One time a college I was teaching for sent a photographer to my house wanting to take a publicity shot of me in my “creative space.”
The guy showed up to see where I work—I tidied up my little basement desk and even stuck a dried flower in a vase. He settled for a pic of me sitting in a rocking chair in my living room with a stack of galleys on my lap writing fake notes with a pencil.
“If you smile a little less, your eyes won’t be so crinkly,” he said.
I used to work a lot harder to decorate my writing space. During grad school, I hung giant sticky notes over my desk with important-looking chapter outlines for my culminating creative project. I’d use different-colored Sharpies to scrawl cryptic messages to myself, like “Juanita wouldn’t be afraid of the buffalo.”
Those big sticky notes really made me feel like a writer.
When I moved from the SF Bay area to Bellingham, I ended up with a little daylight basement to use as an office. The sticky notes of course came with, along with pics of cute Liv Tyler that I cut out of magazines and laminated, since Livvie is the closest visual approximation of the Juanita character in my mind.
One day a guy came to fix something broken and asked if the pictures of Liv/Juanita were pics of me.
I snorted. “For crying out loud,” I said. Or something like that.
Then, one day I just didn’t.
Meaning, I stripped down the big stickies and Liv/Juanita and put away my inspirational bric-a-brac.
That photographer was just a couple years too late. He missed all of my attempts to have a groovy office.
The thing is, somewhere along the way, I started to find all of the bric-a-brac distracting.
Or I just got old and my brain can handle less stimulii.
Which brings me to why my desk is now 7 feet from my toilet.
Somebody who owned this odd little house before me kinda finished off the basement. That is, they carved out a section of the rectangular room and installed a little bathroom behind a pocket door.
If you’re not architecturally minded, a pocket door slides in and out of the actual wall, and sometimes pill bugs crawl out of it.
Meaning there’s this odd little open rectangle left at one end of the room into which I shoved my desk.
It’s the coldest corner of my house, sandwiched between the toilet and a window. I like the window, so I put up with the toilet. And the chill.
Not that it’s a bad toilet. But on bad writing days, I tend to think it is.
I think, I’m a sad sack who hasn’t written one decent line all day, and my desk is right next to a toilet.
On better days I think, I am freaking brilliant, look at what I just wrote, and look at the cute bunny/squirrel/deer/sun/flower/tree/UPS driver out my window.
Yes, I need to get out more. (And tomorrow, I actually will. I’m slated to speak at the Chuckanut Writers Conference on how to pitch your manuscript. The text of my talk called Pitching 101 will post at www.DearWriters.com tomorrow.)
But tonight, face it, I’m a sad sack who hasn’t written one decent line all day, and my desk is right next to the porcelain god, which by the way, even though it wasn’t my idea to put it right there, I paid about $275 for after my sewer pipe broke and devastated the old toilet.
Which is why I now don’t have a lot of extra towels or blankets. If you have ever cleaned up after your sewer pipe, you know that it’s pretty near impossible to bring yourself to re-use any of those towels, may they rest in peace. If you come to visit me, it’s a good idea to bring a sleeping bag. And some toothpaste. I think I’m out.
By the way, my sewer pipe runs right underneath my desk chair. I know this because several plumbers and an insurance guy were in my house during the sewer pipe adventure.
So I’m a sad sack who hasn’t written a decent line all day, and I write seated over the top of my own sewage.
Yes, I could move my desk to another part of the house. One day I will figure out why I’m strangely content with the current set up. I knew this girl in college who used to study in the bathtub. Maybe she was on to something.
What I do know is, I gotta figure out what to do with Juanita and those pesky buffalo, and something tells me that I’m destined to write a story in which a toilet factors prominently. If I do, I promise not to post it on this blog.
Happy writing, however close to a toilet, window, or sewer pipe you may find yourself.
XO Laurel Leigh
8 responses to “Writing Between the Toilet and the Window”
Hilarious writing, Laurel! I flew through every word and then it was over…dang! What do you do with all your books? My little writing cottage looks like a troll librarian lives there. It’s filled with literary land mines. All the best on your speech!
Thanks, Susan! My books are on shelves in different rooms in my house. Well, my house only has three rooms, so they’re just tucked into corners. But I periodically take them to Village Books and just took a bunch of boxes a few months ago. Which means I end up buying some of the same titles over and over. Funny you should mention that, because Call of the Siren and Jilanne Hoffmann started a Show Us Your Shelves post, so you can see the books that survived the last purge at this post: https://dogpatchwriterscollective.com/2013/06/14/mardi-gras-dogs-showing-our-shelves/
The interesting thing about bric-a-brac is that once it’s there long enough, it becomes part of the landscape.
This is why I enjoy having new visitors to my office. They allow me to see my office through their eyes. In other words, these visitors help me to notice and appreciate my own stuff. They allow me to think, “Huh! I do have some cool things, don’t I?”
And, for the record, I did not tidy my office for the photo. My office is ALWAYS tidy. Harumph!
Ha! I have been wondering how to spell “Harumph” — I’m looking forward to the blogs you’re gonna write based on asking us all for topics. I vote for Cat in the Hat first!
So help me, when I clean my office, I’m going to show you just how good you have it! A window?! In my wildest dreams. I do have a door to a fire escape, and the guy who lives above us only flooded us once with “grey water” after he took some sleeping pills, filled his toilet, flushed, and then fell asleep while it clogged and ran and ran and ran….into my office and our master bedroom. New carpeting, new furniture, guys with industrial strength dehumidifiers that turned our candles limp in the 100 degree heat, and a $12,000 insurance claim later…You get the picture? You have a lovely office.
And if you just wrote your post (and didn’t schedule it), I’m thinkin’ you HAVE written many decent sentences today. So congrats! Now, brush your teeth and wow them at Chuckanut. I’ve seen you work a room. They’ll be putty in your hands.
I am humbled! I cannot compete with grey water coming from up top, nor do I want to! It’s amazing how much damage water can do. So what can I say. I embrace my toilet-adjacent office with its window and have my fingers crossed that neither of our toilets overflow anytime soon.
P.S. Teeth brushed!
I was thinking to myself what a good piece of writing this was–funny and interesting–and that was even before I got to the link back to my blog. Thank you for that, and for another great post that made me smile again and again.
Good luck at your conference. You will knock their socks off.
I read your comment yesterday morning before running off to the conference. It was lovely to get such a nice message and encouragement right before giving my talk (which went well). I so enjoy your blog and appreciate you reading my latest post.