Monday, January 7, 2019

Where Writers Write: Stephen Evans

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen.


Stephen Evans is a playwright and the author of several books, including The Marriage of True MindsA Transcendental Journey, Painting Sunsets (12/2018) and The Island of Always (available 1/6/19). His website is

Where Stephen Evans Writes

What constitutes writing? If it’s only where you type the words into your computer, then my writing space is not particularly exciting. It consists of a tiny lime green desk that once inhabited my mother’s sewing room. Hanging on the wall above is a picture of the Iowa farm where my father grew up. Beneath that I have posted a quote from Marcus Aurelius Meditations:

If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you should be bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with your present activity according to nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which you utter, you will live happy. And no man is able to prevent this.

I’m not sure it’s true, but I like reading it.

But if you count as writing the imaginative time that comes before the typing and reading and editing, then my writing space gets more interesting, and beautiful.

Several years ago, after a difficult family time, I decided to take some time off from work to catch up on writing projects I had been thinking about for years but had not had the time or energy to tackle. It ended up being nearly a year, not because I intended to take that much time, but because it took months longer to find a new job than I planned.

During this sabbatical, I was able to write drafts of two books: The Island of Always, the sequel to a novel I had published a while before, and Painting Sunsets, a middle-grade fantasy novel I have had in the back of my mind for more than two decades. I am happy to say I am publishing both books this winter. I also wrote a new one-act play about Ralph Waldo Emerson entitled Monuments, which we hope to produce this summer. And finally I drafted a good deal of content for a book on comedy. It was a very good year.

Before this period, my writing process had always been to sit down at the computer and see what happened. But this year, my process changed.

Behind my condo, there is a little park that residents of the community refer to as the Broadwalk. The park is narrow, maybe 100 yards wide and half a mile or so long, with apartments and townhouses lining either side.

Down the middle of the park, an asphalt path wanders with no particular sense of purpose, willing to get there when to gets there. Benches are spaced along the way, for those of us who like to sit and think. Or just sit and breathe.

On either side of the path, trees and bushes and flower beds measure your progress. In the early spring, forsythia, skinny stairways made of sunshine, and jonquils, upside down bells of yellow gold, ring in the change of season. In late April, azalea paint the path in pastels (including light purple, like this sentence). A few weeks later, the dogwoods bloom throughout the grounds, myriad pink and white lace handkerchiefs waving in the breeze.

But the mature trees are year-round joys. The community was developed 50 years ago, and many of the trees are that old or more. The variety is notable, from oaks to poplars to birches and many more. About half the path is shaded by these welcome neighbors.

Every day, or at least every nice day, before sitting down to write, I got into the habit of taking a walk, hoping the creative space in my head would mirror the calm and beautiful space outside. Around noon, or maybe 1:00 PM, I would head outside, turn left (always the same direction) and stroll for about 45 minutes down the path, past dogs and humans in equal numbers. Having no dog I was often the odd man out and about, nodding to the humans and saying hello to the dogs.

I never really had the sense that I was writing. But by the time I had made the turn for home, my mind had also turned to the next scene, and I was deep in my creative space. My pace would pick up, because I knew exactly what my approach would be, often my exact words, and wanted to get to the keyboard without delay.

Though once in a while, something halted the stream of thoughts and images, diverted it into a different track. Then the beginnings of a new poem or a story would begin take shape.

What more can you ask of an office than to offer you stories to tell?

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