The Space To Write

Since I live in Japan, space is at a premium.  Everything is tiny here, from the food (watermelons that measure 6 inches in diameter) to the roads (barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other in opposite directions) I feel very lucky that our house has a little office on the first floor which I can use to write.  I have a desk and a printer in there, along with a bookshelf and some file boxes, so for all intents and purposes, it’s my office.

Except it’s not.

There is also a trundle bed in it, so if we have guests, we can sleep two people.  There’s a tall, skinny wardrobe, in which we hang our winter coats.  It’s also our overflow storage area, so anything that needs to just be held, lands in here.  We have no attic; we have no basement.  We don’t even have an extra closet anywhere.  So I have our old dishes in my office, along with some overflow books, and literally any thing that cannot find a home in one of our bedrooms or the living room.  It’s a big house by Japanese standards, but not by what we had in the U.S.

I am by no means complaining because frankly, I enjoyed the downsizing process and getting rid of many many “things” that I deemed unnecessary.  I felt then, and continue to feel, much lighter than I did in the U.S.  Stuff quite literally weighs on people.

But the infringement on my space – or lack of my own space – sometimes gets to me.  The biggest problem is that it’s impossible to keep the room neat or even clean. With all the stuff crammed into it, the rooms constantly looks like a file drawer exploded in it.  Any time we go away, the suitcase overload gets thrown on the bed and I’m doomed.  It takes weeks to either throw away the junk or get it into a proper space.  In general, I’m a very organized person and I believe in systems.  We all need organizational systems.  It’s just that in this little space, systems seem to fail regularly.

Why is this important, you might ask?  Well, writers need space to write.  I know several people who have to have a perfectly clean desk, good lighting, and complete silence in order to compose.  I know some people who can’t write if their favorite little talisman is out of place.  Some writers need music playing in order to jump-start the creative juices.  The place where we feel the most comfortable is the place from where our best work will emerge.  Good writing can be associated with a conducive environment, and for every writer, that environment will differ.

Some of my issue is that I don’t have much that is truly my own.  I share a room and a bedroom with my husband and I don’t have an office outside of the home to which to escape.  I am constantly sharing.  My family means the world to me, but I do need things that are just mine and mine alone.  As an adult, that’s important, and it nags at me a little.  Some days I miss being a professor, since then I at least had a cubicle or a desk in a shared office that was mine alone.

There are days, however, when I can write at the kitchen table in the midst of all of the kid fracas happening around me.  It just depends on the day and what I am writing.

So here is my point: design your space to suit your needs.  Your needs will be different from writer A which will be different from writer B.  Examine how you work best and under what conditions.  Create the writing space that works for you.  Understand when you need to be in your private space and when, if ever, you can be out in public doing your work. I have committed to at least keeping my desk clean as a move toward orderliness in my writing – it’s one thing I can do for myself as a woman – wife, mother – and  as a writer.  These are all lessons I am learning as I go through the journey of being a writer – a committed, working writer.

2 thoughts on “The Space To Write

  1. Oh, I know what you mean. I have my own “desk area,” which serves as my office… but right now, it’s got piles that need attending to… though I need to be attending to writing, and that just creates stress. That said, like you, on different days I can do work just about anywhere. The first draft of KELPIE was about 70-80% written on my netbook outside of my house… between friends’ studios, the car repair place, and my favorite delis and coffee shops. It’s a strange balance of need for A Space of One’s Own physically or just as a state of being.

  2. I recently reread “A Room of One’s Own” and found that after 80 years it still is valid for women as well as men. This phrase, in particular, stands out: “For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.”

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