Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writer Space(s)

I think the indomitable Virginia Woolf coined it - a Room of One's Own and all of that. And I get it - that room (or closet or table or spaceship) that we covet can be as ephemeral and as mythic as a unicorn with a golden horn playing in a Moon Bounce on the actual moon. As one does.

This is…sort of what I just said?

But I would argue that that space, at least in my opinion can be many many things (like I mention above - a closet or table, etc.) Sometimes it has walls. Sometimes the walls are absent and the outdoors or nature are their own boundary. There is one thing I can say for sure, with absolute certainty, and that is that this "room" is never static. And it is always changing.

Some basic rules or guiding principles for my writing or creative space includes:

1. It shouldn't require anything of you that isn't creatively minded. 

This means that if you are trying to work in a kitchen with dishes to be washed and floors to be mopped, you are less likely to hit your stride. I'm not saying you CAN'T do it. I've written many many pages in that environment. I'm just saying it isn't ideal.

2. It needs to be alterable. 

This is a big one for me. I'm one of those people who changes their furniture arrangements pretty regularly. I also very much like writing in a room with multiple windows on multiple walls so that the light comes from different angles at different times. You may want a certain kind of ennui that is more attainable when you're writing while facing West and sitting upright. This is what we refer to as "environment." There isn't an environment on earth that is static. Why in the world would your writing space be?

3. It needs to be free.

Take the word "free" here to mean "unencumbered." If possible, make the only job of this room to be beautiful. You don't have to have anything like an office. I've never had an office. But the rooms I choose to write in don't require anything of me except sleep (if I'm working in the bedroom) or reading (if I'm working in the sunroom) or Allegra/Zyrtec (if I'm working outside.)

Look, the ideal world means that we'll have our own space in an ideal way. But no one - NO ONE - lives in that world. We live in this one, where we don't get libraries in our houses that have moving ladders that roll over the stacks of books like magic. What we get are closets or tables or a corner of a living room. And we make that work. That, of course, is the point.

So, let me give you an example --

My original writing space, for the last five years or so, was in a big, beautiful McMansion in the Maryland suburbs. I had a library. I had a three level deck. I had a mountain view on all sides of my house.

I would write on the front porch, on the porch swing, on the back deck, in the living room or library with the French doors flung open and my middle class smugness spewing out all over the place.

And then my marriage fell apart. And I had to find a new place to live. And a new place to write.

So, for six months, I rented a tiny studio above a garage in the woods. The interior was lovely - spare and eco-friendly, with clean lines and pale hardwood. The exterior was the woods. It was Nature with a capital N.

And I couldn't write a word. Not one.

I lived in beauty, but it wasn't mine. It wasn't right. I couldn't make the words flow. I was angry and bitter and I wanted my books and my mountain view. Publicly, I talked about how much I loved my apartment. I shared pictures and hashtags that bragged of my surroundings. It was all bluster and bullshit. That beautiful apartment was an albatross on my writing.

I couldn't find my space. And, in turn, I couldn't find my bearings or my words or myself. It took eight months and a move to another state to find my words again. That isn't to say I wasn't writing. I was. I always am. Now, though? I am Writing, with a capital W. I'm making words into stories and those stories are lives that I'm breathing life into. Just like I had to resuscitate myself, I had to resuscitate my writing.

So, where do I write now?

This home I'm renting isn't flashy. It doesn't have a library. Or mountain views. It does have bats. And an A/C on the fritz.

And OH MY FREAKING GOD does it have words.

When my boyfriend and I found it, we fell in love with the lot it's on -- woods on all sides, fenced back yard, beautiful landscaping.

The interior was nice - and then we saw the sunroom. And the screened in porch.

And then the interior became SPECTACULAR.

And then the interior became home.

I'm writing to you from my sunroom right now and the words are spilling from my fingers in the best possible way, which is to say naturally and all at once. I'm getting great stuff out of this place. Out of this new space that I never saw in my future.

We're all energy. We're all moving and changing and so should our spaces. Sometimes it's just a shifting in your floor plan. Sometimes it's a move across the world.

The truth is that the words will find you again. Be open to them. Keep a door cracked. Your stories will find their way back to you if you've lost them. And if there inside you, ready to be written, your only job - your forever job - is to give yourself the space to write them.


  1. This is so true! We rented a house last year with a perfect nook-room for me: north-facing, wood floors, big windows, lots of light, and a view of the woods. I wrote and edited 2 books in 10 months.

    We moved. I can't write anymore. The funny thing is, I have all those things still. Smaller windows, but an even better view. The feng shui is just off. Maybe it's being 3rd floor instead of 1st, being at the back of the house, being as far as I could possibly get from the snack pantry. I'm not sure. But I really can't wait to move again and find a writing space that WORKS. Environment is just so important.

    1. Liz, I couldn't agree more! I hope your words return to you soon!