One of the most frequent questions writers are asked is about their “writing space,” that special place to which they retreat to spend hours upon hours with a keyboard and a stack of blank paper. The question is a tried and true staple of interviewers seeking to get inside the heads of their writer-subjects.
Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up in what was little more than a tree house. Dorothy Parker (and several others for that matter), wrote in bed. I’m told from a reliable source that Anne Rice‘s writing space is a room comprising four walls, a floor and the ceiling, all painted primer white. She has her desk and a cup of Sharpies she uses to write on the walls, floor, wherever she can find a blank spot. It’s kind of John Nash, if you ask me, but who am I to judge?
I have my own writing space at home. It’s nothing fancy. A computer monitor, a great IBM Model M keyboard, a trackball, and about a gazillion items that I find either inspirational or distracting. I’ve written some about the setup before, about the pictures overlooking the desk and about my Joe DiMaggio autograph on the wall.
What I haven’t told you much about is the framed picture on the far corner.
The photo resides in a simple black frame that is a little oversized for the print. I’m standing in a room of people with my arm around an older woman. We’re both wearing badges and it’s obvious we’re at a conference of some sort. What isn’t obvious is why she’s on my desk.
She’s not a recognizable face. And, unless you’re an avid reader of things other than James Patterson, she may not be a recognized name. More often than not, I’m asked, “Is this your mother?” (Sorry, Julia.)
She’s not my mother. She’s National Book Award Winner Julia Glass. And she said some of the nicest things about one of my books. (You can read some of what she had to say on the back cover of The Patriot Joe Morton. It was quite lovely, I promise.)
I keep her photo on my desk, though, not for what she said about my book but instead for what she wrote to me when she signed her book.
It’s inspiration advice, to be sure. And it’s the only way writers of any calibre or quality are ever going to find success and recognition. But right now, as I stare at this screen and sit in this room, completely unable to write the first coherent word of the next book, it’s about the only thing keeping me strapped in this chair.
Maybe I’ll watch the Olympics or something and try to find some inspiration.