Posted by: Casey Lybrand | July 1, 2010

Ode to My Writing Space

The Rejectionist has invited us to write about our writing areas, and show them off a bit. I found this somewhat challenging because I do not have a dedicated space for writing. Instead, I find a spot in my house [1] where I am likely to be left alone for a moment, and I write. Here, I wrote a poem about it: [2]

Ode to My Writing Space

My home contains a luxury of rooms,
seven in all;
not one of them is my own.

My writing space is a computer
nicknamed Crashy.
She runs Scrivener, and she runs.

My laptop leaves me no room to rue.
I am writing;
space is what I make my own.

Photograph of My Writing Space

Crashy the Computer

Crashy the Computer and Her Friend, Bitey the Cat

Also featured: my skirt, my bedspread, and a book I’m about to blog about, right now!

A Brief Reflection on Writing and Space: A Laptop of My Own

Writing this poem reminded me of a book I picked up about a year ago, which I then proceeded not to read. It’s now rescued from an out-of-the-way bookshelf, where it inexplicably was stashed, and added to the non-fiction TBR pile: [3]

No Rooms of Their Own: Women Writers of Early California, 1849-1869, edited by Ida Rae Egli (2nd edition, Heydey Books, Berkeley)

No Rooms of Their Own is a collection of short works by women writers in California, including women of color, writing about their own expereinces from the period between the Gold Rush and the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Just the title invites me to not complain about my life — not about Crashy, not about the lack of a dedicated writing area — and encourages me to keep writing.

I appreciate that in my own life I have the social space to say, “I need to write now. Please leave me alone.” I recognize that for many women (and other people, too) throughout history, this has not been the case. For many reasons, this is not the case for a lot of people today. Whenever I flip open Crashy, or grab her and move to another room, I get a little jolt of awareness. At least I can write: no one will try to stop me; I have the privilege of putting my energy into this instead of something else; I own a laptop of my own.

Knowing I have something I didn’t earn (privilege) which allows me to do something I want to do (write) inspires me to keep writing; little obstacles seem unimportant: I get to write, so I do.

Now, this isn’t to say I do not want a room just for writing, or even space in a shared room for a dedicated writing desk. I want that so badly I ache for it. And that is the real reason I am checking my privilege here. Force of habit: “Oh I want that? Well what about what I do have?”

I’ll tell you what, though, if I ever achieve a room of my own, there will be a party in the writing room! Hopefully Bitey the Cat will be around to see it. Hopefully Crashy will be, too.

Because what would a blog post be without footnotes:
1: My house does not
seem all that large, but when I think of the homes my grandparents grew up in, it is unbelievably spacious.
2: My odes are never odes; maybe someday. I am also aware a poem is not an essay! (As requested by the Rejectionist.) What can I say? I never followed the assignments properly in English class, either — though I did write a poem about that, as well.
3: After a book about archeology, which I am reading now for WIP research, and Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women by Jacqueline Jones Royster, which is up next.


  1. I have a similar writing space, there’s a photo of it on my first ever post on my blog. I however, do not have a cat, they make me sneeze but they are lovely (in spite of that weird blog I wrote called Cats are Possibly Aliens, it was meant in jest. Plenty of cats in my novel, for some reason, they love my male character and keep running up to him.

    I cannot imagine being a writer before computers were invented because I find writing by hand very tedious but I suppose if that’s all you have ever known, it would not strike you as odd.

  2. The only dedicated writing space you need is your brain. I actually feel a little pressured if I sit in a specific place to write. The subway has become my impromptu space of choice. That and a cupcake place near my office.

    Also, I think we have the same laptop. Does calling it ‘Crashy’ protect against crashes or is it a comment on the inevitable?

  3. Agatha,

    I’m going to go check out your first post! I haven’t seen it yet. Cats are lovely (if sometimes sneeze-inducing), and how cool that they love your character!

    I also feel pretty dependent on my computer to write. The other night, I had just shut my computer down, then thought of something more to write. I didn’t want to turn it back on, but I was afraid of losing the moment of inspiration. Finally, my sleep-deprived brain supplied me with, “Hello, pen + paper!” But it was a bit dicey there for a moment!

    J. A.,

    You are absolutely right (almost typed write!), and my brain is dedicated! There’s also a certain freedom in being able to write wherever you find yourself. (Also, Mmmm, cupcakes.)

    Calling the laptop Crashy protects against calling it “that goddamn computer” when the inevitable happens. A similar principle is at work with the cat.

  4. Great post! It is great that you can write anywhere. Also I love that your cat is named Bitey.

  5. Thank you, Elizabeth! (Oh, and the poor cat has a real name, really. It’s just that I *call* him Bitey, when I’m mad at him. For biting.)

  6. It must be liberating to be able to write anywhere, I always feel nervous as if someone is watching the screen (even if no one is around).

    Crashy is a wonderful name, if only I could keep my desktop so tidy.

  7. Thank you, SM Schmidt! Everyone kind of tumbles all over everyone else here — the house is really not large — so we’ve learned to leave each other alone about what we’re doing on our computers. A sort of socially-observed pseudo-privacy. I’ve gotten used to it.

    Crashy is fun. She has multiple desktops (called “Spaces” by the Mac,* actually). I’m showing you my writing “Space” here (haha). The other desktops are more cluttery and distracting!

    * Ubuntu has something similar, but I am clue-free about PCs.

  8. I’m also computer-bound–habit, I guess. I have a netbook that I take everywhere. I never know when I’ll get stuck in traffic on the bus and have the chance to hammer put a page or two. Great post!

  9. Thanks, AJ! Very cool that you can write on the bus. I can read on transit, but haven’t tried writing in a long time. (As in, back in the notebook days.) Crashy is tethered by her power cord, alas.

  10. “Crashy” – a very cool name! lol I have a laptop I take out on my patio sometimes too. It is nice to be mobile. In case you didn’t see it over on my blog, “The Long Walk” is another Stephen King story. :) Love your kitty!

  11. Thank you, Joann, for your kind words and the answer!

    Writing on the patio seems so appealing! Though she has been to the coffee shop on occasion, Crashy has never been out on the patio. She has a battery; it holds a charge. And yet, she cannot recognize this aspect of herself. (Don’t ask.) So if I cannot plug her in, I cannot use her.

    I do know what an extension cord is! I own a nest of coiled orange power cords, clustered in a disused corner of the garage. (Also don’t ask.) I could pull one out. Maybe Crashy and I will go outside.

  12. thank you for your wonderful comment on my blog!

    And wow, this post really makes me step back on think about what I DO have. My writing area has suddenly become even more special–thank you for the perspective.

  13. Kari, thank you. I always try to check myself when I’m focusing on what I don’t have. Because there’s a lot I do have.

    I adore your compact, resourceful writing space. Believe me, it has my wheels turning. I’m peering at cabinets and corners, and thinking.

  14. Sometimes having Scrivener is better than having a desk anyway.

  15. I know really! It is a little virtual writing room all itself. Scrivener has revolutionized my writing process. Really, truly. I love it!

  16. I hear you. Although my writing spot is in a fixed location, it is in the front room of our house, which is only 860 sq ft. My husband’s desk is three feet to left, and he works from home. I love my writing spot, but there are times I wished I had a door I could close and the freedom that comes with total privacy.

  17. I really like your front room space, Carolyn. Yes on the door that shuts, though. I hide in the bedroom to write when I need that total privacy. The mind works differently when it’s not in a social space.

    I also like sitting in our front room to write — when I think I can do so *and also* get left alone! (That happens sometimes.)

  18. I’m always grateful that I’ve been fortunate enough to have a family home without a family – I could never have a writing room of my own if I had kids instead of cats.

    I still have to close the door occasionally, though. My husband works from home, and some days he has a hard time remembering that I don’t appreciate it when my thought train gets derailed.

    Next time Crashy gets you down, just remember that we Mac users still have it better than the PC crowd!

  19. Lindsey, your home is lovely, and so are your cats!

    I have often tried to reason with Crashy, reminding her that Macs don’t crash. That applies to the OS, but I think her issue is in the hardware. She is refurbished, and I suspect she was knocked around a bit before she came to me. Fortunately, we have worked out a system — it involves autosave and a sense of humor — and we are now very happy together!

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