I would like to begin with a bold statement like “The WORLD is my studio!”, or “I write wherever and whenever The Muse finds me”; I would like to say that The Muse finds me scribbling frantically in a Moleskine at a café on the Left Bank in Paris, or atop the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, but in reality she just stands there tapping her toe and glancing at her watch while I mop spilled coffee from the keyboard on my little desk in my little Toronto apartment.
This is my little desk, where the first drafts and early revisions mostly happen.
I tend to favour second-hand, battle-scarred furniture over shiny new products manufactured from plastic and fibreboard, but due to economic and time constraints, there’s lots of IKEA in my workspace, too.
In this photo, my July Reading Stack is on top of the desk, which includes books by several of my favourite author friends: The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish by Allan Stratton, Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado, The Dove in Bathurst Station by Patricia Westerhof, and The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby. There is also The Complete Stories of Truman Capote and The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne (both of whom would love Allan, Ania, Patricia, and Susan, I’m sure). My writing space is stuffed with books by authors I admire, along with pictures and trinkets that remind me of the people and places and ideas that I love; these things keep me going on most Creating Days.
My turntable has become important to my creative process, too, and here’s why: When I get on a roll on a Creating Day, I can lose track of time and type furiously for twelve hours straight, without eating or drinking or going to the bathroom. This is not necessarily the most healthy way to work, so I’ve developed the habit of playing records in the background, so that when I eventually notice that the music has vanished, I will get up to flip the record, and maybe also eat and/or drink and/or pee.
As most writers will tell you, not all days are Creating Days. Only about twenty percent of my writing time involves the creation of new material; the other eighty per cent is spent revising, revising, and then revising the material I’ve already created. I usually try to eliminate the glaring, obvious problems at the computer, but after that I find that I see the work more clearly, in a different light (literally), if I print it out on paper and work on it by hand somewhere else—anywhere but the space in which it was created.
Often I revise in my reading chair (which again shows my preference for “experienced” furniture), but I will revise just about anywhere away from my writing desk: a park bench in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, a seat on a VIA Rail train. I also enjoy revising at a Toronto pub called C’est What? (where I launched both of my Turnstone titles), because beer magically appears at convenient intervals while I work there!
Maybe this is why I like to revise somewhere away from my writing office: The Muse never brings me beer.