Sunday, June 29, 2008

Into the Lion's... er, Writer's Den



Currently working on: FORGED OF SHADOWS, Book 2 in my series for NAL


Mood: Contemplative



I’m lucky enough to have a whole room dedicated to my writing. Just me and my computer and my green-eyed demon dog and my golden geckos in the upright fish tank on the left side of the desk and my work-in-progress collage propped above. I didn’t even have to clean up (too much) to take this shot. Just don’t – for the love of all you hold dear – open the Chinese cabinet on the right.

But my REAL writing retreat is profoundly messier and also way more luxurious. It’s the retreat in my head.

Sounds woo-woo, yes? (Wave to Brenda W. whose guided imagery during a hypnosis session helped me create this second workspace.) But with a blazing candle and some mythic traveling tunes from Azam Ali and Dead Can Dance, I open the door in my mind and find an empty space to brainstorm, or a boardroom with all my imagined characters at the round table, or a playroom with indelible colored markers and permission to write on the walls. Hey, it’s my space after all.

Sometimes it’s a prison or a padded room in a sanatorium. My head isn’t always a pretty place ;) But honestly, I find as a writer I’m best served by a comfy chair and a short chain anyway, and sometimes blank walls are very relaxing. Regardless of its décor, once I sink down into that second writing place, it seems as if the first one – the real one – was the illusion, flickering out like that untended candle.

If you haven’t yet found your ideal writing space or just a personal sanctuary, could you create one in your head? What music, scents and props would you need to make the doorway to that space?


“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo.”


~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

8 comments:

Susan Lute said...

Jessica,

I love the description of your mind space. I've never thought of making one for myself, but a lighted candle would open the doors, Kenny G would be the magical passkey. Inside would be a table top plateau against a blue, blue sky, with my characters sitting around a campfire talking about their story.

Jessica D said...

Ooh. S'mores... The graham crackers could represent the child-like wonder that is the heart of storytelling; the chocolate (dark, of course) could represent the deep mystery that is the soul of writing; and the marshmallows could represent... hmm, seriously sticky plot & character conflicts? Ain't no metaphor I can't extend until it snaps back and smacks me in the face :)

I can definitely picture your space. Clear, evocative, a gathering. Much like your writing. I suppose it makes sense that our imaginary spaces would resonate with our imaginary friends and villains.

Genene Valleau said...

Hey, Jessica!

I also love the description of the writing space in your mind. Love the thought of s'mores too -- but for eating, not metaphors. LOL!

What would the writing space in my mind look like? Because I'm working on a series with lots of adult siblings and their growing families, this space would be an old, rambling farm house filled with laughter and teasing and memories. The colors are soft, like a pastel watercolor painting; always gentle and welcoming, where even disagreements dissolve into understanding and love. Guess I still like those happy endings best, even after the roughest of conflicts. :)

P.S. What a wonderful gecko "house"!

Delle Jacobs said...

That poses a really interesting question, Jessica- what does the writing space inside our heads "look like"? I'll have to think hard about that one because for me it's a very visual space in which I inhabit my characters and their worlds, with all the sights, smells, tastes, and the other people and critters in their lives. Sometimes in the reverie just before I fall asleep, my medievals and my Regencies merge, and sometimes I find myself trying to email someone back in 11th century England. Now, that can be a bit confusing. But all of those are so real to me. Which world am I in?

Jessica D said...

Delle, when you read about how the human mind processes information, you do have to wonder which world we live in. The "real" world or the world of our limited & unreliable senses? What makes our imagined worlds any less real? Oh well, sure, a plunging dagger in our imagined world requires somewhat fewer stitches, but who's counting?

Genene, the geckos are wonderful writer pets. They're noctural so they come out to play while I'm writing. They love this time of year because the cutworms are turning into moths. Like powdered donuts. Mmm, donuts...

Jessica D said...

Okay, in my defense, the s'mores comment came before my breakfast, and the donut comment came before lunch. And really I don't eat quite that crappily on a regular basis despite that fact that I'm planning on pancakes for dinner BUT I will top them with fresh strawberries from my garden. See, these sorts of run-on sentences are exactly why I can't risk a sugar-crash when I'm writing. Which brings me full circle back to s'mores...

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Does anyone REALLY think we are capable of deciphering what is real and what isn't? Or is it just me that has this affliction? I can't tell you how often I dream my day job, then return to truly believe I have finished some task that later turns out not to be finished in the day job world. By the same token, I frequently think about my stories and somehow they wind up interspersed in my real life experience. There is some interesting research about dreams and reality, memory-making and reality. Every wonder how you and your DH have completely different memories of exactly the same event? Which one was NOT reality? Okay, now I'm getting even myself confused. Of course I am writing from Paris, REALLY, and even my DH would know this was reality. Or is it? .... (twilight theme song playing now)

Delle Jacobs said...

When I was still doing social work., I used to have a mystery client who appeared in my dreams. I was always forgetting something I had to get done for her, or worrying about her, or trying to come up with some kind of resource for some incredible problem or even fighting against another agency in her behalf. The the next day I had this lingering feeling that I had a client who was being short-changed, if only I could remember what her name was...