I’m an itinerant writer, insomuch that I move around the house from place to place, like a cat seeking those sunny spots on winter afternoons. Though what I’m seeking is a quiet, out-of-the-way place where I can work. In the spring and summer, I usually convert our uninsulated back porch into a writing space. I haul out a desk and a chair, and attach my whiteboard to the wall. The whiteboard generally goes wherever I go: on it, I keep track of deadlines. I’m someone who likes to keep track of deadlines.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to rent a small studio a few blocks from my house. That was a dreamy summer. I’d ride my bike to the studio every morning with a thermos filled with black coffee. Once I was settled at my desk, I’d drink coffee and write all day. Sometimes one of my sons would stop by and we’d visit outside on the steps; sometimes I’d break early to go skateboarding at the skatepark down the street. But always, I’d meet my minimum daily page count. I do have some rules of engagement when it comes to my writing day. I wrote the first draft of my story “Big Yellow Taxi” in that studio. At the end of the summer, I moved my desk and whiteboard back home.
These days, I write in my eldest son’s room. He moved out some time ago, but I’m still in no way ready to convert his room into anything but his room. Some of his clothes are still in the closet; some of his books are still on the bookshelf. I’ve cleared some space on one of the shelves for a few of my books, and I’ve hung up my whiteboard in the corner. His bed is still in here; it’s right behind me, in fact. You might think it would be a distraction having a bed in the room where I write. You might think I’d be napping on that thing all day long. But I’m not a napper. Instead, I use the bed as just another flat surface upon which to place more books.
What is a major distraction for me is wildlife, or more precisely, birds. Birds are a big distraction. My desk is next to a window that looks out into our backyard. I keep some binoculars on the window sill, and I use them to scan the trees every time I hear a bird call. Sometimes my cat joins me in watching the birds, though we have very different ideas about bird-watching. A few weeks ago, we saw two northern flickers and a pileated woodpecker. That was a good day. For me, anyway.
When my son comes home to visit, I gladly pack up my things and move to another part of the house. I might work at the dining room table or in the basement; if it’s warm out, I’ll head out to the porch. I’m not as precious about where I write as I used to be. I just try to keep my head down and meet my daily page count. If I can catch a glimpse of some of the birds passing through the yard, that’s just an added bonus.
Ian Roy is the author of four books, including his most recent collection of stories, Meticulous, Sad, and Lonely. He is currently working on a novel for children.