Searching for the Perfect Writing Spot

Emma at the desk

There is no such thing as the perfect writing spot. We all know that. Though, I must say, granddaughter Emma looks almost perfect right where she sits at my desk. And my son, Doug, looks pretty productive, too.

Doug at my desk

There are simply writers who sit down and write. Wait around for the perfect spot and you won’t be writing much. And yet … periodically, I disrupt our whole house as I attempt to fulfill this most illusory need.

Our cabin is somewhat unconventional. Right angles and doors are rare. Open concept is taken to the limit. Finding my perfect writing space has been a challenge that is as much about my personality as it is about the house. I like a change now and then. Over the years, I have had my desks in at least eight areas of this small cabin. I’m sorry to tell you that the first few set-ups predated our time with digital cameras, so words must suffice.

Rake window - uppermost loft

I started with a small desk in the uppermost loft. We had to hoist the desk over the railing from one loft to the other since it wouldn’t go up the narrow stairs. It was years before we had installed a rake window looking out over the garden in that area. Maybe I would have stayed put if I had waited for that window. Who knows?

 

Railing that overlooks the main floor

Next, I got a larger desk and moved to the big loft, against the railing that looks down into the living room. This railing  just got a major facelift so I decided to include a photo, though my desk in that location is long gone. I was near that railing for a while. I loved the vantage point but hated how the whole mess of computer cords and the piles of books on my desk looked from below.

Soon enough, I was on the move again. We converted the dining room section of our open concept main floor into a full-fledged office with built-in bookshelves that surrounded my desk. I do wish I had a photo of that set-up for you. It was really neat. I wrote many academic papers in that space. I was productive and for me and Bruce, the loss of the dining room was no big deal. We still had our kitchen eating space. But the repurposing brought multiple complaints from all visitors who had fond memories of the large table that previously occupied the dining room and could seat a dozen in a pinch.

We reclaimed the dining room as dining room, though in the photo below, we had long since lost that huge table.

Table in dining area

Upstairs, we had knocked a door through the middle loft, so all three lofts were connected. The area on the main floor that contained a closet and the narrow staircase to the highest loft became redundant. We created a library/office space for Bruce and removed all the desks and built-in shelving from the dining room to that area. Below, you can see this is a wonderful cosy spot.

Library office

Meanwhile, I moved down to Victoria for several years to attend university. In my apartment, I had the entire dining room converted to an office. I think we ate at a small table in the living room. A lot can be deduced about an individual from the amount of space they are willing to allocate to desks.

desks in victoria

I had satellite desks at the cabin for holidays and the summer months.

desk upstairs near big window     Desk in entry

When I returned full-time to the cabin, Bruce designed a built-in desk for me in the sloping corner of the big loft. I was upstairs again! I distinctly remember writing my methodology paper for my unfinished dissertation there. But after a while, looking into a dark corner made me feel stifled. Okay for research methodology but it wouldn’t work for novel writing. Time to move again.

upstairs corner desk     Upstairs desk

I couldn’t exactly haul the built-in desk around, so I simply moved my laptop to the kitchen. The table proved to be the most fruitful writing space I have ever had. I was so productive that more and more stuff followed me down to the table and before long we barely had a spot to eat. Well, over time, that became untenable.

working at the kitchen table

I moved to the dining room again … completely central to the rest of the cabin.

2 desks sticking into the living room

A space begging for interruption. I pined for the wide-open view of the lake from the kitchen table. Thus, the era of trying to have it all began. I moved one desk up to the kitchen.

Table and 1 desk

Again, much work occurred in front of that view of lake but there were downsides. I had become a two-desk person and one of them had to stay in the dining room. I felt fractured.

Fractured - 1 desk in living room

One day, Bruce said, “Why not take over the whole kitchen eating area for your office. We’ll move the table to the dining room.” I was in heaven. I had both my desks, huge windows, an easy chair. Perfection at last. And close to the coffee pot. What more could a writer ask?

Kitchen office

The howls from visitors began anew and my guilt at commandeering such a big slice of our square footage grew. When we had guests, we had to haul all the food for every meal down to the dining room and people missed eating up in the kitchen with those wonderful views. Compromise was called for. Back to only one desk in the kitchen plus table.

Fractured again, I tried both desks plus the table. Unbelievably crowded and even I was howling.

Table and 2 desks    Crowded kitchen

Through all our back and forth with desks from dining room to kitchen, we had kept our china cabinet in the dining area. The next move saw us drag that cabinet up to the kitchen and that meant both my desks could tuck into the dining room space much more effectively and the whole open concept main floor looked cozy and sleek. We loved having the spacious kitchen back and having the china cabinet where it should have been all along. Hopefully, we told ourselves, this was the end of moving desks.

Kitchen with table & china cabinet

But not so fast. The dining room is still central – it feels like grand central to me.

Latest office

I bemoaned the fact that I had neither walls nor door and considered the solution of Les Nessman from that old sit com, WKRP in Cincinnati. Maybe I could draw where the walls should go on the floor and chalk in the door. But in my heart I knew, that would not stop distraction. Then it came to me – like a bolt of lightning – we have an underutilized space with a door. Our dormer room upstairs – the middle loft. One of the few places in this cabin I have never attempted to work. The kids use it as a playroom when they visit. There are big windows and an interesting view.

I was resolved that this would be a different sort of move for me. I had no intention of converting the dormer to an office. I love my office space right where it is. What I envisioned was a work area only big enough for my laptop. Whenever I felt the need for isolation, I could cart my laptop to the dormer, shut the door and stay put in front of the keyboard. No interruptions and no distractions.

Sitting up in the dormer, Bruce and I threw some ideas around. We have a set of built-in shelves under the window, and we decided that something designed to fit on the shelf and jut into the room slightly would suffice. Bruce rounded up a package of leftover hardwood pine flooring that had been given to us by friends after they redid their bedroom floor. He constructed this lovely little work surface with a back that holds it tightly in place under the upper shelf.

IMG_5882

So now, here I sit. I am writing undisturbed, enjoying the sound of the rain on the dormer roof outside the window and loving the view of the trees, multiple shades of green all around me. It’s a bit like sitting in a tree fort.

New work surface in the dormer

Hopefully, all is well that ends well. I can never say this will be my last move, but I sure enjoy the way things are now. In closing, I dedicate this post to the one who has cheerfully, (for the most part) hauled my many desks from place to place. Thank you, Bruce. As always, your support is greatly appreciated. Here’s a great photo of what Bruce was up to the other day – time to clean out that composting toilet. I bet hauling around my desks is way more fun.

Compost Toilet Haul

23 comments on “Searching for the Perfect Writing Spot

  1. Behind the Story says:

    Oh, my gosh! I tried to follow your every move with care and imagine your cabin. I love the pictures. Cheers to Bruce.

    I have an island in my kitchen. That’s where I write now. As you said, it’s near the coffee pot. I also have a desk with my computer in the dining area.

    • Nothing like being near the coffee pot 🙂 As I wrote that post, recreating the movement of my various desks, I admit to getting confused a couple of times myself. Yes indeed – cheers and many kudos to Bruce.

  2. evelynralph says:

    Reblogged this on evelynralph and commented:
    What an interesting writing life! Thanks for the photographs.
    Evelyn

  3. Gallivanta says:

    So many beautiful places to choose from. I have 3 desks in 3 different rooms but none of them has a view like yours.

  4. noelleg44 says:

    What a gorgeous house and I love any desk near a window, and with views like that, what’s not to love! I’m in a loft with some narrow horizontal windows with a view of tree tops. I’ll take your spot!

    • I think I’ve been most productive as a writer whenever my desk has sat right up against a window – something about the light and the expansive nature of seeing outward while looking inward. We do love this cabin. Thanks for appreciating it with us.

  5. What a desk adventure you have had! Such a lovely home and very inspiring views–you are one lucky writer/gal. My desk has been at the end of our large dining room for two decades. It has worked fine. But, alas, we are moving to a somewhat smaller and differently-shaped rooms of a townhouse soon. And the main thing I am perseverating over: where to place my desk?…We will see…

    • I love the continuity of your desk arrangement, Cynthia. I once had a productive run at the end of a dining room table but nothing like two decades. Of course, the main concern upon any move is where should the desk go. I applaud your discernment on that issue. Thanks for stopping by to follow the desks around our home and best of luck with your upcoming move.

  6. Reblogged this on through the luminary lens and commented:
    Francis speaks of her elusive and ever changing writing spots in the cabin. And we re-purpose a small stack of leftover flooring from friends… to build – guess what? Look and see, amidst the nooks and crannies.

  7. Your dormer spot looks delightful as do the magnificent views, no matter what configuration you’re currently using. 🙂 I also think you can tell a lot about people by how much space they allot for books. I’ve never understood people whose homes contain no books or even magazines. I really need a dedicated library room!

    janet

    • I am loving that dormer 🙂 Agreed on the books – there should be at least a few in every room. We used to pride ourselves on having a library where anybody could find a book to read, no matter the eclecticism of their taste. Not sure we managed that but we enjoyed trying.

  8. I was jolted at first at the long paragraphs of fliwing words. It took me some timd to reslize that Bruce was not writing this post. Lol. Enjoyed your desk journey through your lovely cabin. Every window has a spectacular view.

    • Many thanks for following Bruce over to my post of flowing words – what writer wouldn’t lap up that compliment 🙂 I think we are formed by the landscapes we spend our time in more than we realize. I do love those views.

  9. smilecalm says:

    nice having an inspiring
    place to sit & express
    what needs to be
    said 🙂

  10. Roy McCarthy says:

    What a fabulous place you have Francis. Trouble is of course that you have so many options. I have (1) sitting at the apartment table or (2) sitting in the apartment armchair, feet up, tapping away as I am now.

    • Ture – many options here with a place that has multiple great views. I seem to be the type of writer who has to settle into one or another for a period of time to actually get any work done. I like the idea of table or armchair – sounds super cozy. As long as we’re writing, the place doesn’t matter that much – right?

  11. Debra says:

    It looks like such an inviting space for so many purposes! I love the views and admire your flexibility in carving out the space you need. Absolutely delightful for inviting creativity and drawing you into your writing. Cheers!

    • Thanks, Debra. Being back to posting and writing every day feels wonderful. My writing life has certainly been an exercise in flexibility 🙂 The Yoga of Writing – geez – I think I feel another post coming on.

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