Virginia Woolf advocated a room of one’s own for writing, but we all know that the ideal isn’t usually the norm — especially for women. Didn’t J.K. Rowling say she wrote the first Harry Potter drafts on napkins in cafés? The busier you are, the harder it is to find a quiet place to sit and write. I have friends with young children who find ingenious ways to scribble character sketches in portable notebooks while waiting for their children at sports or dance classes. And I’m greatly impressed by them because I cannot do it. Besides the occasional writing rally or coffee shop interlude, I do my best writing at home, alone, in my room. I know I’m lucky to have a room of my own in which to write and just a part time day job. Ideally, my mornings are free for writing, though exercise and housekeeping matters have to fit into those hours too. And then there’s my dog — who only has so much patience before insisting on her daily romp. She’s pretty good at the stare-down.
I’ll admit to being fascinated by where writers write. I read an interview with Colum McCann a while back, where he says he writes in a closet! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/11/colum-mccann-transatlantic_n_3417961.html Of course McCann has a room that he designed for writing with a wraparound desk, and all the amenities we writers like. But here’s what happened: so I pushed the desk backwards into a cupboard. And then I decided that I liked sitting on the desk, with my legs outstretched, in the … well …yes I admit it … the closet. With a laptop on my knees. Ha ha! I love this.
And, also, more recently, The New York Times featured several authors and their writing places. I was most drawn to the room where Jhumpa Lahiri writes because it’s in ROME where she recently moved from Brooklyn. Ah, Rome... Well, actually, I’d pick Paris if money were no object — at least for some time and then maybe Southern France to warm up
after all that cold gray drizzle. More realistic though, is Jesmyn Ward’s writing non-room where, she says, all of the projects that she can’t seem to get to are piled up. The room that will someday be her writing space is now cluttered with: the sewing machine I need to take to my grandmother’s house . . . at least two bags of clothing that I’ve been intending to take to Goodwill for the last seven months. There are boxes of receipts I’m saving for my taxes. Now that sounds really familiar. But Ward has a newborn and so, she says, she writes wherever and whenever she can — often in the corner of her bedroom where a nightstand has become a kind of bookshelf. Find the Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/08/25/t-magazine/25writers-rooms.html
The thing about my current writing room is that I keep messing around with it — usually when I’m in between writing projects and am in the cleanup and organize phase while I procrastinate about starting the next big thing. I’ve put the file cabinet I used to have next to my desk into the closet and replaced it with a lovely painted wood side table with a shelf for my printer. This leaves the top free for flowers and a mirror so I can look out at the view and also keep my eye on the door behind me — it’s a Feng Shui thing. I found some simple drapes to soften the windows and love the mostly indecipherable French script on them — bits from postcards and letters. A couple of years ago I added a chaise lounge, a fuzzy blanket and pillow because sometimes I like to curl up and read in there. I have a wall of bookshelves and another blank wall where I hang my scene board when I’m in the middle of a novel and trying to keep track of the plot and characters over time.
My next project is painting. I’m thinking of changing the yellow to a warm aqua blue but keep changing my mind…. Yellow is such a nice contrast to the usual rain outside the window here in Seattle. Oh, that reminds me, I also have my SAD light on top of my bookshelf — I feel like Seattle is the darkest part of the world in the depths of winter and I need all the light I can get. But sometimes, I put an Edith Piaf disk into my computer, squint just a little bit, and transport myself, and this room, to Paris. Ahh.