Here’s My Nest. Show Me Yours?

It’s cold here, and school is closed, so we are hunkering down on this day that I’m choosing to call “a bonus day of winter break” rather than “colossal monkey-wrench in my plans to get back to a routine.” Our family is fortunate to have the shelter of this warm, albeit not fancy, house. It’s a good place to nest.

I’ve been thinking about nests lately, because mine had gotten out of hand. Thankfully I got a scanner for Christmas/birthday, having never had one. I’ve been busily scanning years’ worth of papers, photos, and kid artwork. My corner of the blue room (yes, it’s a real physical place!) has been cluttered and cramped with all of this stuff, and it’s nice to have a chance to clear it out.

Studies show that too much tidiness stifles people’s creativity—they need a moderate amount of disarray in order to feel loose enough to create. Either the mess around my desk was beyond “moderate,” or I’m wired differently, because the clutter was taking tiny nibbles out of my mental health. A tidy, harmonious space allows me to think more clearly. It will get messy again, but for now, it gives me a happy feeling and makes me to want to write, knit, create a book, bake… it makes me want to make stuff.

Here is my shelf of honor, containing those books that have inspired me over the years. It’s not that I consult them all that often, but each of them has played a role in my writing life thus far. I like having these folks nearby:

photo 1

On the next shelf down I have a birthday card I sent to my dad a long time ago. He adored it and kept it for decades in a frame in his study—my stepmother returned it to me last year. As far as I know, my dad never sat on the roof with his morning coffee… but he’s the type who would have:

photo 2

On my desk itself I have a strawberry candle, a mother and child soapstone sculpture, and a framed postcard of the nunnery at Iona.

I wonder if you have a similar shelf, or a place in your house or office that’s been carefully curated with inspiring things. I’d love to see it. I don’t think WordPress lets you post pictures in comments, but you could post them on your blog/Facebook page, or email them to me at maryannmcdana (at) gmail, and maybe I could share them in a future post?

We aren’t just collections of disembodied ideas, you know. We are grounded in particular places. It’s lovely to see what those places look like.


Disclaimer: It can be a trap to spend too much time on a shelf of honor or a perfectly appointed study. You don’t need a special pen, or for the sunlight to come in just so, before you can make things. That’s classic procrastination. Just sit down in your chair, the one with the bad ergonomics, and start.


Oh, and psst… the price of Sabbath in the Suburbs just went down on Amazon (at last!). Order it here, or at Chalice Press

6 thoughts on “Here’s My Nest. Show Me Yours?

  1. Elana

    I have a shelf of writing books as well, not in my office though…but we only have 3 books in common (Bird by Bird, Writing Down the Bones, and The Artist’s Way). Writer’s love to write about writing, don’t they. Like movies about making movies/Hollywood and TV series about TV/radio shows:-) My office has been sort of abandoned since I had the twins (just over 7 months ago) and I now realize that it was my daily presence that kept it from becoming a no man’s land dumping ground. I’m gonna have to get back in there soon or there will be no digging out!!

    1. MaryAnn McKibben Dana Post author

      Yes… I realized that many of these books contain writing exercises, which I almost never use. Some of these have more of a talismanic quality than anything. (Taliswomanic?)

      Also, I’ve picked up a lot of Julia Cameron over the years, but the content is almost identical book by book.

      If you haven’t read Ann Fadiman’s Ex Libris, that is a wonderful book for people who like books.

      Are you’re finding, there are definitely seasons of our lives…

  2. Bob Braxton

    While I write wherever I am (including during church and sermons), my typing is the basement level, fortunately.
    Don’t think that floor will give way any time soon from so much weight of (other people’s) books, not my own.
    I have written many equivalent volumes but no published tomes.

  3. [email protected]

    I love this post, and the whole idea of having a little “inspiration nest.” Mine is my prayer desk. I blogged about it a while back (let’s see if the link will go through):

    The picture on the post isn’t great, but it gives a general idea. The little shelf-y thing contains all sorts of prayer books, kids,’ picture books that I love, poetry, etc. I tend to rotate the pictures on the desk, changing them from time to time. It’s so nice to have a little place that is all about slowing down and reading/praying/thinking for a change.

    I loved “Ex Libris,” too! It’s like catnip for a book lover.


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