Writerly spaces — guest blog by Katherine Gibson

This week I will begin a new book. But, before I write the first sen­tence, I embark on a ritu­al that read­ies me for the jour­ney ahead. I need to get my web­site up-to-date, a task that seems to stall when a book is in pro­gress. Then, with my cyber-world in order, I will tackle my writ­ing room with an aim to trans­form the jumble of notes, books, and files on my desk and around the room into clear, uncluttered space.

Katherine’s desk pri­or to begin­ing her next book.

The visu­al appear­ance of where I write affects my clar­ity and pro­ductiv­ity as much as the state of my interi­or land­scape. To be present and focused, dis­trac­tions must go. That includes the mater­i­als and remind­ers of my last book, an illus­trated bio­graphy of the great Canadian writer and artist Ted Harrison.

The residue from that four-year pro­ject still fills nooks and cran­nies of my study. It is time to sift and sort. I will archive some mater­i­als and store them under the stairs. But most of what was once essen­tial is not longer import­ant and can go. Now I have space on book­shelves, a clear bul­let­in board and empty file draw­ers for my cur­rent pro­ject. Later, I’ll sweep from my desk the minu­ti­ae of every­day life that rep­res­en­ted in bank state­ments to be filed, magazines to recycle and orphaned bits of this and that.

Some papers and mater­i­al are boxed up for long-term stor­age; the rest gets tossed.

But I know this newly cleared space will be tem­por­ary. As I build the next book, my study will trans­form into a visu­al record of that writ­ing pro­cess. Reference books, pho­tos, notes, tapes, let­ters and ran­dom thoughts scribbled on scraps of paper will find homes in the space around me.

The per­son­al­it­ies of my char­ac­ters will speak to me through these stat­ic fac­sim­iles. Together we will inhab­it an envir­on­ment that will be utterly our own. It will change as we go deep­er into know­ing each oth­er. And so it will be until we reach THE END, when they too, will be sor­ted and either dis­carded or packed into stor­age boxes.

When I reflect upon my stu­dent days, I see that even then, I needed a com­posed extern­al space to put my intern­al world at ease.  Because I am a visu­al per­son — someone who instinct­ively piles rather than files — this is a con­stant chal­lenge.

In the past, I’d con­vinced myself I knew where things were, even if my work­ing space was a con­fu­sion of chaos. I’ve since learned that I am more pro­duct­ive, clear and focused when it is calm and orderly.

With space for my new book to grow, and with plant or two, a few pretty pic­tures and a little light jazz to keep my com­pany, the scene is set for my next writerly adven­ture.

Katherine’s desk and office ready for book #4.

Katherine Gibson is the author of Unclutter Your Life: Transforming Your Physcial, Mental and Emotional Space; Pause: Putting the Brakes on a Runaway Life and Ted Harrison Painting Paradise. 


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