A Room of One’s Own?
The truth is, I haven’t had a room of my own in almost twenty years.
The truth is, since 1996 I’ve been writing in a low-ceilinged attic that also serves as our ‘master’ bedroom.
I’ve written in parks and zoos and museums, in a writer friend’s poetry barn (she was with me, writing too), in my kids’ beds when they were at school, on a cruddy yellow plastic chaise lounge between a cedar and a Weber grill in our sub/urban backyard, on ferries and in ferry lines, in lines at banks, under an oak, in a field, on a row boat, in cars and cafes, in hammocks and tents, along lakes,
on a paddle-board, in what served, for fifteen years, as our kitchen ‘nook’ (where my son dumped out his soil samples onto the table, determining that sand does, indeed, cause lettuce to disintegrate faster than dirt, where my daughter finger-painted, paper-machéd, sketched, and figured out how to braid her dolls’ hair, where they both chowed down crepes, macaroni and cheese, and Cheerios).
I might have closed doors to study rooms at the Beacon Hill branch of the Seattle Public Library, or during short-term solo retreats to an undisclosed island in the San Juans, but I have not once in the past twenty years closed a door to a room of my own.
Is a room of one’s own essential? Perhaps for some; not for me.
Though there are days I long to enter a room, my room, where my books crowd the shelves, where art and photographs I have carefully chosen grace the walls, where there’s a couch for napping and reveries, for supine reading, where at arm’s reach I have access to all my reference books, where I can easily retrieve dozens of unfinished poems stashed in dozens of manila file folders.
To have everything I need at my fingertips—pens and pencils, binder and paper clips, The Rhyming Dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, Wallace Stevens’ Selected Poems, Pablo Neruda’s Odes—What would that be like?
The very thought of it excites me, elicits envy for those who have their own spaces—their barns and sheds, their hideaways, their nooks and crannies, their caves and caverns.
But then I wonder: what would happen to my creative process if I had a place to hang my Poetry Daily ball cap? Would I run into trouble entering (and sitting still) in this ‘perfect’ room? Would I begin searching out rooms that pressure me less to perform (after all, I now have a designated space to write; I need to justify the expensive, right?). Most pressing of all, would I lose my MOJO? I’ve heard of this happening to others. No sooner does the writer get her oft-dreamed-of room of her own than her writing verve dries up; she’s in a tailspin, unable to pen a single word, let alone a sentence.
Perhaps it’s not a room of one’s own a writer requires. Perhaps what each of us needs is a mental space of our own, a will to prioritize the real work as much as possible. If you know for certain you must have your own room to write, do all you can to procure one. For the rest of us, don’t kid yourself by thinking ‘once I have a room to write in, the rest will fall into place.’ Give writing in bus stations a try. Or on a train. You don’t have to be going anywhere special. The subway to work is a good place to start. If the place you write doubles as a bedroom/attic, remind yourself that there are worse things than bonking your head on the ceiling each morning as you mosey to your writing desk. Much worse.
Illustration by: Gigi Rose Gray is an illustrator born and raised in New York City where she received her BFA in illustration from Parsons New School for Design. She now resides in sunny Los Angeles. Her works are inspired by the grace and elegance of women, mid-century design, french renaissance interiors, the colors olive green and mustard yellow, dreams, cypress trees, Greco-Roman art, and nostalgia.