Friday, December 16, 2011

On Vacation...

Hi Folks,

Just a quick note to say I'm traveling and visiting fam and napping and eating unqualified amounts of cookies, and the blog will probably be somewhat sporadically updated over the next few weeks. I'll pop in and out, and get back on schedule in January.

Happy holidays!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why You Need a Writing Space

I love my Monday posts every week, when I get to comb the Internet for pictures of funny, warm, beautiful, and interesting offices and writing spaces. Coincidentally, I heard from two readers in the last few days who mentioned that they don't have a work space of their own. I'm here to tell you:

You need an office.

And here's why: writing (or editing or copy editing) is your job. It's not a hobby that you like to do in your spare time (even if you like to do it in your spare time). It's a job. And it's not something that can be done sitting on the couch or while jockeying for space on your kitchen table. I know there are lots of people who do just that and do it well, which, if it works for you, that's great. But I still want to make my case for why your own space is incredibly important and will actually help you get your work done.

When I made the big "real" job to writing job leap, I was worried that I wouldn't have the discipline to actually sit down and write for 8 hours a day. I wanted to force myself to stick to a routine, to recreate as much as possible an actual work setting. I promised myself two things:

1. Get an office
2. Don't wear pajamas every day.*

When we were apartment-hunting, the only thing I thought about was "I will be here for literally the entire day, and I have to love it." Luckily, we hit the jackpot with our apartment, and I built myself my dream desk, and I absolutely, up-the-wall, adore my sunny little corner. It is beautiful, it is relaxing, it is mine.

The mine part is very important. My desk is not the husband's desk. My desk is not where the mail goes or where we drop off groceries. My desk isn't even where I get other work done. It is a space absolutely dedicated to writing. I have all my papers there and my notes and my pens and pencils. I have a big, gorgeous external monitor and space for my laptop. Everything I need is within arm's length, and when I sit down every morning, everything is exactly where I left it.

Having a desk has given me boundaries and guidelines, which, with a job as freewheeling as this, is incredibly important. I make sure my butt is in the chair by 9AM, and I do not leave until 5PM. While I'm actually at the desk, I might write or I might stare out the window for 45 minutes or I might spend an hour researching Chinese mobs on Wikipedia. But the important thing is that I'm at the desk for 8 hours a day, and in general, that makes the work get done.

I know for a lot of people, having your own space can be extremely difficult, but it is so rewarding that I urge you to try to carve out something: a desk or a corner of the room that is purely for you, where no one else sits, where you can go to every day free from distraction. I'm sure it's possible. I am sure. I lived in a teeny-tiny apartment that I shared with two other people for three years, and I still managed to give myself a corner in my bedroom that became my writing space.

And writing spaces don't even necessarily have to be in your own home. A favorite coffee place can be a writing space (although you run the risk of angering barristas). You can write in public libraries or even find a shared office space in your area where you can rent out a desk by the month.

What's most important is that the space supports your work, not distracts from it. You're doing serious, important, hard work, and it demands the respect of its own dedicated area. So get an office.

What do you think? Do you have a space or are you a couch-bed-kitchen table writer?

*I wear pajamas every day. The first few days, I tried changing into real-people clothes, but after a week or two I realized I was more comfortable just staying in pjs, and when I was comfortable and not thinking about my clothing, I was less distracted and more productive. So most days I wear pj pants, a t-shirt, and a huge bright-blue bathrobe that makes me look like a muppet and is exceedingly warm. Except because I have a standing desk, and my slippers don't provide enough support, I also have to wear my running shoes. It's...not an attractive outfit...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Writing Spaces Monday: Gettin' Cozy

It's my last few days here in my apartment in Chicago before the husband and I head out East for a graduation, a Christmas party, and a new niece/nephew, and we're busy getting things ready for our two-week absence*. Today I'm off to bake cookies/pizzas for an impromptu Love, Actually party (oh the joys of self-employment) while the husband works from home for once, and things here are feeling very cozy, which inspired today's writing space.

Now, to be honest, what I really wanted to post a picture of was the husband's home office, where he may or may not be sitting wearing what we call his Santa Claus long undies, a Snuggie, and my awesome headphones. And yet, I love him, and so, for the sake of marital stability, I decided to look instead for warm and cozy offices inspired by log cabins:

from Jared Chandler
So much pine! And the foundation is made from real river rocks
(I can imagine sitting at the desk and giving yourself a little foot massage).

via Scarlett Poole
 Love that huge armchair in the back
(in general, design stylists should just be in charge of everyone's home. period.)

from Thomas Mayer Architects

This one is actually designed to sit in a backyard garden (it's on wheels).
The construction is just so, so gorgeous, with all the wood log ends forming one whole wall.
Check out the link for more photos.

The inside of the garden cabin.
Beautiful blue, beautiful sunlight.

*Any gardeners out there with tips/tricks on how to keep a Peace Lily and Rosemary tree alive for two weeks?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Blog Wrap Up: Snow Edition

I woke up this morning to a white surprise: snow in Chicago!* I find that I enjoy snow much more now that I don't have to walk around in it in high heels, although by the time I tried to take a picture, most of the snow had already melted (please accept this snowy photo of an iced-over Walden Pond in its stead).

On to this week's wrap up!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

15 Gifts for the Writer in Your Life

I get it. Writers can be finicky folk to buy gifts for. Notebook? "I write on a laptop." Pens? "Sure, but I only use Pilot EasyTouch in Blue Medium."* Books? "Get me something I haven't already read. Seriously. Try to do it." Kindle Fire? No wait, whom do you love enough to buy them a freakin' Kindle Fire?

To (maybe) make it easier on you, here are 15 gift ideas for the writer/reader/editor/publisher in your life (I promise, no pens):

Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Spaces Monday: A Dickensian Christmas

Spotify Christmas Radio is playing, Chicago looks as grey and dismal as a graveyard, and my apartment has a lovely pine smell, which can only mean it's getting to be Christmas!

I'll be posting a few Christmas-related posts in the coming week, but I wanted to kick things off with one of my favorite Christmas writers, Charles Dickens:

Here he is hard at work, and here's another view of his desk:

Every year I try to load up on as much Christmas media as possible (my favorite discovery: the She & Him Christmas album--Zoey Deschanelle and lovely, bluesy Christmas carols), and A Christmas Carol ranks up there with the best. If you'd like to read it yourself, you can check it out here, thanks to the magic of the internets.

Enjoy the rest of the week, and here's hoping your office is nicer than Bob Cratchit's:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Blog Wrap Up: Christmas Trees Edition!

It's officially December, which means I can set up our first Christmas tree, draw some stockings on our chalkboard wall, and stop sneaking Christmas carols on Spotify!

It also means that NaNoWriMo is over! How did everyone do? Galleycat reported that this year, writers produced more than three billion words--amazing! But don't forget that December is unofficially National Edit a Novel Month. For those getting started on editing, Lifehacker put together some great tips and tricks for editing your novel.

This week, bloggers seemed to make up for the holidays with a slew of interesting posts on publishing, agenting, editing, and writing:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Ode to my Typewriter*

I have a typewriter, and it is beautiful.

It is safe to say that I L-O-V-E my typewriter.

Want to see what it looks like?


I love it so much, I put it on my business cards (yes I have business cards. Halt the eye-rolling! I will explain more about them in another post).

It was a present to me from the husband from a couple of years ago. We’d been eating at our favorite restaurant in New York (Max Soha, UWS, lovely and romantic and inexpensive), talking about our lives.

He hadn’t gotten into grad school yet, I was still nothin’ but a lowly journalist, and I told him that I’d been thinking about writing, a lot. I’d always loved it, but I stopped in college, after my pseudo-intellectual short stories became a chore both to read and write.

Lately, though, a story had crept into my mind, slowly being formed. It was itchy, this story, and I wondered if I should actually write it. And if I did? What was I supposed to do with it? Stuff it in a drawer to read occasionally? Or--gulp--try to publish it?

I remember he took my hand and told me I could do it, and he believed in me. 

It was a lovely moment, and it made me very happy. Then our caprese salad came and we wolfed down some oh-so-delicious breadsticks, and then I told him how I’d always loved those big, beautiful, vintage typewriters. And he told me, get ready kid, ‘cause I’m going get you one for Christmas.

And he did!

It is probably one of my favorite presents/possessions ever, although I have to say I don’t use it as much as I just stare at it (I type on a laptop, like a person from this century).

Really, though, I love it because the husband gave it to me, and because every time I look at it I realize, as much as writing is a one-person profession, I wouldn’t be doing this without him. It takes a huge leap of confidence to quit your job for the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants life as a writer, and without his vote, I just wouldn’t have been able to do this. And yes, he’s a little biased, but he’s also extremely practical** and said: your success is my success, and I wouldn’t encourage you to do something if I didn’t think you would succeed.

It is a lovely, encouraging, sometimes terrifying thing to think about, but ultimately something that gives me courage and hope. And that’s what my little typewriter means to me.

*Note: not an actual ode. I don’t know how to write those and I’m too lazy to look it up on Wikipedia and really I just want to write nice things about my typewriter so let’s just roll with it, hmmmm?

**Except that day he spent $40 on a miniature helicopter from Brookstone, which promptly broke as soon as we got home. Did I mention he was 24 at the time?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Blog Wrap-Up: Turkey Day


Although many bloggers last week were, rightly, on holiday, I still stumbled across a few interesting and noteworthy posts. Enjoy!

Writing Spaces Monday: Cyber Monday

Hello everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday and safe travels!*

Obviously, I was too busy stuffing my face (mom-in-law made three pies! three!) to post the Friday blog wrap-up, so expect a belated post a little later today.

In the meantime, it's Cyber Monday! Cyber Monday made me think of crazy, futuristic writing spaces, sleek design, something out of a sci-fi movie.

On sale here!
This one, from Gravitonus, would not look out of place in Terminator, and although it's probably more geek-friendly than writer friendly, can you imagine how fun it would be to swing in that thing all day?

design by Fred Baier
Or, you could turn your desk into a little robot!

Or forget any pretense about design and just fill your desk with one million computers.

Enjoy the deals, and check back later today for last week's round-up!

*For the record: no delay, only ONE drunken, rowdy fellow passenger, and for our 6-hour layover in Ft. Lauderdale, the husband took me to a lovely restaurant by the water for lunch.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

 I have a lot to be thankful for this year, which has seen me through some ups and downs. I always like to take some time every year to think about the things that mean the most to me. Here are my top ten:

10. Watching the tree outside my window, its leaves changing colors, birds singing on the branches

9. An amazing honeymoon to Italy, and the best gelato in the world

 8. Friendly writers and friendly economists who are helping make Chicago a welcoming place

7. A beautiful home, where I feel happy and safe

 6. The health and happiness of all my family

 5. A first draft with promise

 4. Savings and support and the encouragement and opportunity to actually 
go out there and turn my dreams into reality 

 3. Gaining the greatest in-laws and siblings a girl could ask for

 2. Getting to celebrate my wedding with my spunky, wonderful, Great-Aunt Titi

1. Marrying my best friend

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Writing Spaces: An Early Peanuts Birthday

I like that the two posters so beautifully capture both sides of the Charlie Brown coin

Welcome to another week, folks!

This Saturday will be Peanuts creator Charles Schultz's birthday, and in honor of Sparkie, I thought I'd share this Peanuts-themed office I stumbled upon.

Unfortunately, I didn't keep notes about where this energetic little tangerine beauty came from. The only thing that I (vaguely) remember is that it's a European design company (possibly Spanish?), and they had several candy-colored bedroom/desk sets. This was my favorite (aside from the Peanuts decor) because it is roughly the same size and shape of the spare bedroom that we turned into the husband's office, and this was supposed to inspire us to make something as cute (we didn't!).

Generally I'm not a big fan of matchy-matchy, but I love the energy and bounciness of this little office, along with how nicely the furniture frames the room. Also, if you're going to use anything as a design jumping-off point, you could do worse than Charlie Brown's baseball mitt.

And here's a shot of the man himself, hard at work, in his own work space:

My parents have that same wallpaper in their foyer.

In other news, I'm sure most of you are planning your week around crazy travel schedules and overeating. Us too! Tomorrow morning we leave for a two-plane, 14-hour journey to the East Coast (I don't know how early we're leaving in the morning because the husband hasn't told me, perhaps because if I knew, I would stage a revolt, buy a turkey, and stay in Chicago).*

I'm excited to see my brand-new in-laws and pass out after eating my mom-in-law's cooking, so it's debatable how much posting there'll be this week. If I go radio silent for the next few days, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great rest of the week!

*Because this is not, technically, a travel blog or a personal blog or a ranty blog, I won't go into detail about WHY a plane trip from Chicago to the East Coast is taking 14 hours (assuming no delays, which, oh god, please, no...). Suffice it to say, it involves a budget airline that may or may not be going out of business and several unhelpful customer service people.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Blog Wrap Up: Fall Leaves Edition

Happy Friday, folks! The tree outside my window is sadly devoid of leaves (meaning I no longer feel like I live in a tree house and that I have to actually lower my blinds if I want to dance like a crazy person/lounge around in my bathrobe), but here's a little photo I took while the leaves were still turning and the sky a beautiful, bright blue.

Without further ado, here were some of my favorite posts of the week:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"How Do You Do This Every Day?"

Last week, I visited with a lot of my family, on both my parents’ sides, and, as always happens when I visit family, I got a lot of questions about what I do every day (“Write!” I sneered, and stomped off to get more canapés. No I didn’t. That would be weird.).

So, I’m in a unique position from a lot of writers I know because writing is my one and only day job. Pretty much the only thing I have to accomplish every day is to write something. I’m serious about this. Most days I don’t even put on pants. And Sunday night for dinner I had Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream and a bowl of popcorn (made on the stove!)*. It’s a…charmed life?

Anyway, the number one question I get is: How do you do this every day? Meaning, how do I wake up and write, instead of just lounge around in PJs eating bon-bons and watching Project Runway?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Spaces Monday: Hunger Games Edition

That squee heard 'round the world today was the result of the epic, breathtaking, heart-pounding new trailer for The Hunger Games movie! I almost didn't want to watch it, so great is my love for this book, but it delivered.

There is something so incredibly magical about seeing this world and these characters come to life, and, if anything, it gives me an even greater appreciation for how Suzanne Collins created such a memorable world.

In honor of trailer, I went out and found the Hunger-Gamesiest writing space that I could find:

Images via Roddylife
Located just east of Seattle, Treehouse Point is a unique park where people can rent and stay in one of their many beautiful treehouses. This one, called the Hermitage, has its own tiny desk and a 360-degree view of the neighboring creek.

How magical would it be to wake up, look out your window, and see this? I can imagine all sorts of writing inspiration coming just from that view (unless your book is set on the desert wasteland of a sun-scorched planet, in which case you're better off here).

What did you think about the trailer?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Blog Wrap Up

Happy Friday, folks! (As well as Happy 11.11.11 Day, and a special thank you to our soldiers on Veterans Day). This has been a bit of an upside-down week for me, and the husband and I are home for about 36 hours before we head off for another corner of the country.

In the meantime, I've been catching up on the blog-o-sphere, finding all sorts of fun, interesting, thought-provoking posts for this week's wrap up.

It's still NaNoWriMo, which means GalleyCat is still posting a tip a day to keep authors motivated! This week, Fight a Word War, Write What You Don't Know, Get a Literary Butt-Kicking, Download 7 Free Writing Books, and Seek Figment Support.

Via Literary Rambles: Regal Literary is having a Winter Giveaway featuring signed copies of their authors' books. You can enter here

Via Janet Reid: Sara Zarr writes about failure, and how to use failure as a source of inspiration

Meaghan McCarthy at Blue Rose Girls is launching a new project to find authors and illustrators to contribute to a book about bullying. It sounds like a really amazing project, so if you'd like to help, you can visit her website here

Rachelle Gardner talks about Authors and Book Piracy

Jessica at BookEnds Literary discusses her editing process, which includes some good tips on how to become a better editor

The new Nook came out this week! Matt Silverman at Mashable put together a chart of what to know and how it ranks among other e-readers

Via Dystel and Goderich: a great little website that maps out authors' relationships with each other, based on fan interests (turns out everyone loves Twilight...)

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

UPDATE: One more good one! Also, via Dystel and Goderich (and hot off the bloggy presses...):  Publishing Trendsetter put together an amazing video + diagram post about the life cycle of a book, talking with everyone from the author to the designer to sales to publicity about what happens to get a book from brain to shelves. Fabulous post with great interviews!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction


I'm out of town this week, so I thought I would suspend my regular Wednesday post to share with you a TED talk by author Elif Shafak on how writing, stories, fiction can bring us all together.

It is a beautiful, funny, inspiring talk, and something I think about often when people ask me why I love to write.