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What’s your dream writing space?

One of the issues we like to discuss on The Travelers Notebook section of Matador is writing environments. What’s your most productive writing environment? What conditions enhance or detract from your writing? These questions generate enthusiastic discussion. I think that’s because we’re all genuinely interested in other writers’ processes and the spaces we inhabit while we write.

Entire books have been written on this subject.

Interviews with writers inevitably ask questions about it.

We’re endlessly fascinated with our writing spaces.


I’m not unhappy with my current space, which you can peek at here. It has everything I really need.

But I often find myself imagining my dream writing space.

It would have elements of Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul: punches of intense, unapologetic color. Floor to ceiling or 3/4 windows framed by unruly almendra branches that look onto an interior courtyard.

Sun. Lots and lots of sun.

A wide open room with tile or stone floors, its walls lined by bookshelves where the books are organized neatly by theme behind vitrine-like, horizontal doors. Vase-sized stoneware cups holding fistfuls of pens. Ultra-fine tip pens, black ink.

It would have desks– yes, plural. Long, solid, hardwood tables, some of them running the length of the room, with neat piles of paper, magazines, books, journals.

It would have elements of Neruda’s home in Isla Negra…

Haphazardly collected ephemera organized wherever they fit- like windowsills.

Some lovely, as of yet imaginatively unformed system of organizing letters (real ones), bills (oh, but if this is my dream space there will be no bills!), and clips I want to hold onto.

It would have an enormous and comfortable chair, one that envelops and wraps its cushions around you with the warm ferocity of a dear friend you haven’t seen in years.

And music, if I want it, and a large screen (but not large screen TV) for watching documentaries and films.

And you- what’s your dream writing space? Tell us about it in the comments.

*Photos by Julie Schwietert Collazo


11 responses »

  1. My dreams are not as big as yours… right now I share my office/writing space with my roommate who has her own small business (a fashion company) and who has several industrial size sewing machines in the room; the wall is covered in shelves, mostly full of fabric and sewing supplies.

    My dream office would be impeccably clean (I’m obsessively organized) with filing cabinets, a fax machine, a copier, and my own land line phone. No one other than me would be allowed in, unless given permission.

    It would have a comfortable chair for reading long work with a side table to rest my tea cup. It would have a set of book shelves right next to my desk for reference books and another set of bookshelves for all the many books I love and will never get rid of.

    I’d have lots of neat odds and ends on the shelves in-between the books or acting as bookends. It would be full of writing supplies – files and folders and note pads, a drawer full of pens and sharpies and post-it notes in every size, shape and color.

    My perfect desk would be an L-shape and have a flat top that I’d keep clear of clutter; a nearby table would host the piles of paper required to keep me up-to-date with my varying projects.

    The walls would be a nice neutral cream color or a sunny yellow or maybe a brilliant red or turquoise … color would fill the room. Sunlight would be amazing, but my windows can’t be as large as yours or I’d spend all my time looking out of them instead of writing.

    My dream writing space would also feature one of the most expensive desk chairs I could find – something incredible comfortable. And I hate sitting with both feet on the floor, so I would also have a foot stool, that I could use while working.

    • I like it! And wow- you included so many details I forgot, and you reminded me of one I just didn’t write down– I want at least one enormous wall to be a chalkboard, where I can write ideas about work in progress. Thanks for taking the time to share your dream space!

  2. Ever seen Love Actually? Remember the writer’s retreat in S. France? That’s it right there.

    Add a French Press of strong, hot coffee and a slice of warm quiche and I’m in writing heaven. And probably obese.

    • Rory- I haven’t seen that movie, but a writer’s retreat in Southern France sounds just about right! And French Press and warm quiche… I’m there!

  3. Julie, that photo is so gorgeous! Am actually drooling. I’m going to steal this idea and write a post of my own. Speaking of which, one of my favourite escapes is the Guardian’s Writers’ Room series –

  4. I keep coming back to look at Neruda’s windowsill; it makes me so happy! I can see you in your dream writing space. 🙂

    I’m going to keep thinking about my dream writing space and may, like Neha, steal the idea for my blog too. I do know that my dream space needs a view, whether mountains or water (preferably both), with a full wall of windows…

    • Nancy-

      Neruda’s house in Isla Negra is just extraordinary. I wish I could have taken photos inside to give you a better idea, but they’re not allowed. He was an incurable collector… his wife, Matilde Urrutia, wrote about this in her book, My Life with Pablo Neruda. She has this incredible passage where she describes his childlike (and often childish!) wonder before an antique store or other curio shop, as he wandered through and acquired more and more objects that were ultimately destined for the home in Isla Negra!

      • Thanks for sharing about Neruda’s house. Strange enough, I need to know more about it for my MA thesis. Part of my paper deals with Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and his main character Changez comes to a life-changing revelation while visiting Neruda’s house, realizing that he (Changez) is a “modern-day janissary” for American interests. Will have to pick up his Neruda’s wife’s book to get more insight…

  5. Heather- Interesting! Is it Neruda’s house in Isla Negra? He also had one in Valparaiso and another in Santiago. I imagine that as far as his collections, all the houses seemed to be pretty packed! 🙂

  6. Pingback: What I’m reading now. « Cuaderno Inedito

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