Writers tend to love their tools. As a kid, I wrote with a certain type of very soft-leaded mechanical pencil. When my pages were stacked together, the graphite on them would smear, so that in time, the words became almost indistinguishable on the sheets of uniform, cloudy gray. (This problem was exacerbated by being left-handed, with my writing hand always dragging across what I’d just written.)
I loved my IBM Selectric typewriter in college. When I got a Smith-Corona word processor the summer before I came to Japan, I thought it was the greatest invention ever. My first computer was a PowerMac, and I ended up collecting six different keyboards for it. Keyboards are the tactile interface between writer and machine. I relished the differences among them–some big, some small; some standard, some ergonomic; some with firmer resistance to the keys, some with softer; and each with its unique, satisfying click-click-click. The old Mac gave up the ghost after ten years of faithful service, and now I have a laptop PC starting its third year on my desk (with only two keyboards besides the one built into it).
A few years back, Jill Krementz came out with a book and related calendar, The Writer’s Desk, which offered glimpses into the places writers worked. I really enjoyed seeing the austere, converted boathouse in which E.B. White wrote…the comfortable clutter around Stephen King…the long table with Isaac Bashevis Singer ensconced at one end…. I’ve long been fascinated by the actual, physical spaces and conditions writers choose for themselves. (I see that the book is still available on-line.) So I thought you might be interested in seeing my current writing space.
Here it is! I like a full-sized keyboard, so that’s a Microsoft ergonomic laid on a wooden plank I bought at a hardware store. The plank rests on four wooden spools from my mom’s sewing drawer. It’s fitting that an artifact of my mom’s is present to hold up my keyboard, since it was Mom who taught me by example the process of writing stories and sending them out, submission after submission.
The picture was taken in February of this year. I was keying in line-edits to my novelette “Lucia’s Quest”–that’s the manuscript you see to the right of the computer. In a way, though, it’s misleading to call this my writing space: I do a lot of writing here, but I do just as much on a kitchen table, using an AlphaSmart Dana. I do write almost entirely by keyboard now. Gone are the days of gray graphite hands!