A few months ago, we had a feng shui master and his wife over for dinner. His wife and I were talking about our creative writing ventures and, when the master overheard, he chimed in with the simple question, “Where is your writing space? I love to see creative spaces.” I stuttered around an answer. The kitchen counter after the kids are asleep? A stolen afternoon at a coffee shop with thirty other coffee drinkers? The lobby of the rec center while my kids swim?
His look bored into my soul. He said, “Your writing will never take you seriously if you don’t have a sacred space to create in.” In that moment I realized what he was saying was true, but that actually doing something about it felt inconvenient.
“Your writing will never take you seriously if you don’t have a sacred space to create in.”
So I’ve been thinking about it: Does inspiration really squeeze in beside you if she has to contend with the sea of laptops and fancy coffee drinks, table to table with other aspiring creatives? Whether you are seeking to create a poem, a killer investor pitch or high tech breakthrough, if you want to invite inspiration to come visit you need a place for her to sit down. You need a “room of one’s own”, à la Virginia Woolf.
How many of us read A Room of One’s Own in high school or college and said to ourselves, “Right on, sister!” Her small book declares that women need space to tap into their creative power. Like me, you probably thought that when you grew up, you’d insist on the room. It would be a non-negotiable. But as our adult living situation becomes a reality, we concede the space to the distractions around us.
Some never conceded, like my friend and entrepreneur, Renee Israel. Renee is an entrepreneur and cofounder, with her husband Rob, of Doc Popcorn. They both work out of the home and they both have private home offices. When most people were remodeling by tearing down walls for larger living areas, Renee knew that she needed that wall. She insisted on articulated boundaries versus the larger communal space. And with that came intellectual freedom.
I am lucky enough to have an “office” that is shared with my husband, but stacks of to-do’s cover the space: brochures for potential summer camps, permission slips, bills, catalogs and then there’s Will’s desk, which is even more chaotic. When he is sitting at his computer, we chit chat and share, and we interrupt with things like, “Hey, is next Thursday a good day to get the furnace serviced?” My son walks in without a knock to ask if he can have a turn holding the bunny. The humdrum and the wonder have a hard time cohabitating at times. Busy work is worlds away from generative thinking. My office is a place to orchestrate the responsibilities, not the whisperings of my soul.
“My office is a place to orchestrate the responsibilities, not the whisperings of my soul.”
Lately, I’ve been eyeing the potting shed in the back yard. It’s full of straw, torn slip n’ slides, stacked pots, a wasp nest and a weed whacker. All of the that can find another home, I realize. So what is really standing between me and a room of my own? Maybe it’s my own self-doubt, or the fear of taking up space, but I’m getting over that. I may not write the next bestseller, but I just will have more than half an hour without an interruption to my thoughts – that sounds just as delightful. There would be nothing worldly in there, just a writing surface, some cool tchotchkes and creative quotations pinned to the wall. And ventilation. That’s it – all my room needs.
I like to think of it this way: HGTV is full of shows on creating the dream man-cave, but what would a woman-cave look like? Even if the best room of your own you can create is the kitchen counter after the kids are asleep – go for it. Find a talisman, light a candle and tell the others to stay away because inspiration needs a signal for the all-clear. Demand it. Do it for Virginia Woolf and the women who fought for the right. Because when we take up space, we take ourselves and our aspirations seriously. And so do those around us.
Show us your “rooms,” ladies. How do you take up space?
Annika Paradise is a freelance writer living in Boulder, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in Brain Child Magazine as well as various blogs. She is currently working on an historical fiction novel that takes place during the women’s suffrage movement in Colorado’s mining towns.