When an author talks about their writing space, what do you picture? What images come to mind? A nice desk? A CPU or laptop? Notebooks, journals, and pens? A nicely arranged corner where books and unfinished manuscripts peacefully cohabitate?
Well, scratch that where I’m concerned.
You see, I’m disabled. How? (Whispers, “It’s rude to ask, but I’ll entertain your curiosity just this once.”) Okay, Let’s get this over with. My autoimmune system attacked my nervous system back in 2015, and I haven’t been the same since. I had some chronic autoimmune problems up to that point, namely RA and Sjogren’s Syndrome, but I was handling them well, working full time and managing until then. Now – my neurologist uses the phrase “rats chewing on wires” to describe my nervous system. We’ve shut down the autoimmune attack but as with any wiring, the damage is done. Repairs aren’t happening, and the system is ever-so-slowly degrading. I’ve gone from a cane on bad days, to a cane most of the time and a walker on bad days, to I’m going to break down and get a good rollator-type walker for more mobility and use it. I might well end up in a chair sometime in the future. So be it. It’s a chair, a means of getting where I need to be. A means of mobility. It will not define who I am.
We put in a handicap ramp this summer, and I didn’t realize how difficult stairs had become until then. No more someone being ahead of me on the stairs to help with my balance. No more being sandwiched between people who can help me… I love the ramp.
Where were we? Oh, yes, disability – Okay, scratch that too. I hate the word disabled because it implies can’t. And it’s not that I can’t most of the time. Rather, it’s more like I have to go about things differently.
Call me differently-abled. (Yeah, I know. Semantics, but it’s a mindset. I’ll never climb mountains, but I can appreciate them, take a ride into them, look out my windows and see them whenever I want. I’ve lived in them too, but that’s another story of a long-time-ago Jeanne.) My point here is that I can generally do about anything, given the space, license to nonconform, and a bit of ingenuity.
But I sometimes need a little help too.
Case in point where ingenuity is concerned, my writing space. No, I don’t have an office, desk, or overfilled bookshelves. Okay, I do have the last but not in the room where I write. My writing space is my oversized recliner, my computer stand, my side table, and my lap.
This means, drumroll please, that I write in my living room. Exciting writerly space. Not. But it works.
Here’s an in-the-evening-light look at my notebook computer.
Yep, my notebook computer is a lovely shade of lavender. This color is what happens when you buy a refurbished computer and expect it to come in the color shown. Foolish me. It’s still a sore topic, but I’ve learned to live with it. Note the cat, HRC, and diversity stickers. There’s a 17” galaxy cling stuck to the back screen too. Mitigating the lavender glare was a challenge, but I’ve made it manageable.
Yes, this notebook was that good a deal.
UPDATE: The lavender monstrosity is gone – I received a lovely, silver, high-graphics Dell notebook computer for my August birthday. I love it, and the standing kitty sticker transferred just fine.
And here’s me in my writing space during the late evening. Note my slightly lopsided expression. No, that’s not attitude, that’s my nervous system causing the muscles on the right side of my face to pull. Welcome to my world. Smirks and sneers may or may not mean something. Such expressions can last for hours or not come at all, especially in the evening. It all depends on what messages are getting through, how degraded they are when they arrive at their destination, and if they’re caught in a loop. That last one is a bear. I can make the same movement three, five, or even twenty times before I manage to break the circle.
It makes for mighty interesting typing some days.
And here’s my notebook computer again. (See above for an update) Note the cooling stand lights underneath it. A cooling stand is an absolute necessity if your notebook is in your lap for any real length of time. My cooling stand is actually a padded lap desk that the cooling stand died in (one month after I purchased it (grr)) and a much more powerful, four-fan cooling stand sits on top of that. (It should last for two years. That’s when the warranty runs out.) The lap desk and top cooling stand are kept together with two-sided tape that I need to replace every now and again.
My laptop stand, as seen below, is called an Airdesk. I find it handy on bad days, but days where I need to use it, I’m generally too tired to write, so… I still like it, and it holds my notebook computer when I’m not writing, sans the cooling stand, of course. It’s a dark image, sorry, and somewhat blurry, but that’s what happens when you have tremor issues. Everyone around me knows I have these tremors, and we’re all surprised when images turn out well.
Here’s an airdesk image from the company’s website. I do recommend them, but they don’t come cheap.
So here are my writing tools:
- Comfy, oversized recliner (the rather worn and will need replacing in a year or two edition)
- 17” notebook computer (lavender color
- A side table to store my pens, headphones, and to hold my coffee.
- A cubby space, box, or basket to hold my various spiral notebooks
- A patient spouse who brings me coffee and puts my socks on me when I can’t get to my feet
I particularly like that last item. My spouse is patient, understanding, and has come to know that a flat expression, snarl, or monotone voice from me has nothing to do with what’s really going on. (She asks if she has any doubt.) It’s my nervous system sending false or degraded messages, and that’s all.
Bless her for that.
I guess I’m telling you, no matter if you’re disabled or not, that a designated, pretty, dreamy writing space isn’t a requirement. I know writers who work from their couch, others who sit on the floor. It’s all up to you.
Make it work for you no matter your ability level.