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Home » Archives » November 2006 » A Clean, Well-Lighted Place is Totally Overrated
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11/14/2006: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place is Totally Overrated

Hi all! I just got an interesting question in a letter from Lilia in Houston! She asks about my writing space: What's on my desk? And do I listen to music, eat, take breaks etc? Well, this is a fine opportunity to talk about how there's no magic formula.

My main laptop computer has died, so now I'm using my old back-up laptop, which doesn't have a wireless card. So I'm umbilically tethered to a dealy in the corner. I am now -- and always -- lying on my back on the floor in the corner of my living room, head propped up against an ottoman, computer on my raised knees, typing while I built a neat wall of blankets and candy wrappers around me. This, as you might guess, is not ideal. Ideally, I would be wireless, which would mean I could do exactly the same thing, but from over there, on the sofa. Notice that I do not have a desk at home. I like writing when it feels... I guess... like lolling on a bed, writing in a diary or something. Like doing something fun. Offices and desks feel like work. If I feel the urge to be really structured, I will go to the library and work there in the Reference Room, with the long tables and the hushed clicking of all other laptops. (I have a desk at work, of course, but I do the vast majority of my writing elsewhere, almost always at home.)

I take frequent breaks to trundle around on the internet or eat Doritos or watch an episode of The Office, but I never keep the TV or music on once I actually start typing. Voices distract me completely. Sometimes I write early in the morning, sometimes I stay up late writing... I have no real pattern.

So forget all that stuff about having to have a writing schedule, or the discipline to work for long stretches of time, or even about having a comfortable and well-ordered working environment. All you know about the people who make those statements is that *they* require those things. If you're happy writing on the bus, or writing everything in notebooks before you type it, or writing while blasting rockabilly on your ipod, or writing with small children rampaging around you... do it! If sitting at a desk looking at a neat row of sharpened pencils sets your teeth on edge, go slump in an armchair. Don't worry about your posture -- your mom's not there!

And, as long as I'm answering a question from a letter, I should let you all know that not every letter that I receive gets an answer here. This usually means that I don't know the answer, and can't begin to know how to address the question -- although I'm always delighted to have received the question. (I keep the letters I can't answer, by the way, in case I get some kind of insight later.) Sometimes I don't know the answer because the question is about a topic I've never given enough thought to, and sometimes it's because the question is beyond the scope of the blog. I try to limit myself to topics that relate to the writing of spec scripts. So bigger questions about getting agents, finding contests, finding work... these are simply things I don't feel qualified to answer other than pointing at my own past and squeaking helpfully that the Disney (ABC) Writing Fellowship got me started. My expertise, I'm not afraid to tell you, ends at the edge of the page.

So keep writing to me... and if you don't see an answer appear here -- well, I guess it's kind of like winning "stump the band."

Lunch: a BLT on toasted rye and a lemonade at Bob's Big Boy. I don't think rye is the traditional bread for a BLT, but it was very nice together.


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Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program
UC Berkeley
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