Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A moment's respite

When I was younger, and more full of myself and my ideas, I always thought that I would heed Virginia Woolf's advice and never be without a room to call my own. And not just any room. A writer's garret. Some sort of adult feminist clubhouse that admitted only me. 

My grown up reality is that I am lucky to be able to lock the door and use the bathroom by myself. Most showers are accompanied by an infant in his Exersaucer. I share a bedroom with my husband, and our bed often hosts one or both of our sons. If I am sitting on the couch there is a child in my lap, another vying for my attention, and two dogs trying to woo me with "pet me" eyes. I wouldn't trade any of it for that drafty room of my imagination...and yet...

Sometimes I just want to be by myself. And write. 

Most writers, whether they are willing to admit it or not, have grown up with the notion of only being able to tap into our best selves, our most poignant writing, if we are locked away somewhere in total isolation. In addition to my writing loft, my creative dream was a cabin in Maine. Three months alone in the woods and that hidden novel would surely expose itself! And unless I was able to attain that perfect atmosphere, then who could blame me for not reaching my full literary potential? I admit that I fell prey to Virginia's dashing notion that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” 

And that idea, dear me, is bullshit.

For starters, I am afraid of being in the woods alone so at least 60% of my time would have been devoted to fantasizing about bears, Bigfoot, and either the escaped mental patient with the hook at the end of his arm or the one who licked your hand in the night pretending to be your dog. Also, I have never been to Maine and know nothing about its actual landscape. And most writers aren't independently wealthy. We are average people with mortgages and medical bills, families to care for and jobs that require our daily presence. In our lives, writing is work. It is not glamorous, it is not better with a glass (or bottle) of wine. It benefits from regular practice and multiple drafts. 

And it can be accomplished in stolen moments if we are ready to take them.

My new creative goal does not involve escaping from reality in order to try and recreate it on paper, but rather to take advantage of the wasted minutes that can be gleaned from a normal day. This way I am accountable for my time, and that novel is allowed to grow in fits and starts instead of rotting by the wayside while I wait for an idyllic writing opportunity to present itself. 

I keep hearing my best friend Rachel's voice in my head, saying "Ounces make pounds." It's something she used to tell young hikers on Outward Bound trips when their backpacks would become so heavy after the addition of one more book, one more energy bar, one more souvenir rock. That idea, of one tiny river rock being insignificant but an hour's worth of river rocks adding substantial weight to your pack, can so easily translate into time. If I write for 30 minutes a day while the baby naps for example, I may only see a paragraph that one day, but by the end of the week I'll have 7 paragraphs. By the end of a year I could have 70 pages. It's daunting if I think of it in terms of "then it will take me 3 years to write a book!" But how wasteful I feel when I realize that I could have started this project 3 years ago...

So, I will squirrel away my idle time. Facebook won't miss me. My email will keep. The dishes will get done, dinner will be cooked, television won't notice my absence and no one in my family will feel shorted. These 30 precious minutes will become my room. And soon enough, I will have a book to call my own. 


Claudia said...

...and I want to be the first to read it. Or at least in the top 10.

troy said...


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