A new book on Lizzie Alcott needs a new work place – planning my writing room

I spent some time over Christmas break beefing up my writing room. The room had previously worked when I wrote my spiritual memoir a few years back. The organization of that book was simple and I’d write on my tablet in a comfy chair and not have to worry about having a lot of space.

It is so different this time around! There are piles of books and papers everywhere. My mind is in overdrive and my emotions raw. The words I have set down so far present a confusing and unfocused account. The story that is so clear in my mind lacks continuity on the screen. I vacillate between being a storyteller, a journalist (“just the facts”) and a lawyer arguing a case. It’s all so chaotic at times.

I never was a great juggler but as I get older, I find myself craving a clean writing space with plenty of room to spread out while at the same time, remaining organized. Such a space restores some calm to the situation and acts as a catalyst for better work. It’s a concrete emblem representing discipline, thus inviting me to show up and produce.

So over Christmas break I brought up a small bookcase from the basement to organize and store my books. I sorted through my papers and tossed out a big pile, filling a large garbage bag. I removed my laptop from the bed, rearranged my desk and bought a comfortable office chair. Once everything was cleaned up and in its proper place, I dusted and vacuumed.

On the new desk area I set up the laptop as the go-to place for research. Here I look up words in the thesaurus or dictionary, and access the multitude of pages I’ve scanned from books. I have photographed over 1000 pages from family papers found at either the Houghton Library at Harvard or the Concord Public Library (from microfilm). Everything is housed on my Dropbox account for easy access anywhere.

I use the tablet with a small keyboard to do the actual writing. With age comes aching hands from arthritis or stiff joints (not sure which it is) and the smaller keyboard helps with that. Besides, there is just something about the tablet that invites me to write. Every writer needs their particular catalyst.

So here’s how my sacred space worked out:

How do you arrange your writing space?

What acts as your catalyst? Where do you find your discipline?

12 thoughts on “A new book on Lizzie Alcott needs a new work place – planning my writing room

  1. Your description of your writing space reminds me of Carol Shields’ description of her protagonist’s box room with a skylight in her final novel, “Unless.” (If you haven’t read “Unless,” I am NOT suggesting that you read it now.) My work area was always very cluttered, but I was editing, not writing, and I could lay hands on what I needed, despite the clutter. Your spot looks very cozy and organized. I love the doll. I hope she gives you inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s just that I’m not going to suggest that you start reading a novel when your time would be better spent working on your own book. “Unless” is a good book, for some other time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. True, inundated with reading right now but all good stuff. I am reading “Prairie Fires” and “Alice James: A Biography” (supposed to be a must-read for an understanding of women invalids in the 19th century.)


  2. I’m loving this blog — the writing journey! My work space is a mess of post-its and have finished thoughts. Yours is inspiring. 🙂


  3. Because I think the character of Beth==and the traditional perspective of Lizzie herself—has been much under-estimated, I would like to suggest that the title be “Not the Littlest Woman: The Life and Legacy of Lizzie Alcot, the Real Beth March.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s amazing the connection between the physical layout of a space and your ability to work. Some people have to work in a chaotic physical space — gives them energy and it’s comfortable. I need order. Good luck with your space!


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