A Space to Write


In addition to allowing yourself time to write, you also need a physical space to write.  This is also something I struggled with, but once I found the spot, writing became easier.

With seven people living in our house–seven people demanding and exerting their wills upon the spaces of our home–finding a spot is not always easy.  When I wrote my dissertation. I commandeered half of the dining room table. It’s not as if we dine on the dining room table anyway, except for major holidays, on which I would dutifully stack all of my notes, papers, articles, and texts and pile them on the floor while we ate. The entire time, I would watch the stacks to make sure no one stepped on one of my highlighted and annotated articles. No one did–I think they sensed the danger of going anywhere near my dissertation stuff.

Some people recommend having a “door you can shut” for a writing space, but if you are in charge of the people roaming around in your life–or at least feel responsible for them–you cannot just shut them out–at least not without upsetting your writing schedule. The dining room table was a perfect solution because it was out of the way, but still in the midst of things.

After defending my dissertation, however, I celebrated the event by packing up everything on that table and stuffing it all into two large plastic bins for my children to have to deal with after I die. Then, to finalize the celebration, I set out a few candles on that table and for a few months, it once again became a dining room table. I didn’t want to write a damn thing for a long time.  For six months, I avoided my personal laptop at all costs and devoted myself to reading only novels–preferably novels I had already read before so I wouldn’t have to think too much.

Eventually, though, my son started college and because he currently lives at home, one day I saw that he had  set up camp in my old dissertation area on the dining room table.  Now, the dining room table is completely covered with neat piles of textbooks, homework, papers, and a cup of pencils and pens, along with his computer. The spot that had served me so well when writing my dissertation is now serving him in the same way–a place that is somewhat removed from the chaos of our house, yet not so far away to feel excluded from the excitement.  As a mother, I can hardly say no to this commandeering of the dining room table/academic workstation–not when I arrive home in the evening to find him buried in those textbooks or hunched over his own laptop, earning A’s.

Still, if I wanted to write, I needed a space.  Even though half the time, I choose to curl up on a chair with my laptop, there is something symbolic about having our own place, dedicated to our most important pursuits. Similar to not seeing writing as a hobby and thus giving it importance, having a space of our own is critical to making writing an important place in our lives. After all, I required a space for my dissertation–why not other writing as well?

We do have a secret little attic room that looks like a closet from the hallway and I knew that space would be perfect. For a few days, I considered buying a desk and turning it into a writing den, not unlike that of Ernest Hemingway (see above). I could even get a lock for the door and paint it a sea green, but as I fantasized about what my accompanying bookshelves might look like, I heard the inevitable “MOM!! MOM!!!” in the back of my psyche. That still happens, even with teens and young adults, so rather than simply taking off my earphones and addressing the kid, I’d have to walk to the door of my writing oasis, open it up, yell downstairs, then walk downstairs, all writing interrupted. Nope. Wasn’t going to work. I needed to be in the midst of things, yet, not.

My own bedroom was a possibility, but when I need to write, I can’t kick my husband out.

Outside? Sure. Except when it rained or approached 100% humidity and the trees may drop water onto my laptop.

Well, we also have this little built-in-desk area, circa 1980’s style. It’s not exactly lavish–there’s not much room to spread out–but I could sit at it and type. And it has drawers to put old drafts and notes, although originally, those drawers were filled with the usual detritus of a paper world–old bills, faded Christmas cards, warranty paperwork for products we no longer owned. I spent an entire day going through it all, but in the end, I came up with this space: writing spot

My son laughed when he saw it.

“Is that your new space since I took over the table?”

And so it is.

Half the time, I don’t even write sitting at this little desk. I pick up the laptop and move somewhere else–the kitchen table, if no one is there, or a couch in the living room. But, the space is mine. If I write notes and put them in a drawer, everyone knows not to mess with them.

We all need our space for things that are important to us. What space do you have?


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