It feels a bit grandiose to me to call my work space a “studio.” That word calls to mind a dedicated creative space walled off (with soundproofing, perhaps?) from the mundane cares of the world. My space is a converted bedroom where my antiquated flat-pack computer table takes up one corner and a closet has been converted to bookcase to hold my papers. Sliding glass doors behind me provide a view of the back yard and access to the deck during those months when the doors aren’t iced shut.
A writer’s studio ought to have something like an old leather armchair into which you can sink when you need to pull out a book, either for research on a current project or to consult with your colleagues from another time or place. But when I want to read—or for that matter, when I want to print off a draft of my own work—I move to the couch on the other side of the house and put my feet up. It also seems to me that if you’re going to call it a “studio” your work space should have an atmosphere conducive to artistic creation. You should probably have some original art on the walls, not just the Kindergarten art project my son created with a red-paint footprint and a frame made of gold-painted puzzle pieces (although looking at it or at the paperweight made of glued-together rocks with the words “Dad Rocks” written on them can pull me out of a funk). I should probably keep my guitar (which, truth to tell, I don’t practise nearly enough) in my work space so that, when writer’s block strikes, I can noodle through some scales until it goes away.
The utilitarian nature of my “studio” is a symptom of my writing life. Sure, I might come in here to commune with the muses on a creative project: a short story or a novel or even a play. But I’m here pretty much every day, banging out speeches for the Lieutenant Governor, technical reports, book news columns for the Winnipeg Free Press, or feature stories for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s magazine, Wave.
To help me stay focused on creative projects, I have a white board above my desk on which I keep track of the stories I’ve submitted to various journals. As rejections come in, I draw a line through the entry. When I notice that I have more crossed-out submissions than viable ones, I know it’s time to try another round of casting bread upon the waters. Which reminds me …