Designer Home, Designer Writer?


I used to spend a fair bit of time in regret about my writerly voice. I wished I had more poetic turns of phrase, better descriptive powers. Then I took a course with an author I have reason to trust, and for the most part let that go. 

Simple language works, or so I’ve been told, provided it contains emotional truth and is written with a sincere heart.

I hope that’s accurate. It’s not like a have a ton of choice in the matter. I could work 24/7 until I died and never develop the quality of voice I tend to most admire. 

If I begin to slip into despair, I watch videos like this one. They allow me to believe simplicity doesn’t have to represent a compromise, but a beautiful esthetic in its own right: 


So I have two questions for you, one deep and one…not so much:

1. Are you wasting energy on what’s not within your control in your writing?

2. Does your writing voice reflect your decorating style? I ask because I’m looking around my home as I type this and know what? I prefer earth tones, hardwood floors, blinds, and furniture with simple lines. I am no more a rococo decorator than I am a rococo writer and I have to wonder: Am I the only person with demonstrable parallel between use of space in the home, and use of space on the page?

15 thoughts on “Designer Home, Designer Writer?

  1. Your first question resonates with me. I don’t have an immediate answer, but you raise an important point, and I’m going to spend some time thinking about it. Your second question is an interesting one. I like a minimalist home, lots of white, clean lines, and spare details, aside from art. I think that’s reflected somewhat in my writing and that’s what I struggle with most … trying to tell powerful stories with deep meaning in a simple, straightforward, and accessible voice. Great post, Jan. Great video and song, too!

  2. Olivia, how interesting. Comments I’m receiving elsewhere suggest others see a correlation, too. Would be neat to do an actual study.

    I’m glad you liked the video. It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it? It’s a link from another writer who prefers to remain anonymous.

    Good luck with your thinking!

  3. Answer to question 1 is simple (I think): I write in a way that comes naturally to me. I wasted many years of my earlier life trying to emulate things that I admired in other people, and I learned the futility of that. It was a hard growing-up lesson, and I guess I carried that over into my writing. What I find less easy to deal with is all the critiquers who try to tug me away from how I naturally write.

    Question 2: What a fantastic insight. I think you might be on to something there. I have to extend the thought beyond simply decorating, and into architecture – the look and feel of the whole space. I love simplicity, up to a point, but definitely not minimalist. Clean lines, practical, warm and homely, but with hints of surprise and adventure. I love buildings with little surprises hidden away: that balcony overlooking the staircase, the bay window tucked around the corner giving both privacy and amazing vistas to mountains in the distance. Details to delight that you have to ferret out and discover. I would love to think that that carries over into my writing.

  4. Botanist, I know I’ve erred on that myself: critiquing voice rather than editing for clarity or structural changes. I hope I’m improving on that. IMHO, it can be a real challenge to find a critique group that respects genre, voice and characters that are interesting, but not 100% likeable.

    I like your architecture analogy – both the concept and the writing-related goal. You’re talking my kind of language. 🙂

  5. Jan,

    First off, what a beautiful, beautiful video. That will sit with me all day today 🙂

    Second, you ask great questions. I, too, have to think about no. 1 – where am I wasting my energy (another tidbit from your post that will sit with me today). And, I love your question on use of space, though – I have to say – it frightens me a bit. Just yesterday I was stomping around the house wondering where I might find an industrial dumpster late at night on a Sunday, so I could “clear this clutter! Argh!” Yet, there are some spaces in my home that are simple, well-organized, and succinct in purpose.

    …I guess in many ways that does reflect my writing 🙂 What a lovely perspective! Now, to find those spaces in my writing and emulate them throughout a whole draft…. 🙂

  6. Christi, glad you enjoyed the video!

    As for being fearful, LOL, I get that. I don’t even have wee ones around who seem driven to undo the first sign of progress in my home.

    Let me amend the question, then: Do you tend to write the way you prefer your living quarters looked? 🙂 Sounds like that would be a “yes” in your case, too.

  7. Jan, I find this topic so intriguing! I feel like I’ve finally let go of worrying about the things in my writing that are not within my control. I’m not exactly sure how that happened, since I am a professional worrier, with many years of experience on my resume. 🙂 But I write the way I write, and I feel fortunate that some people “get it”, and I’m not obsessed with those who don’t.

    As for my writing voice reflecting my decorating style. . .I would have to say no, because I’m not sure I *have* a decorating style. LOL I do like the notion, however, so I’m going to ponder it a bit more to see if there is a correlation.

  8. Donna, LOL on the “professional worrier” title. Very glad you let go of it! Do you know, I’m headed that way, too, even with respect to my writing. 😀

    Would love to hear your thoughts on the decorating/writing correlation, even to know if there is none for you. My study is hardly scientific, but we can draw a larger sample size! 🙂

  9. I’ve always believed that if you tended to your personality-and tried to outwardly become who you feel you are inside-the quality of voice would follow. It’s a powerful thing to add to one’s writing skill but it’s as indispensable as basic grammar. It could be the one thing that grabs publishers and readers.

    Botanist, I empathize; there are a lot of critics that try to force a false style of writing upon an author. One writer’s course I began to take refused to acknowledge the idea of inspiration…ironically (or perhaps not) I found the textbook quite uninspired. I write to the end of my ideas (inspiration,) and found the course worthless.

  10. Question #1 — I used to waste time on trying to develop a writing voice that (for me) was completely false. I had strengths in areas that might not be as black-turtleneck-revered, but were strengths nonetheless — Humor, not literary descriptive genius.

    Question #2 — My decorating style is VERY simple. In fact, I don’t know if you could even call it decorating…it’s more of an afterthought of comfort. There are no bells and whistles (or off-limit rooms) here.

    Interesting and lovely post~

  11. I used to waste time trying to imitate writers I admired, but that was in my teens and early twenties. I grew into my own voice and style.

    I’m a minimalist in home design. I just care about the basics and comfort. My writing has no frills either.

  12. Funny I should run across this. I posted at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash about voice today, and I share your preference for simple direct language. I think though, you just reinforced another truth–you have one of the clearest voices around here at the old blog… I haven’t read your fiction, but in spite of my anti-romance vent, I WANT TO because you speak to me… simple, yes, but HONEST, usually funny, heartfelt… you can’t fake that.

    Raise Your Voice

    As for my HOUSE? HAND-ME-DOWN. We are poor. Have always BEEN poor. Will possibly always BE poor. And we accomodate pets and children, so why spend good money anyway. But in my DREAM world (and with a different spouse) I would probably be quirky and cluttered–so yeah… not such a match.

  13. I believe the phrase “purple prose” was invented to describe my earlier attempts at writing. I still can slip into it if I’m not careful. Flowery phrases that I once thought lyrical now shrivel beneath my delete button. Bad habits are hard to break, but I’m glad I broke them. I think my voice shines through just fine with simple prose, Jan, and I believe yours does too.
    In your second question, I have to admit I finally have the house of my dreams. It is a little country house with hardwood floors and clean lines. I try to decorate with antiques, but I have one qualification for all my furniture: it’s not just for looks, it must be serviceable. That means that my furniture took some knocks along the way, kind of like me.
    Sorry it took me so long to get here! I’m blog crawling, not hopping, but I’m glad I made it nonetheless. As always, Jan, thanks for your insightful post.

  14. Phyllis, if you’re speaking about integrity, I couldn’t agree more. I think the reader can tell when we’re holding back or faking enthusiasm.

    Amanda, LOL on the black-turtle-revered description. I haven’t heard that before, but it’s perfect!And yes, it is easier, IMHO, to work on building strengths rather than look ONLY at improving weaknesses. Easier for the reader to forgive deficiencies, too, if they’re wowed by a certain quality. Glad to hear you’re not torturing yourself.

    Medeia, I wonder if everyone goes through that stage and has to grow out of it. Interesting you’d see a parallel, too.

    Hart – aw, you honestly made me a little teary – in a good way. THANK you. One thing, though, is that I haven’t taken spousal preference/habits into consideration, because…yeah, we have different tastes. Would you honestly say you’re not quirky, though?

    T, you were a purple proser? LOL, you’re certainly come a long way. Your furniture tastes sound like mine. As for blog crawling, OMG, I’m so far behind it’s ridiculous. Please don’t ever apologize! Any comments are always appreciated!

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