By Holly Tucker
Awhile back, a friend sent me this link to a BBC video about writers and the rooms where they write. It made me think about my own space, a place where I spend so many hours of my day.
As most of you know, I’m in the depths of writing a book on medicine in 17th century France and England. It’s a work of narrative nonfiction: a rigorously researched history, but with the pacing and character development of a novel. It’s what keeps me awake at night–not just because I find the topic utterly fascinating, but also because I can hear the ticking of my editor’s deadline.
After years of trying to get the space right, I think this one works. I’ve learned that I need to be able to see out a window as I write. Facing a wall is too much like facing a blank page. I recently discovered the joys of dual monitors, which allow me to write on one screen while consulting notes on another. I also need plenty of space to sprawl out, a place for so many research files and books, and a bulletin board for random notes. On the bulletin board, there’s a postcard of a 17th century study housed at the Getty that is my inspiration for the closing scene of the book. And another image of Saraswati, Hindu goddess of learning, and Ganeshi, remover of obstacles. A call-out to the affection that I have for India and, ok, I’ll admit it: hopefulness that Saraswati will help the words flow from my mind to the keyboard.
The study is my space at the house, but it’s doors are open. My daughter does her homework at the desk next to mine, or reads in the chair as I write. And our dog, Lucky, often sleeps at my feet as I work.
For the soundtrack? I always have Pandora.com playing in the background. Techno Indian/Bollywood when I’m outlining or researching; Jean-Baptiste Lully’s 17th court music for writing; and Pandora random mix when I’m editing/rewriting. It’s not an intentional choice of music, I actually just noticed that pattern last week. I like it.
Writing can be peaceful, but lonely, work. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by superb friends who help me balance out this cloistered life, and amazing students who make the research worth it. This blog is yet another way that I find inspiration and connections in this odd life of writing. And what wonder and marvel that is!