I always knew the only thing stopping me from really getting down to write was not having my own space. An office. A place to go to shut myself off from the world to write. I couldn’t write with the TV on, and our house was so small that there was really nowhere to go where you couldn’t hear the TV.
So, I dreamed of an office and what a Happy Writer I would be when I finally had one. Which wasn’t going to happen until my kids moved out, which was a long way off.
Then, about three years ago, things transpired that put us in possession of an RV. Not terribly road-worthy and, if we did take it on the road, that would meant forking out the four dollars a gallon for gas, so it was never going to happen.
My brother, upon hearing of this acquisition, asked if we were going to move my 19-year-old daughter into the RV so I could have her bedroom as an office. I laughed the suggestion off. My daughter didn’t. The idea of having her own space was too tempting. So, out she moved, and I began making eager plans to redo my new office.
Fast forward a few months to my beautiful butter-yellow walls, a newly stained built-in, wrap-around desk, plenty of bookcases and file cabinets for both my day job items and my writing, and the wonderfully comfortable reading chair in the corner. I was in heaven! Finally! A space to write.
Fast forward another few months and I finally admitted what I’d been unable to acknowledge up until that point: I couldn’t write in my office.
I worked my day job there just fine. It was far better than the desk next to my bed had been!
But when it came to writing, it just didn’t happen. I don’t know why…maybe because after working the day job there all I wanted to do was escape?
This really upset me, because I suddenly lost the excuse I’d been using for years…I can’t write because I don’t have a dedicated writing space. Now I did have my own space, and I still wasn’t writing. Ugh.
What’s my point in telling this story? I know there are lots of writers out there with the same feelings I had. That they can’t write because they don’t have a private space, but just as soon as they have it, look out! Their writing will take off! Their creativity will blossom!
I tell this story, because I want you to know, it’s not about the space.
It’s about wanting to write so much that you write with what you’ve got.
Often we get set in our thinking of what we “need” to be Happy Writers. We need a dedicated office space. We need silence. We need a locked door.
But there are many ways to be Happy if we just stop to consider what alternatives might provide us with what we’re really looking for.
I’ve found my ideal writing place is either my dining room table, looking out over my yard (and this is not a landscaping showcase, I promise you!), or one of several different local coffee shops. I’ve also written in one of the study rooms at the library.
Each of these offers the two things I discovered that I need the most to write: A table or desk to sit at because it takes me to the “working place” of writing that lounging on the couch doesn’t and, in the case of the coffee shops, provides me an escape from the distractions of home, like laundry, unwashed dishes, or the lure of nightly television.
These are the creative “cues” I need to turn me from Shannon the Mom, the Employee, the Housekeeper, into Shannon the Writer.
What’s the most important creative cue for you? Music? Candles? A bowl of red M&M’s? Do you need to be organized, have your references at your fingertips?
What is it you HAVE to have to write?
Once you know that, you can transform anyplace, any space, into the right space to write. If you need music, buy headphones (noise canceling are nice) and listen to the right music. That can transform your bedroom, the living room, or the local coffee shop into the perfect space. (If you need silence, buy the noise canceling headphones and don’t turn the music on!)
Do you need organization to feel like a writer? A place for reference books, your notebooks and pens, a bulletin board of your characters’ pictures?
Create a space that has those things! Make a portable “bulletin board” with a tri-fold cardboard presentation board that you can set up whenever/wherever you write, put your files and/or books in a rolling file holder or in a small bookcase in a corner of your kitchen or organize them in baskets under your coffee table. Instant organization when your couch or kitchen is the only place you have to write.
For others, it’s more important to be without distractions. I read once that writer Amy Tan has an office in New York that is a converted closet, completely closed off from outside stimuli and another office in San Francisco, heavily curtained to close out the view. Her assistant got the nice view. Tan knew what she needed to write was to be free of distractions. Maybe there’s a closet in your future?
Really stop to consider what the idea of a “writing space” means to you. What’s the feeling you’re going for? Experts say that people who want to be rich, really aren’t looking for the cold hard cash in their hand but for the feeling of freedom that having money would give them. So, what writing feeling are you searching for? Once you know, you can try different spaces and places to get just the right fit, fill it with the creative cues you need to be a Happy Writer, and get down to the writing.
I’m okay not writing in my office anymore. Because I have other options. And so do you.
Whatever you do, don’t let not having the “perfect” writing space be your excuse not to write. Turn it into an obstacle and figure out how to work around it, compromise, or change your thinking about it.
What’s your dream writing space? Any ideas how you can create it right where you are?