JK had the local coffee shop. Virginia needed a room of her own – insisting that women writers needed a room of their own to write. Di Morrisey has her shed down the back of her tropical garden. Some love the local library, some have an office away from their house, some have a space the size of an airing cupboard, some no space at all but the kitchen table after – or before – the day is done.
Where do you write? Is it important to have a dedicated space to weave your wordly magic? These days with the wonders of modern electronics and technology you can take your lap-top anywhere and write. Well, even in the pre-tech days you could take your pen(cil) and paper anywhere and write. It is one of the glories of Art – you can do it anywhere, anytime – and really you should.
But how important is it to have a space of your own? I would say it’s essential. I’m with Virginia Woolf, you need your own space to be in, to be undisturbed in, to think, plan and create in. You can’t have other people in there, interfering with your papers, your notes, your drafts: your carefully arranged mess, wherein you know the order and sense which defies logic and anyone else’s idea of reason.
You need space to be quiet or to play music, to smoke or drink endless cups of coffee, glasses of wine. You need your things around you – books, photos, paintings, reference tomes: the things that mean something to you. These are the things that inspire, create the ambiance for you to begin, to continue – to write. You need a space where you won’t be interrupted. A room with a door that locks. A room that is away from the telly, away from the kitchen, away from the action of your home.
As a teenage writer I had my own room, a desk, where study was meant to take place but poems and stories had the upper hand. Then I had my Nan’s house and took over the front room over looking the city and the river. I could move from table full of notes and scribbles to cosy chair by the window and watch the world swirling away below me and write. My first big stories began life in that room.
From then on I lived with others and the ability to write became harder. How to remove yourself from them without seeming rude? How to write in the same room while they watched the tv and chatted to you? It wasn’t possible. In fact it wasn’t possible to get others to take my writing seriously until I won a prize and my stories were published in anthologies. Then I could disappear from the fray, allowed to indulge myself in my now worthy pursuits.
My first real writing room was my own purpose built study under the big house in Darwin. In the extensions it was the first room completed. It had a wall of floor to ceiling louvre windows, a wall for the bookcase, a wall for the desk and bar fridge (need to keep my own supplies down there so no need to leave the room for refreshments) and the double glass doors that opened onto the garden, the expanse of vivid green grass, the palms and the pool. The door locked and the kids were not allowed in. I wrote into the night on my jellybean pink Apple, blissfully happy, completing stories and the odd novel and a prize winning essay.
Then, in the house in Tasmania I ended up in a thoroughfare – a nice space at the front of the house, that opened up onto the deck and looked out on the river, but was the space between the living areas and the bedrooms of the house. I was lucky if I got twenty minutes of continuous writing in. Beloved baby girl could not pass through without stopping to chat and while she is the joy in my life she was not the joy in my writing. Still a few stories, another novel completed – even a prize won.
Now I have a room again. In truth it’s about the same size as my thoroughfare and it’s not as beautifully situated. There is a garden below, but no pool and no river just a few yards away. But I have my desk, my bookcase full of novels, CDs reference texts for study and work, iMac and printer. All my notebooks and cuttings; all my bits of ephemera: mementos from all bits of my life – cuddly toys, golden moon mobiles, Papier Mache stars & moon mask from Venice, Winged Victory from Athens; pictures of beloved boy and woof, of us on the Great Wall of China; even my wedding photo when I was young, gorgeous and in love.
These are things I gather around me to write. This is my creative space and here I can be me and write whenever the time is there, for as long as I need, without interruption. Into the night I can go, until the chapter is nutted out, the first draft completed, the revision done. I can re-read work at my pace, waste time in thinking, dreaming, finding bits of useful and useless information on the net. I can leave things open, things in a mess. I don’t have to clean up for anyone else or explain myself. This is the freedom a room of your own brings you. I can write in other places – I do write in other places – I will write in other places again. But I’ll always want a space to myself, to re-create my writing room to suit me. Selfish I guess, but no-one would question the painter, the sculptor or the potter their right to a studio.
Where do you go, then to create your things of wonder and beauty? Do you have a room of your own?