Where do you write?
We all write in different spaces, from our desks to the library to the coffee shop and even our beds! Read below to see where the Undergraduate Writing Fellows write and get some inspiration to create your own writing space.
Sofia Amorim, DSEM Writing Fellow
In fact, unlike most, I borrow public spaces, or pay to enter buildings that I write in. Whether it is an academic paper, poetry, journal writing, creative, or any other form of writing, I find that I do my best work in places that are not exclusively mine. Writing is a highly personal experience, no matter the audience or discipline. The search for an individual space of one’s own, provides a sanctuary of concentration and focus.
Not for me.
My writing space is not a physical geography; it’s a mental place. I live within my own head and am overly critical of my work. Ironically enough, I’ve found that writing provided me a platform for a voice that I am too nervous to share. My growth as a writer blossomed by taking risks; my best writing & ideas are born in the moment I witness them. When I write, I explore and think about things as I see them, moving parts of a whole world. Writing in my room, I am sheltered behind physical and mental walls that create a self-tailored enclave. But, placing myself somewhere outside of my world, forces me to observe the world as it is, rather than simply my picture of it.
So, to write, I push myself outside of my comfort zone. I write to work out my thoughts, to better understand things. The natural world, the metropolitan, the interaction & movements of people reveal the interconnectedness of everything. Watching a commuter drop a receipt, or staring at a stack of books waiting to be re-shelved, even smelling the burning firewood from the bottom of the mountain, I am drawn into the participation of some experience; and that experience inspires me to explore more within my own mind. Viewing actions, noticing patterns, connecting the dots of your thoughts, all in real time, it feels as though the synapses in my brain reconfigure and bridge the gaps between all the things I learned and thought I knew.
The truth is, that by being somewhere where I can’t control the environment, I surrender to the fact that even I don’t fully understand that which I think I know. Knowledge tends to be divided by discipline, but in practice in the real world, everything interacts with anything. Scratching lines with graphite, carving a stream with ink, clicking buttons that create letters on a screen, all of these actions focus the words and thoughts my mind tries to make sense of. My eyes pick apart my observations in threads, and my brain tries to untangle the web it also weaves.
It’s all about the details that drown in the waves of our daily actions; the way one person personalizes the mundane. So naturally, I’ve created a space within the spaces we share.
And, above all, it’s a space where everything builds and grows off one another.
Nina Campli, DSEM Writing Fellow
Usually I write in my bedroom, at home or at school and almost always on my bed. I dislike desks, they’re like tiny prisons, and the ones that I have sat in typically don’t have soft, squishy chairs. I have to be able to sit comfortably, otherwise it is difficult for me to concentrate on my work. Most of the time I write propped up against pillows. Everything in the room must be organized, I can’t work if there’s trash or clothes everywhere, or if my desk doesn’t look neat. Writing is structured and like writing I need everything in the space where I write to have a structure or system, in other words everything must have a place. That being said, I cannot work in a space that looks like it could be a military academy. There needs to be color and life. Typically, for me this life takes the form of decorations on the walls. These decorations are everything from canvas paintings to mandalas I colored while taking a break from work, as well as photos of friends and yes, a German flag. Although writing is structured it is nonetheless creative, and with all this color surrounding me it is easier to be creative. There is also probably coffee or food next to me. I think better when I move, which may make people think I enjoy exercise, trust me I don’t, I would rather to anything else. Really more specifically I need to be moving my hands. So I eat or drink coffee and the motion of me picking up whatever it is helps me think. I also listen to music. Usually something with words, because you never know what lyric might inspire a thought in your head. Plus it gives me another excuse to move hands. If anyone was watching me write, they would at some point see me bust some very sad dance moves.
Within this space thoughts still don’t magically appear. Just because I am in this space doesn’t mean that I can write a perfect first draft or even think of ideas at all. This space merely allows me to stay concentrated and focused when my mental space is ready and able to write. If I am not in the right state of mind, this space becomes a place for me to play on my phone and procrastinate, or a space to do an assignment for some class that I feel more inspired to do at that moment than writing. My mind needs to be clear of worry or stress about other things and completely devoted to the task of writing. It is the most important thing for my writing process. If my heart is not in it, I simply am unable to write.
Thomas Cleary, DSEM Writing Fellow
My ideal writing space is an area that is isolated to allow for increased concentration, but with a window to allow for some access to the outside world. I often have problems focusing on my assignments so I find it necessary to go somewhere with few distractions. At the same time when I go to an area that is too isolated, I find that it can be equally distracting. Without any outside stimulus whatsoever my work quickly becomes monotonous and I lose interest. As a result, I find it necessary to strike a balance in my workspace, and a spot next to a window usually provides this balance. I usually go to Drew’s library to work, as there are plenty of places there that fit my specifications. My preference is for the area on the second floor against the wall that is facing the Hoyt residence hall. The library has several desks set up against that wall with borders to provide added privacy. In addition, these desks have lights for reading and power outlets for charging my laptop. I like to make myself at home in these cubicles so I will often bring a mouse and keyboard for added comforted while I type.
Although the picture I included does not depict this spot, exactly it shares many of the qualities I value from my preferred study area on Drew’s campus. The picture I included is of my desktop in my room. The keyboard and mouse at my desktop are the same ones that I like to bring to the library for added ease while typing. I chose to put my desktop in this location because of its proximity to the window. Like my spot in the library, there is a window in my room that gives me some natural light and access to the outside world while I work. I find that a workspace such as the one in my photo provides the best work environment for me.
STEPHANIE DE FRONZO
Stephanie DeFronzo, DSEM Writing Fellow
My room: a paradise
All of my own
Tokens of memory setting a tone
A spirit, a pitch of comfort and mind
Makes every feeling, every word defined
From phrases that float through the window
And stick to the bed
Each emotion and syllable I sift through my head
A shape is formed by the click of my keys
By each Playbill pinned up as if ready to reprise
The echo of melodies that mold a mere thought
That takes to the screen as a song or a plot
Of remembrance, or wisdom each tune starts to hum
And what wonderful stories
Each tune can become
So if perched upon wood or upon flowering down
Each note can be sung as a verb or a noun
For the words that are written with familiar refrain
In home and in heart will forever remain
Katelynn Fleming, DSEM Writing Fellow
A soft, warm light suffuses my little corner of the world. It comes from a desk lamp with a yellow-rose bulb that my brother gave me, and is augmented by the strand of little dragonflies lit from within draped artfully on the wall to my left. My journal lies near the center of the light from the desk lamp, bordered by the lovely blue-green mandalas that weave like ivy across the white of my bedspread. Behind me, above the head of my bed, a couple relaxes beneath a tree in silhouette to a brilliant blue sky and verdant grass. My roommate and I decided if we couldn’t paint the dismal white walls, we would cover them with paper and paint that.
Outside my haven, life can get very messy. As the semester works up to a fever pitch, the confusion begins to spill in; papers pile up, some that I don’t know what to do with, some classified as less imminent in the college triage, others fascinating articles that await a free moment to be read. Stacks of books accumulate since my eyes are perpetually bigger than my free time. The busier the day, the more I’d like to just curl up with a novel in the corner. As a result, the less time I have to read, the more books find their way to my poor, overburdened bedside shelf. My desk eventually succumbs to the clutter as well; by month four of the semester it is piled high with a mixture of odds and ends that were given away at events, graded assignments, more books, unfinished leisure projects, and an indistinguishable tangle of earbuds and charging cords.
In all the confusion that builds, my bed is my raft in the storm. My bed is spread with the subject I’m working on at the moment and none of the rest. I imagine walls of blue energy surrounding the borders, creating an unclouded area in which to focus. When I am done with my work for the night, all the research, drafts, and journal articles are piled up or stuffed back into their folder, and out comes the journal and my favorite pens. The bedspread becomes not my raft but my whole world. Everything fades but the ink spreading across the creamy pages and the unobtrusive blue-green mandalas in my periphery. My island of sanity is so complete that I forget that the ocean may be blustering or even that it is there. Instead my “only reason is to be and be.”*
*Cisneros, Sandra. “Four Skinny Trees.” The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage Books, 1984.
LEANNE (LEE) FOGARTY
I write in a place that is not meant for writing at all. I typically like to go to the commons to get my school work done. Not in those little booths specifically made for doing work, I like to take up one of the big booths in the back. They have outlets and enough room for me to spread out all my materials, snacks, and coffee. I will typically start my Saturday and Sunday mornings here and get up to grab lunch and dinner. Sometimes my friends will meet me here for food, sometimes they will sit and study with me, but nothing gets me more in the zone than putting my earbuds in with a good playlist and starting and finishing a paper within one weekend. Some people wonder why I do my work at the Commons, and there’s two main reasons on why I prefer to write in a very people-filled place: 1. I don’t like studying in the library because I cannot bring food and it is too far from my room, and 2. the Commons has a constant stream of coffee and food. Occasionally I will write a paper in my room or during my breaks at work, but majority of my time writing is at the Commons for the convenience of it.
I don’t like the idea that students should study at the library and that is the only place that work can get done. If that works for you, then good for you, but the reality of it is that it isn’t for everyone. I have friends that go into town to write papers at Drip Coffee or Starbucks and friends who write papers in their beds. As long as you feel comfortable where you are writing and you finish the work you need to get done, that’s all that matters.
My mind fluctuates between two states of being: messy and unorganized or too quiet for writing to come easily. Whichever state my mind is in, my work space is the opposite. If I am having a hard time organizing my thoughts I put myself in a quiet space – either at my desk or on my bed in my room.
My room is usually kept neat for the moments at which my mind needs to explode in a flurry of notebooks, papers that have escaped from said notebooks, and the books and articles I need to reference in order to write. However, for as messy as my mind can be, it can also be suspiciously quiet as due dates for papers creep up. In these moments I will move myself into the EC and sit in front of the fireplace. The generally constant background noise spurs my mind and allows me to coax thoughts from my head to the computer screen. If that doesn’t work however, the fireplace is wonderful to stare into and pass time.
Charlotte Grimm, DSEM Writing Fellow
Pictured: Charlotte Grimm outside the EC, before and after a squirrel fell out of a tree, almost hitting an innocent bystander on the path.
I wouldn’t consider any one area to be my “writing space.” I never confine myself to one area or another. At home, when I’m writing, I take to my bed. I toss and turn under a warm blanket as the words toss and turn around my head. When I find myself in a block, I’ll change my location. Sometimes a new visual perspective allows me to rethink my writing process and clear my head.
Here at school, you can typically find me writing outside when the weather is nice. I find the EC to be the best location for me (because I can get a snack anytime!) Sitting outside does lend itself to some distractions – I mean, who wouldn’t want to “people watch?” Plus, at Drew, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see a rogue squirrel stealing a sandwich out of a trashcan within twenty minutes of being outside.
I try to stay out of my dorm as much as possible when writing long and important assignments. The temptation to turn on the TV or to take a nap always overcomes my efforts to be productive. Then again, wouldn’t you rather pass out in the comfort of your own room than in stuffy basement stacks of the library?
Lindsey Heale, DSEM Writing Fellow
I write at my desk in my room, which is crowded by things like books, game cases, and mementos on four small, square- shaped shelves. I prefer digital writing to pen on paper, but pencils, pens, a pencil sharpener, and eraser are within a hand’s reach. As stated, I do prefer digital writing, but I also prefer reading physical books, and annotating in their margins as I do so.
My family would say that I live at my desk, and I would be hard-pressed to disagree.
My room is a small space in a suburban house, and has always been very full of stuff. There is a corkboard to my right (which has become my cat’s scratching board more than once), and a window off to my left. The curtain is always closed, but the sun shines in if it’s open during the day. I can then see the giant tree in my backyard. Past that, over a gate, is Union Boulevard, connecting Totowa to Paterson and Rt. 46.
My space is hardly ever quiet, but background noise is not necessarily noisy. I leave livestreams or Spotifyto play on minimized tabs, but depend on Soundgarden if those two options are lacking. My neighbors to the right have a farm’s worth of animals, leaving dogs to bark day and night against Union Blvd.’s traffic.
I have never considered this area my “writing space” so much as “the space I happen to write in,” because it is first and foremost my bedroom. I like the privacy, the corner that is mine, and being surrounded by the things that are mine. Anywhere else is too open and uncomfortable, like anyone could come over and look at what I’m thinking, writing, editing, or proofreading.
Funnily enough, I like digital writing for its cleanliness and efficiency (no crossing-outs, carets, or angry lines—just delete), but my so-called “writing space” is as cluttered as any writing I do with pen and paper. I like the organized mess though.
Andrew Katapodis, DSEM Writing Fellow
I have always been of the belief that the best writing is writing that is created in a fun and creative atmosphere. To write in a place where one does not feel comfortable to express themselves fully in their writing is to, in my opinion, write to only 75% of a writer’s true potential. Each writer must find their place–a place where they can truly submerse themselves in their writing–and it is important to understand that every writer is different and their perfect writing space might be different than yours, which is perfectly fine. My preferred writing space (as seen above) is my computer desk which is located in my basement/bedroom.
I was gifted my first computer at the age of 10 when my father decided to upgrade his. That moment would set the tone for my love of computers in multiple senses. Coincidentally that computer would also be the first step toward my career as a writer. Some of my first ever written assignments and essays were written on that computer as well as the desk where I am currently typing this. Some of my most memorable essays and long written assignments were completed on this computer while sitting at this desk which has always been located in my basement/bedroom. On paper, my basement doesn’t necessarily seem like a very suitable writing location. If it rains for an extended amount of time, my basement will start to leak and drip water, during the summer it can get extremely muggy and warm, and during the winter it can become extremely frigid. These things do not inhibit my creative outlets whilst writing however. The collective amount of good memories I have at that desk are enough to fuel the creative gauges that, in my opinion, allow for me to write at my most optimal level. To some this might not seem like a proper writing area, but that just goes to illustrate the inherent differences between humans and writers.
ALESSANDRA LE PERA
Alessandra Le Pera, DSEM Writing Fellow
Writing is a personal form of human expression. It is a way for us to give our abstract thoughts, feelings, research, and creativity concrete form. Every piece of writing, regardless of genre, says a lot about its author’s individuality. A writer’s individualism is what makes the written word so unique. With each unique writer, comes an individual writing space that follows. I love to write. I love putting my thoughts into a detailed sequence of words, creating sentences that express my thoughts, and distinctively prove my point. I have always considered myself a very passionate and analytical writer, and my environment always plays an important role in my writings. The creativity and personality of the space often influences the outcome of my papers.
My dorm room space consists of two places where I love to write. They are quite different, but are equally as effective. My desk space is very traditional with classic writing utensils, organizers, and a printer. I made it personal by hanging up quotes and pictures that inspire me. Unfortunately, as a writer, I frequently experience writer’s block, and these personal touches often help me to overcome this challenge.
On the other hand, my bed is a much more relaxed place to write. In order for my writing to sound new and fresh, I love to switch locations. My bed consists of light colors with many pillows. My body pillow serves as a backrest when I lean against the wall. In between my desk and bed is a window, overlooking greenery and the entrance to the Tolley Brown Circle. Being on the sixth floor allows me to be almost as tall as the treetops, and gives my room privacy. Writing in these spaces provides a consistent, unique, and safe environment for me to express myself. My writing space is generally quiet where I can speak my ideas allowed.
Josh Levine-Ritterman, DSEM Writing Fellow
My room is sacred place to me. It is a place for deep thought, for introspection, and it is a place for friends, for community. The singular room that makes of my residence is, and will become my home for the next school year. It will become a place of critical thinking and analysis as it slowly gains the small comforts that denote a space as a home. My room already has my essentials, my computers, television, the scarce books I will lose sleep trying to finish, the wall of dressers that together with my desk make up an entire wall lying opposite to my bed. Yet it is mostly barren; at its core it still remains an empty room, just as I need it to be.
I have always found it strange that my writing comes from a place that I intentionally leave empty, but somehow is also comforting. When I look out the window directly behind my laptop, all I see is the tops of trees. The elevation is enlightening; it is a space free of the pollutants of the ground that are the noises, the colors and the lights, and it allows me the perspective to look down and survey the ground below at my leisure. I choose to enter that world, or to separate myself from it, and enter into a space unpolluted and free of distraction, that I might fill with my thoughts, untethered to the rest of the world. That is my room. It is a room void of all else but my mind and my ideas, and it is the border to a foreign world, a foreign mind. Here I am free to write as I see fit, no other opinions present, but never far away should I need them for support or inspiration. To me, there can be no greater comfort in an empty room.
IZABELLA (BELLA) LOUK
Izabella (Bella) Louk, DSEM Writing Fellow
Up until I came to college I wrote most of my assignments lying on my bedroom floor because it just seemed much more comfortable than writing at a desk. However, since starting college, I write everything at my desk, I am a desk convert!
My current writing space is usually a little messy (which totally exasperates my very neat roommate), and is covered in papers from classes. I also stack books along the back of my desk so I can find them easily. Now that my desk is no longer in front of a window, I’ve put up a whole heap of pictures on my wall, so when an assignment is really getting me down, I can procrastinate by contemplating each and every picture.
Perhaps the biggest trademark of my writing space is the innumerable half-finished cups of tea, and chocolate-wrappers scattered around the place. I love tea, and have found that unless I have a piping hot cup of it by my side, it honestly does take a lot longer to get things done.
Shaylyn Mackinnon, DSEM Writing Fellow
In all honesty, my writing habits may not be the best to follow if you’re reading this looking for inspiration. I don’t have a special place where I love to write—it varies on my mood. When I’m stressed, writing for a long-term project, I’m most likely writing in the basement of the library; LC16 has a projector that anyone can access and I love to use it to play music on YouTube while I write. It’s nice because I actually had my DSEM in that same room my freshman year, so I’ve always associated it with writing in college, and the large white board makes the planning process feel a bit more official. I tend to sit in the seat closest to the board, and when I’m stuck or losing my mind from writing for so long, I take a break by walking a lap through the library or—if I’m working in there with my friends—by messing around on the wheelie chairs. It’s a pretty secluded space on campus and I’ve managed to write some of my best research papers in there.
On the other hand, I’m rarely the person to plan very far ahead when I write anything 12 pages or less, so most of the time my poor roommate is forced to listen to my keyboard at 1:00am as I type hunched over on my bed. I’m the type of writer that has to start with the intro and then works my way through the paper in one long flow, refusing to reread until I have at least an entire rough draft done. I know you’re not supposed to do work in bed, but I genuinely think I am most focused when I’m under a time crunch, wrapped in my green comforter. It’s nice writing in my own room because if I need a break, I can simply close my computer and shut my eyes for a few minutes or step away and talk to my suitemates so that I can vent out any frustrations or word blocks I might be having. I like to bounce my ideas off of whoever is around, even if they’re in a completely different department and don’t actually understand the subject of my essay, just so I can hear my own thought process out loud.
Marina Mozak, DSEM Writing Fellow
I’m a person who thinks out loud a lot of the time. When thoughts are in my head they are scattered and bounce around trying to make connections that don’t always pan out. But, if I get the chance to say them to someone, the threads line up and I’m able to follow what is a meaningful connection. This has been an asset in group work but causes problems in writing long essays. For that reason, it took a long time for me to find the perfect way to write.
Because I need to bounce ideas and logic threads off of someone it is hard to write a whole essay while locked away in a library study room like many other people do. In addition, I’m someone who needs a balance of peace and quiet and a little bit of background commotion for my best focus. The open area of the library is often too loud, with groups of people studying together and too much people-watching available to draw my attention. My room and WoCo in general is the opposite, so tranquil that I’ll doze off even at my desk plus I’m the only one in my field of study in the house, so bouncing ideas can be hard.
One place on campus strikes that perfect balance where I can write is the Student Engagement Office. My first semester at Drew I joined UPB and at that time the executive board was almost entirely other students with similar study needs to me. So, we began studying in the Student Engagement office after it closed at night and on weekends. Being in the EC provided some people-watching, but not so much commotion to hurt my productivity, the other students also needed to focus on their work but are perfect sounding boards for essay ideas. Of course, working with other people and in a public space has its pitfalls, I have gone many times and been distracted by all the activity that comes along with being in the EC or ended up talking to friends the whole time I’m there. But, the times that I go and hit my stride make up for it. The best essays of my college career have been written in the EC with the UPB board.
Now that I am a senior, many of the people I started out working in the EC with have graduated, and only one remains on UPB. But, those of us who are still at Drew continue to use the office and do some of our best work there.
Julia Morreale, DSEM Writing Fellow
“When asked where do I write, my immediate reaction was ‘Where do I not write?’” That’s not an exaggeration, I write constantly and everywhere. Everyone who’s friends with me is aware that I have notebooks and lists for everything and too many documents open on my laptop at any given time. Some of my favorite poems were written in a flurry in the Commons while I was eating and I have thought up the wording to many thesis statements while taking a shower. Even the first draft of this was written while doing laundry while visiting back home in California.
There are a few common haunts of mine, though, that I go to particularly when I want to write. Collaborative writing tends to take place in common lounge areas around campus. We could put the writing up on the white boards or the projectors in the group study rooms in the library or have lengthy discussions in the EC. With one friend in particular, we would find ourselves discussing our Latin writing assignments or Classics presentations while in a booth at Panera’s quite frequently.
When writing under an academic lens by myself, I tend to opt for the library. Sometimes I type away under the skylights in the main area, other times in the quiet study room next to the gorgeous murals, but always with my resources spread out around me. If I’m really serious about finishing a paper, I’ll check out a day carrel, turn on an extended video game soundtrack or ocean/rain sounds, and type for hours on end. If I need a new resource or just a moment to breathe I can wander through the stacks outside my carrel, as combing through the pages of a book always relaxes me.
The books are a common theme in the spot where I spent the most time writing as well: my dorm. Murder mystery novels, manga, library books, textbooks and many others can be found in all the nooks and crannies of the room. Earlier in the day, I’ll have the window open and work at my desk surrounded by natural light, but as the night starts, I’ll curl up on my bed. Along with some background music that matches the mood that I am trying to capture in my writing, I write by the fairy lights around the top of the room, the bedside lamp, and the glow of the laptop. I sit and comfortably under the blanket that smells like my friend who always uses it when she’s over, with my back to what I call my “bat wall” that you can see in the picture. Here I can write just before I sleep, inventorying the day as it comes to an end and prepping for the next one, or simply losing track of time while writing my next short story.
Molly Murphy, DSEM Writing Fellow
This space [my bed] is fully my own and the control and comfort it brings me helps me to focus my energy into whatever I’m writing. Comfort and relaxation are both essential to my writing process because, under those conditions, my mind is not impeded by the anxious energy which occupies me when I’m outside my room. I usually find myself writing at odd hours of the day or night, which means I am often alone. Solitude is also an important part of both this space and my writing and helps me to determine when I need a break, which is usually when I get a little lonely and realize how long it’s been since I’ve seen another person.
Everyone gets tired of their favorite writing spot occasionally, and on those occasions in my life, I take a walk around campus with a pen and a notebook and find somewhere shady and peaceful to continue writing. Thus far, my favorite secondary writing locations have been in the Zuck Arboretum or on the benches outside the Ehinger Center. While choosing these spots typically means giving up on the idea of being alone, the act of putting pen to paper helps me tune out the world around me, and I can people-watch if I find myself getting bored. While these are my favorite spots, I find I produce my best writing when I feel in tune with myself and connected to my own voice, regardless of the location.
Alex Pearce, DSEM Writing Fellow
I like to write in the library, on the second floor, at one of the long tables, next to the windows that look out to the path. I tend to utilize an entire table with all the articles I need (yes, I’m old school and print articles out so I can highlight information rather than flip back and forth on my laptop), my charger, books, phone and a snack. I have found that being in the library forces me to write rather than allowing myself to wander around my room and do anything but write.
After many years at Drew and exploring many study areas, I am certain this is the best spot to write. It’s quiet, roomy, and a bit more private, ensuring my friends don’t interrupt me every five minutes. The view isn’t bad either, especially during the fall when the leaves are vibrant. However, the most important thing about this very spot is that it is pointed in the direction of Brother’s College. The reason for this is because when I am writing, it is easy for me to get swept up in a good idea and write and write. I often carelessly ignore the time, but when I spot people walking along the path, it reminds me it’s time to go to class and I hurry along, until the next time I can come back to this spot in the library to continue with the idea I left off on.
John Rinald, DSEM Writing Fellow
Most of my writing is done in the Commons. I have a specific seat in a specific booth that is in my perfect Goldilocks space. I can be close to all the water and coffee I need, I can slide over a few feet to bask in the late afternoon sun, I can hear people but don’t have to watch the door for everyone that comes in. I have a perfect little working space for myself, but I also have the separate, non-working space all around me. I need the people all around me so that I can always have places to look, things to distract me. I’ve never understood people who need to sit in silence at a desk to write. I need noise, I need everything going around me, and music quickly egging me on to the next paragraph so that I can look up, but remember that I need to get back to it, that I need to get on to the next bit. A writing space is just a coincidence of perfect conditions, m
Caitlin Shannon, DSEM Writing Fellow
I’m a procrastinator and a perfectionist. This pernicious combination rules my life and thus my writing. I tell myself that I procrastinate in order to let my ideas percolate, so that when I finally get them down they’re perfect. (See how those two little devils work together?) This procrastination can take many forms but mostly it manifests as cleaning. Organizing my physical space gives me the time to also organize and ready my mental space for the task of writing. No matter if I’m writing an email, a five-page essay or the introduction chapter for my honors thesis I always need to tidy up first.
As an example, before I sat down today I decided it was necessary to sort through two shoeboxes of old Christmas, birthday, and post cards. I gathered up an embarrassing amount of water cups and ice cream mugs from my room and brought them to the sink. I cleared the research books covering my desk and stacked them on a shelf. I opened up my bullet journal and read what I had written as today’s task, “4:30p.m.: Writing Space Portfolio.” Well it’s 7p.m. now, but I’m here.
Whether I’m writing at 4a.m. in the Baldwin Lounge or at 11p.m. in the library during finals, my writing space follows me, or rather I create it. There’s a rotating cast of characters depending on the assignment but some of the regulars are natural lighting, a cup of coffee, and my pencil case. Some ambient music (I’ve been loving the Entre los Andes playlist on Spotify) shifts my focus from my surroundings and brings me into my mental space for writing. And then I start typing.
Olivia Snaza, DSEM Writing Fellow
My writing space mirrors my writing style, both are comfortable and unique. Most articles on “How to Succeed in College,” will warn against writing in bed but I do it anyway because it’s what works for me.
If I’m going to be frank, and I’m going to be, a major weakness for me in the writing process is that through the years, I’ve tended to compare myself and my work to that of others. I continually have a hard time recognizing that I can successfully navigate the writing process through means that may be different from the person next to me.
Writing in my bed affords me the unique opportunity to take a nap when I tire from the work but it also reminds me to be true to myself. My writing style isn’t fancy. It isn’t bedazzled or high brow. It feels casual, like catching up with an old friend. Though to an onlooker, my writing may not look impressive, it is still impactful- telling, even. My points and theses are direct. Clear in style and intent, nothing in my writing is out of place or unintentional.
My bed mimics the sentiments found in the words of my works. My bed isn’t fancy. It isn’t glamorous. It is comfortable and familiar. It is a space reflective of who I am and a niche that continually allows me to express or reinvent myself as I so choose.
I make no apologies for writing from a space that supports the finding of my own voice on all fronts. It can be a challenge to find a voice as a writer especially when it prompts me to travel down some unconventional paths to get there, but I don’t fret- I nap…and then get to work. Find what works for you and own it.
Haley Watson, DSEM Writing Fellow
I like to think that my writing space shows off a bit of my personality and history. Or the fact that I am desperately running out of bookshelf space. My desk hasn’t moved in my childhood bedroom for the past twelve years. I’ve neglected to change the doorknobs that one of my sisters drew on with Sharpie marker. I still haven’t figured out who was the culprit, and I still haven’t put a lock on my door.
I was one of those kids growing up who purposely didn’t sit next to the window during class, or I’ll else I’d be daydreaming for the entire forty-minute period. However, I admit that my current view is more distracting than an empty playground waiting for company. My 6th grade landscape portrait; adult coloring books that are certainly NOT a fad; books that have luckily not found a home on my floor; the Rolling Stone Taylor Swift exclusive that took me stores to find; and the penguin mug that was too cute to leave on the shelf. His name is Ben.
When I’m in need of some inspiration, I’ll walk over to my overflowing bookshelves. This often helps when I’m working on listicle-type blog posts or stresses me out as I imagine my to-be-read pile toppling over me. I live by the Theodore Roosevelt quote, “I am part of everything that I have read.” While my writing space is not exactly breathing, I like to think that it is both part of everything that I have written and everything that I am.
I could write nearly anywhere, but to get actual work done there are a few requirements a place needs to meet. The most important characteristic is access to caffeine. The second most important thing a place needs to have for me to write successfully is action: people, music, movement. All of this fades to background noise when I plug in my earbuds and work on my writing, but there is something about completely quiet spaces that don’t work for me. Writing in the library is typically a non-starter.
I cycle between writing places as much as I run through those ten-punches-until-a-free-drink coffee cards, which is more often than I’d like to admit. My dorm room and the E.C. on campus are my go-to Drew spots to write, since they meet the first two requirements. My office hours are usually in the E.C., since it has a constant buzz of people and a Starbucks where I can spend all of my points within the first week of the semester.
I’ll write a page or so in my dorm room, and then after getting bored or distracted, or bored and distracted, I’ll pack up my bag and head to one of my other usual places. There is a corner table at Drip next to an outlet that at this point, with four consistent years of ordering cold brews and struggling through drafts, feels like an extension of my dorm room. This coffee shop has been witness to my drafts for two of my most difficult papers at Drew; my final paper for the U.N. Semester that clocked in at 27 pages and another paper about plea deals at Guantanamo Bay that inched past that record at 29 pages. I also declared my major here, so when it comes to getting to the main point, I can count on Drip to help me find it.
Abbie Young, DSEM Writing Fellow
I am a very messy writer. My process doesn’t always make sense, but it all works out in the end and it works for me. I start every project by just getting my ideas onto a piece of paper, even if it is chaotic to begin with. My writing process is like cleaning up a messy room; with a little bit of hard work, it becomes beautiful.
I love to write in spaces where I feel inspired. As we all know, inspiration comes in many different forms and in many different areas. My picture included above is one of many places I have written. To be more specific, that picture is from August of 2015 when my boyfriend, Jesse, met my extended family for the first time. I remember that moment as being so full of love, laughter, and comfort; it was a safe space.
That last part perfectly describes my space as a writer and where I feel most comfortable to write. I write best when I am inspired, comfortable, and feel safe. When I’m at school, I have my own spot on my best friend, Jessica’s, bed. Anytime I have any sort of assignment that involves writing, I can guarantee you I’m in that spot working on the piece. I always write there because I can bounce ideas off her (left) to make sure the direction I’m taking the paper makes sense. Maddy (middle) is an extremely talented writer who edits 99% of my papers and is one of my closest friends. We definitely were not being productive in the picture above, but I can guarantee we have been in that exact set up on more than one occasion. I believe writing is a collaborative process, which is why I choose to write in Jessica’s room. Jessica is a biology major, which is why she has the perfect set of eyes for a social science paper; if there is anything that doesn’t make sense or could be explained better, she is the first one to point it out. Maddy is a theater major who has an incredible eye for proof reading. She is the last set of eyes that see my paper before I hit print.