THE WOODSHOP: Diana Raab, PhD. “On my desk … is a seated Buddha, and in his lap is a neutral stone that says Serenity.”
The Woodshop slips into the workspaces and habits of writers of all stripes and styles. Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. Stephen King advises us to “put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
When, where, and how, do you work?
This glimpse into the writer’s life comes courtesy of Diana Raab, PhD.
Where do you do your work?
I work in numerous places, depending on my mood. My primary working space is the large wooden desk in my writing studio. I sit in front of my wide-screen laptop and am surrounded by my beloved books. On the top shelf above all my books is my old typewriter collection. I often look at them for inspiration.
Sometimes when I feel I need to have white noise or be surrounded by others who are also working, I take my laptop to public places, such as coffee shops and libraries. On beautiful California days, I might sit outside at my garden table with a Buddha beside me. The Buddha inspires me and reminds me of my trip to Bali years ago — a place I’d love to visit again. I also have some large stones in my yard and sometimes for inspiration I will sit on one and write in my journal. Every so often it’s important to me to change my writing environment.
What do you keep on your desk?
On my desk are the papers I’m referring to for the project I’m working on. On the left corner of my desk between two “hand” bookends is the Oxford American Dictionary. Beside the dictionary is a seated Buddha, and in his lap is a neutral stone that says Serenity. On the right side of my desk is a little box with stones and a large crystal in the middle. Next to the stones is a white candle that I sometimes burn for inspiration — to help me get into the writing zone.
What’s your view like?
When I’m sitting at my desk, the view to the left is of two double doors overlooking a water fountain, which attracts many birds during the course of the day. Beside the fountain is a little antique writing table and chair where I sometimes sit, especially when I want to listen to the sound of water cascading down my fountain. The large-paned picture window behind me faces my rock garden. On the other side of my studio facing my desk is a large bookshelf with many of my favorite books. To the right of that is my closet, and to the left of the bookshelf are two paintings — one is Edward Hopper’s Boxcar, and the other is a portrait of diarist Anaïs Nin, made by my husband for my sixtieth birthday.
What do you eat/drink while you work?
I don’t usually eat while I work, but I always keep a jug of water on my desk. Most often, I’m drinking coffee with at least two shots of espresso. On occasion I will drink a green tea, which I also love. When I need to calm myself at the end of the day, I will drink a cup of chamomile tea.
Do you have any superstitions about your work?
I have an antique Fabergé letter opener that is always on my desk. It’s purple and green, and I think it brings me good luck, which might be considered a superstition.
Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.
Recently, I was writing about the meaning of life. This is one sentence from that article: “When evaluating the meaning of your life, I think you need to consider what makes you happy, as these things, situations, and people are what give your life the most significance.”
About Diana Raab:
Diana Raab, MFA, PhD, is a memoirist, poet, blogger, speaker, and the award-winning author of nine books. Her work has been published and anthologized in more than 500 publications. She holds a PhD in psychology, with a research focus on the healing and transformative powers of writing.
Raab is the editor of two anthologies: Writers and Their Notebooks and Writers on the Edge; two memoirs: Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal and Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey; and four poetry collections, including Lust. Much of her inspiration comes from diarist and writer Anaïs Nin. Raab’s latest book is Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Program for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life (September 2017). Her website is: www.dianaraab.com, and you can find Diana on Twitter, and Facebook, too.
Originally published at www.cutbankonline.org on October 27, 2017.