>The writer’s environment, or, Confessions of a neatnik


This weekend I’m flying to San Francisco, in my Toby Bishop guise, to visit Borderlands Books and sign copies of this book and the earlier ones in the trilogy. I’ll be on two airplanes and spend two nights in a hotel . . . which means I’ll get lots of writing done.
I’m a compulsive person. A compulsive writer, exerciser, reader, golfer . . . everything that’s important to me compels me. This includes, unfortunately, a neat and orderly environment.

You probably think that’s a good thing. Who doesn’t want someone around who constantly cleans, dusts, picks up, organizes? I’d love to have someone like that around. Unfortunately, that someone is me. And it’s the ultimate distraction!

I envy those writers who can work amid clutter. They can have music playing, piles of laundry waiting, dust bunnies piffling in corners. But me, no. I just can’t think if there are chores waiting to be done, or if my desk is piled with unpaid bills or messages I need to answer. It’s one reason I love writing in airplanes and hotel rooms and coffee shops, and why I sometimes hie myself to Tully’s Coffee, where any mess is not my responsibility, to write. I can put my feet up beside the fireplace and let the white noise swirl around me. (White noise is featureless to me. I know it seems contradictory, but if music is playing, I have to listen to it. The better the music, the more distracting it is.)

My house is really, really tidy. Not always clean, of course, but painfully neat. Beloved husband and beloved son have learned, the hard way, not to drop anything where I might “clean” it, which often means “disappear” it. I’ve had to make a disciplined effort to leave them their own messy spaces, but those spaces do nag at me. Does this sound like fun to you?

In early March I’ll be attending the Rainforest Village Writers’ Retreat on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. It’s expanded from three days to five, which means my output should be prodigious (well, for me, the slow writer). I’ll be in a rustic inn overlooking a lake, with no housework and only a small amount of cooking. It’s the perfect writer’s environment.


  1. >I’ve booked a ‘Hinterland’ retreat for my writing group. In march, we’re going to escape from our families and the mundane world and spend a weekend critiquing each other’s WIPs.Can’t wait.Hinterland — rainforest mountains, South East Queensland.

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