comfortable chair is a must for me. The gray one at the computer desk is just that. My father-in-law’s old one? Not so much. But I don’t spend as much time in it. :)

      I’m working on including more of the “regular” me in the posts, not just the archaeologist/writer. Tough for an introvert like me to do. ;)

      Hope you’re getting settled into the new routine!

  16. Very cool! I love sneaking into your office for a look around. ;) My office is a secretary desk with a leather chair. Very old school. But I do all my computer work and writing there. Editing happens anywhere. But drafting and revising are at the desk.

    • Old school is cool, too. :) Your set up conjures images of dark wood library shelves filled with hardback and leather-bound books. Hours could be spent curled up reading them. :)

      Revising is where I am today (when not replying to comments!), trying to turn my first manuscript into a better book. I really want to succeed at that. :)

      • Then you will. :) Perseverance and hard work are the best ways to get to a better book! I look back at my first, third, sometimes tenth drafts and think wow how did I not see what was wrong? But we get better by writing and revising.

  17. I like your writing space and your organization skills, JM! And I envy the fact that you have your own personal office. We have a spare room that we both use as office space/junk room. It’s fine, but it isn’t really the same as having your own personal area to call your own, to really get down to the business of writing.

    • I am lucky to have my own space. And sometimes I think I should get more accomplished there than I do. After all, what excuse do I have for not writing more? No TV or children are distracting me, my husband doesn’t pester me, so why don’t I get more done?!

      My sneaking suspicion is that others get more done in their “distracted” space than I do under ideal settings. Excuse me while I find a broom to try to beat down that self-doubt….!!

    • Want to guess how many times I type “site” (as in archaeological) instead of “sight” or “write” instead of “right”?! ;)

      I think you get an amazing amount of good writing done at that kitchen table. It shows good writing and dedication can overcome obstacles like less than perfect office space! :)

  18. It’s such an asset to have a dedicated space for your creative endeavors. I’m with Stephen King, though–close the door! My office only has one window, a small one in the door. Distractions are killers for me.

    • I’m just one of those people who feels boxed in behind a closed door. I’m fine in hotel rooms, and I close the main house doors with no problem. But close my office door, and I get incredibly restless. I do have a good shade on the window, though, to block outside distractions when they’re around. But it’s good to have the option if it’s needed!

    • Wow, somehow I missed responding to your comment! And I am truly sorry for not replying sooner. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and share your thoughts! If only the simplicity could extend to daily life in general and the workings of social media. ;)

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