Writers need space. Space on the page, space in our minds, and a physical writing space. But just how important is that space? How can we find and protect it?
When I think back to how hard it was to write a 5-page paper in school sometimes, I want to laugh. That used to feel so LONG. (Though on the flip side, I probably killed my senior English teacher writing a 28-page research paper on Hawthorne. Poor Mrs. Gunter.) Now I’ve written a few novel-length manuscripts, which means 200 pages or more.
I picked up Stephen King’s book On Writing the other day from the shelf where it had been collecting dust for some time. Even if you never liked his brand of horror (I read all his published books by my 8th grade year), you probably liked some of his work that translated to film: The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, The Green Mile. His book On Writing is truly lovely and at times, a necessary kick in the pants. Here’s a bit I read yesterday that I loved:
I think we’re actually talking about creative sleep. Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream. Your schedule–in at about the same time every day, out when your thousand words are on paper or disk–exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to sleep by going to bed at roughly the same time each night and following the same ritual as you go. In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives… But you need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door.
…This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.
(On Writing, p 156-7)
I don’t think about having muse often, but I doubt mine smokes cigars. I think mine is probably a woman who drinks cheap wine, loves indie music, and shops at Ross. (Not unlike me.) The thing that struck a chord with me in this is more about the writing SPACE.
Shutting my writing room’s door is really the leaving of my house. My house is my other work, which means as I’m trying to find creative sleep, there are four young kids and a house full of laundry, dishes, and other chores I really don’t want to do. I can hardly find a literal writing space, much less a MENTAL writing space.
Creative sleep, like regular sleep, is hard to find as a mom. (And I struggled before kids too, so it can just be HARD.) It takes carving out—the pressure of tools on something hard like stone to make room for it. Strength and will and possibly preschool or babysitters. The past few years I have struggled with writing fiction at all, because I really need to dive into a creative space with NO distractions. I don’t want my family to be reduced to a distraction. I don’t want to feel annoyed by people interrupting my work. This has meant a season of blogging and writing shorter ebooks.
I may not be working full time on my novels, but I have been podcasting and learning from great writers and online geniuses. I’m putting out ebooks and learning about platform and generally enjoying the space I have for now. I’ve also started a whole Create If Writing website for writers and creatives wanting to grow their art and their platform. If you like this post, you’d love that site.
My hope for you and my hope for me is that one day our creative sleep will produce a dream so lovely that throngs of people will gather around to watch what you’ve created.
Where do you find your writing space? And what are you doing in it?
Want to check out the podcast? Here are a few of the first episodes.