Room to Write

[This essay was published on Brevity Blog, June 6, 2022.]

A couple of weeks ago, within twenty-four hours, both Stephen King and my mom told me I needed an office for writing. I decided if Mom and Mr. King agreed about something, I needed to listen.

My office space along the wall

Of course, Mr. King was talking to me from the pages of his book On Writing. He advised me (okay, he was talking to all writers) to have a space of my own with a door that closes. He wrote Carrie and Salem’s Lot in the laundry room of a trailer, but there was a door that closed. He never mentions if he ever threw a load of dirty clothes in the washer. I would have washed and dried clothes and written between the cycles.

Then Mom called. I felt too blue to just put a smile in my voice and chitchat about weather and family and the latest movie she had seen. Spurred on by Mr. King urging me to have an office with a door and frustrated by the traffic patterns in my writing space, I was weepy about not having a quiet place of my own to write.

My office space in the living room had worked if I was home alone, but my amygdala had begun to associate it with interruption and chaos. The living room is a thoroughfare from one side of the house to the other. When my husband is home, he likes to stop off and chat as he motors through. My grandkids also play in the living room three days a week. They inhabit the space with toys and voices and nonstop movement. While playing, they chatter with delight and argue with rancor, all of it mall-level noise. So, it didn’t matter if my husband and grandkids weren’t in the house when I tried to write because my brain would anticipate interruption and commotion anyway, leaving me frazzled. Logically, I understood why I was antsy, but it’s not easy to calm down a fired-up amygdala.

Mom suggested I turn the spare bedroom, tucked at the front side of the house, into an office with a pullout couch. “You can take a nap on the couch when you’re tired, and you can use it as a bed when the grandkids sleep over.” I wondered what Mr. King would say about napping in one’s writing office.

Sloth on a Shelf: I write faster than he does!

I rejected the pullout couch solution, but Mr. King’s and Mom’s advice started me thinking. Over the next several days, I wandered in and out of my two spare bedrooms with a tape measure, sizing up the dimensions of the rooms and the furniture, arriving at a solution. I swapped a desk and dresser and bought a bookcase. For the first few days, I would wander into my new space and stare at it with wonder and love, the way I looked at my children when they were newborns.

It’s not a whole office, but I like it that way. It’s a little cramped, but when I sit at my desk, it feels like a hug, and in a pinch, the bed right behind me serves as a table. Mr. King says a writing office should probably be humble, so my space measures up. I can shut the door, so I’m not interrupted. And when the grandkids visit, they aren’t allowed to play in my room.

My amygdala does yoga. I breathe and write.

12 thoughts on “Room to Write

  1. I understand! I love having my own space and have had it for many years. I’m also known to move my desk etc around when the feng shui feels off. When my daughter stops in, she shudders if I say, “ Do you have a minute?” She knows what’s coming!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah! Valuing yourself and your writing enough to set aside a small space WITH A CLOSING DOOR just for you and your creativity in the rooms of your housed space and the plethora tugging on your time . My sincere congratulations, Vickie.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I try to get up early, empty the dishwasher, curse out the guy across the street with the modified exhaust, and I usually get an hour uninterrupted. The rest of the time is catch as catch can.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I also like what Mr. King said about a writing space not needing to be fancy. I ignored this advice and bought a gorgeous Amish desk with proceeds from my first novel. However, it’s too intimidating a place to write! I do most of my writing at the kitchen table or at a very simple desk at our cabin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I thought about buying a beautiful Amish desk a few years ago. But I thought it might be too much pressure to produce lots of writing at the level of great literature (LOL!!!). My desk is an inexpensive piece that we bought from unpainted furniture store for my son to use when he was in high school. We put it in his room for him. So for me, it’s a hand-me-down.

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  5. How ignorant can I be? All this time it’s been a question of finding the right table top. First it was the built-in desk and cabinets that fit nicely in the niche. But I could hear the tv downstairs. So I converted the guest room into my dressing and office space. Then our generation’s old folding card table became my writing desk. Somehow it seems appropriate that unfolding facilitates my scribbles and they can be hidden when guests come to visit.

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