Whenever I see somebody writing in a noisy coffee shop, tapping away on a laptop, I wonder how in the world they can concentrate with all of the racket surrounding them. For me, the two major requirements for writing are quiet and no interruptions. In a crowded coffee shop, you don’t get either.
So where is the ideal place to write?
There is no one-room-fits-all answer, of course. But according to Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he wrote his first two published novels in the laundry room of a trailer. He also said that John Cheever, the acclaimed short story writer, did his work in the basement near the furnace.
“Truman Capote said he did his best work in motel rooms, but he is the exception,” King continues. “Most of us do our best in a place of our own. Until you get one, you’ll find your new resolution to write a lot hard to take seriously.”
A place of your own. This sounds like good advice. King says the space “really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut. The closed door is our way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business; you have made a serious commitment to write and intend to walk the walk and talk the talk.”
I do 99 percent of my writing behind a closed door in my office on a desktop computer, which I much prefer to working on a small laptop screen. I’ll write on a laptop when I’m on the road, but that’s only because flight attendants don’t look too kindly on a person setting up a desktop computer on the tiny drop-down tables in the airplane.
For years now, I have written in my second-floor office, which could best be described as “controlled chaos.” I don’t mind a bit of clutter, but oftentimes my office went from a bit of clutter to a bunch of a clutter.
But no longer. A few months back, I held the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for my new dream office. (We really did have a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebratory dinner with close friends Dave and Leanne, because Dave was the one who designed and installed my new office.)
The office overhaul started with a simple desire to build new bookshelves because my current ones were old and overflowing. Then my wife came up with the brilliant suggestion that we should go a step further and create a Dr. Seuss style office. We are both fans of Seuss, and when we went to Universal Studios in Florida in 2014, we spent a lot of our time in Seussland, even though our kids are grown and weren’t with us.
The result of her suggestion was my first dream office. Although I write historical novels, I did a lot of writing for VeggieTales in the 2000’s, so my new office theme is child-inspired and includes nods to Dr. Seuss, Peanuts (my favorite comic strip), VeggieTales, and Legos. The Seuss-like bookshelves sit on a countertop that displays a Lego world, complete with a Lego train that travels from one side of the office to the other, crossing a bridge that passes in front of a window. I could describe more, but I’ll let the photos do the talking. Check them out.
As my friend Dave said, this is a dream office for a 10-year-old.
It’s a creative environment, but does an office like this make me a better writer? Probably not. But it’s loads of fun, and it certainly makes me a more organized writer. One of the great benefits of overhauling my office is that I overhauled my filing system, locating papers that I thought had disappeared forever into the black hole of my former filing system.
I will be forever grateful that my wife came up with the idea of the new office. But as wonderful and stimulating as the Lego train might be, not to mention the book pedestal and the Seuss-style hand that holds up the bridge, I have to say that the most important part of the office hasn’t changed at all.
I still have a door, and I still keep it closed when I write
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5 for Writing
- Get writing. Find the time to write. Then do it.
- Learn by listening—and doing. Solicit feedback, discern what helps you.
- Finish your story. Edit and rewrite, but don’t tinker forever. Reach the finish line.
- Thrive on rejection. Get your story out there. Be fearless. Accept rejection.
- Become a juggler. After one story is finished, be ready to start another. Consider writing two at once.
By Doug Peterson