The spirit of the writer's space
Interesting piece in the NYT Real Estate section last week--"For a Writer, a Home with a Hideout"--featuring the gorgeous Upper East Side apartment of author Roxana Robinson, but focusing on the relatively austere writing space she has there. A bit:
Raymond Carver, she points out, claimed that he wrote his short stories in the front seat of his car. Ernest Hemingway holed up above a sawmill in Paris... Annie Dillard wrote in a college library.... Ms. Robinson writes in an 8-by-10 space that faces a tan brick wall and was formerly a maid’s room.Defining a work space that works is one of the most important things an aspiring/ emerging author can do for her/his career.
When I made the shift inside my head that I was determined to do this for a living, my family was in a seriously low ball apartment on the north side of Houston. We'd been bankrupted by my cancer treatment, so there was zero money for any kind of artsy indulgence and zero space available in our cramped quarters.
So I moved the sofa out from the wall about 2 1/2 feet and stacked up three clean banana boxes from the produce department at the grocery store. I topped my "desk" with a square of Formica counter top plucked from the trash in a nearby neighborhood, and Gary neatly duct taped the rough edges. My folding chair wouldn't fold, so I had to leave it set up, which meant I had to climb over the back of the couch to sit down.
That 30x60 inch space was the "office" in which I finished my first novel and wrote my second. I called it "my office" with genuine gratitude and not a shred of chagrin. Since pulling the sofa out was how the kids and I had often made a "fort" to play in, they were a little irked that they weren't allowed to play in Mom's Office. They could, however, sit on the back of the couch and lean a head on my shoulder as I typed, and often, as I worked late into the night, Jerusha would sleep soundly, straddling my lap with her cheek against my chest as I typed with my arms around her.
The first royalty check from my first novel was the down payment on the house we live in now. I promptly scored the second biggest of the four bedrooms for my office, and Gary built in a fantastic wrap-around desk. There's a big window where I feed the birds, bountiful book shelves, a beautifully hand painted storage cabinet, and a comfy easy chair for reading and conference calls.
I love my office.
So you'll think I'm crazy when I tell you that a couple weeks ago, when things were a bit stressy for me, I went down to the living room, shifted the sofa a couple feet from the wall, and worked through the night sitting on the floor with my lap top on a laundry basket. Make of that what you will, but remember as you work through the week, it's the spirit of the space that makes it your own. And it's you that makes it work.
We'd love to hear about your space! Drop a line and feel free to share cell cam photos.