Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Writers’ Place

Sharon Wildwind

I’m spending a few days with another writer. Her house has always been one of my favorite places because I'm inordinately curious about places where writers live. I’ve been known to discreetly check out closets, but there’s no need to do this here. Her whole house is out there, on display, filled with treasures.

She has an number of display areas: old-fashioned windows with wide sills, little cubbyholes where walls come together, glass-fronted display cabinets, and the inevitable bookshelves in every room.

Another thing she has in almost every room is plants. We discovered a fascinating article in the local paper last weekend about how some houseplants remove toxins from indoor air. With all of the chemicals now used to produce furniture, drapes, carpets, and even bed linens, there is out gassing for months or even years. Those fumes contain benzene, formaldehyde, and other life- and health-threatening chemicals. Electronic equipment like computers and large family entertainment units emit acetone.

 Two dedicated house plants —- dedicated means a specific houseplant picked because it reduces specific chemicals —- are recommended for each 100 square feet of living space, and the plants should be placed as close as possible to the areas likely to emit the gasses. For example, peace lilies placed close to home entertainment units or computers gobble up that acetone. For more information from NASA on how greenery can improved air quality in closed spaces, go here.

Every window in her house has glass baubles and light-catchers. Here’s a kitchen window over the sink. All of those hanging things create a love place to wash dishes, and when the sun hits the window just right, rainbows dance across the room.

Her house is all about visuals. She has a talent for placing unrelated objects next to one another to create visual vignettes all over her house. Here’s a painting, a salvaged wooden freeze, and a cloth cat decorating  a corner.

The last time I was here —- far too many years ago —- I said to myself, she can’t possibly find place to put anything else. Of course I was wrong. There are always places to add a few more details, like replacing ordinary plastic light switch covers with colorful ceramic ones.

I’m most fascinated by what makes it inside a writer’s magic circle, that three or four feet of space surrounding the heart of the workspace, the desk, the computer, and so on. This blue-and-yellow arrangement is one of the thing my friend has there.

Unfortunately, I have a habit of rarely changing the stuff on my desk. After a while, it disappears.  I don’t mean it gets lost in the shuffle, though goodness knows there are days when that happens.
I mean that I stop seeing it. When I stop seeing it, it stops inspirational.

 Maybe we writers could campaign for something like Daylight Savings Time, only call it Desk Rearranging Day. Four times a year we could put away the old, bring in new things, and stir those creative juices.

I have a question this week instead of a quote:
What physical objects inspire you? What do you like to keep inside your magic writing circle?

Those of you in Canada, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday. We certainly did.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

The objects closest to my computer are a bobble-head Poe I got at the Edgars one year (he's just acquired a scarf in my favorite colors that's a repurposed bracelet my granddaughter made out of rubber bands on a Rainbow Loom); on my metal desk lamp, magnet finger puppets of Poe, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Louisa May Alcott, and Jane Austen, all acquired at Malice Domestic over the years; and the Printer Bunny, who sits on the printer observing the passing scene. My giant computer screen is offset so I also have a long view to the far wall: a mirror facing the window behind me that doubles the light, a portrait of my mother painted in her youth by an admirer, and a big calendar photo of my granddaughters. My mouse pads are a Persian rug and a reproduction of Van Gogh's Irises. And hanging from the lamp is a sign put out by MWA NY a while back. On one side, it says DO NOT DISTURB: The writing is going well. On the other, it says: DO NOT DISTURB: The writing is not going well. I might add to these items, but I wouldn't want to take any of them away.

Anonymous said...

Liz, that sounds like a wonderful collection. Do you put on plays with the finger puppets?

Sandra Parshall said...

I love your writer friend's house, Sharon. I'm always drawn to magazine and newspaper features showing writers' homes and working spaces, but I'm always positive the work spaces have been tidied for the camera.

I have a little Poe too -- it's secretly a little box, with the head and the raven lifting off.I've never thought of anything special enough, or small enough, to hide inside. Lots of little pandas, of course. Pandas always inspire me to smile, if nothing else, and a smile is never a bad thing. I have a serenity frog in plain sight and wish I could follow his advice more often. A little statue of an ancient Egyptian scribe, bought from the National Gallery when the King Tut exhibit was here. Lots and lots of little things, all of them meaningful to me, that tend to get buried under paper. Right now my desk is reasonably clear because I had to remove almost everything when I had two computers, old and new, running with two monitors during the time-consuming transfer of data. All the stuff I removed is piled in a box that I dread going through. My mouse(trackball)pad has a cat on it that looks just like my late beloved Simon.