Will Come the Words: Writers & their creative spaces (series introduction)

But the essential question is, Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write? Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas — inspiration.  If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn. ~ Doris Lessing


by Stephanie Dickison

Over my long career as a freelance writer, I have had various writing nooks where the magic happened.

In my second apartment above an antiques store, the wood floors and spacious layout allowed me my first large desk. Dark indigo, it was the size of a boardroom table. Before that, I’d only ever written on small corners of cluttered tables.

I sacrificed space for living downtown in my next place, so a teeny computer table was jammed into the corner of a speck of a bedroom. But I had grown up in small rooms with little space, so I thought it was extremely romantic and cozy, and I was so exhilarated to be writing that I was happy for any surface at all.

I documented the next space in my book, The 30-Second Commute: A Non-Fiction Comedy About Writing & Working From Home. My rolltop desk in the corner of the bedroom was wonderful. Until it wasn’t. Eventually the limitations became obvious.

Then there was a shared office with an ex. I had an entire wall, but somehow it felt like I had less space there in which to work and think than in the tiniest places I’d inhabited thus far.

Which brings me to this place.

A new house meant that I could redesign my space the way I really wanted it. So I had it painted an optimistic, modern turquoise and I put my desk right in the middle, facing outward like in an interior designer’s office. It feels like such a bold move to pull away from the safety of the walls that I’ve clung to for the past few decades — like wearing a micro-mini or bright lipstick.

The office is filled with new white shelving, and most of the shelves have bare spots for things to come instead of being crammed with items I never use. Everything in here has a place and a purpose, but it’s not as stiff as it sounds. I bought a chic bench for clients to lounge on and I put up a huge board to pin photos and other favourite mementos. I got rid of my filing cabinet and instead use an old gold album display stand from the ′60s, and I brought my rolls of gorgeous wrapping paper out of the storage closet and placed them in a display bin so that I can see them.*

Really, all you need to write is some pen and paper and a computer. I use them all here at my mostly uncluttered desk (there are often menus, files, magazines, and worn notebooks scattered about, but generally I keep it pretty tidy). But to have room to breathe and space to think is really the most wonderful luxury a writer can have.

*Design note: I really want a white or clear office chair. The black one pictured here is staying, though, because it’s where my cat Cosmo sits. I teeter on a little wooden stool (tucked underneath the desk) while he sprawls out on “his” chair. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

P.S. This is my couch. I sometimes write here when trying to create at a desk feels too restrained or I become stiff from being hunched over. On the couch I get to stretch out, in both body and mind.

My favourite writing quote:

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper. ~ Steve Martin

My creative spaces online:

Stephanie Dickison

One More Bite

Stephanie Dickison lives and writes in Toronto, Canada.


  1. What an interesting series, and what an interesting piece. My husband always teases me that the first thing I do in a new “work space” is build some shelves. And it’s true — in my “new” writing space in Penticton (now ten-years into use) the first thing I did was build some shelves. But mine are now more layered than Troy! I envy you your empty ones. And your lovely “fresh start” and turquoise walls. Thank you for sharing your space, Stephanie!

  2. Hi Barbara,

    I have always felt that work spaces are as intimate as the contents of one’s purse, so I was a little tentative. I wouldn’t do it for just anyone, but for Allyson – absolutely.

    Reading your lovely comments makes it all worth it. Thank you, Barbara.

    May your pen flow freely, your shelves get cleared and your deadlines get extended.

    Huge hugs of gratitude,


  3. A writing (w)room without a contented cat would seem forlorn — I’m glad your Cosmo still has his black chair for lounging. Good prose-making to you in your wonderful new digs.

    • Hi Morgan,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I had lost Cosmo for awhile, so having him back has made me appreciate him just that much more. Also, I tell him it’s “our” office, not “my” office, so of course he should have his own chair.

      I wish you much happy writing, Morgan. And you can borrow Cosmo anytime!

      Warmest wishes and big hugs,


  4. Deb says:

    What a great series idea, Allyson. I love hearing/reading about other writers’ work spaces, though I’m leery of any that have cable TV, a wall mounted fireplace, mini bar and/or big comfy chaise. Like Club Med for Writers; single supplement. A great place to visit but…

    Except for a wall mounted cork board pinned with overlapping story ideas/themes/colour-coded character traits cards and a few heaving bookshelves, my writers’ space consists of a circa 1970 Steelcase filing cabinet and a large piece of laminated pine set atop a plastic folding table. A hand-me-down used-to-be-white swivel tub chair helps keep the ideas spinning.

    Life is good!

    • Allyson Latta says:

      Thanks, Deb. I’m glad you liked Stephanie’s post. I’ll admit I enjoy peeking into others’ creative spaces. The transformation of Stephanie’s was quite remarkable, which is what got us talking. I agree: too-fancy offices make me a little suspicious — how much work actually goes on in there?

      Your workspace sounds great, and very you. Hey, I’ve got one of those circa-1970 filing cabinets too! And you should definitely hang onto that spinning chair — it’s worked well for you so far. 😉

  5. John McFetridge says:

    Looks fantastic. I’m not surprised ;).

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