In the introduction to Mary Pipher’s Letters to a Young Therapist, she notes, “I wrote these letters in the early morning. My desk overlooks an old maple tree, my flower garden, and bird and squirrel feeding stations.”
Reading those words, I was suddenly filled with a yearning for a special place for my own reflective and creative writing. I do not use my home office for that writing, because my desk there is a place of stress and frustration. It is a place of files, faxes, emails and ringing phone signaling nothing but more problems, of papers strewn from one side of my desk to the other in the reactive barrage that is my work day. A place where there is no grace.
But my view is so beautiful, of the lake—that should be where I write of grace, yes? Should I bring another small table over to the window, sit with my back to the chaotic office and look straight onto the water and the trees beyond? But the energy in that room is just not good, not even with all my reorganizing and feng shui-ing. Don’t even get me started on my evil keyboard or obstreperous technology. No, nothing short of an exorcism will fix this place.
What if I were to move downstairs to my kitchen table, sweep off the incoming and outgoing clutter that dwells there and write looking out my kitchen window, at my own trees and squirrels and birds? It used to be a more idyllic view before a tree came down; now I can see cars in the parking lot, but still it’s very peaceful.
My writing now takes place primarily on the go, scribbles on scraps of paper of ideas that come to me as I sit at a conference, sit at a stop light, move through the water, lie in bed at night. And I’m not about to slow that flow that comes when it pleases. But then putting it all together and editing it, into an essay, a column, an article, a blog post, takes place typically late at night in my recliner in the living room after, and I admit occasionally while, watching TV, before going to bed.
I’ve never had writer’s block (unless I just jinxed it by saying that) and finding the right place is not going to release any pent up creative juice. It’s just that I think I need to create a better space now, somehow, especially as I retrieve my book project from the back burner.
I could swap out my home office, and move myself back to the real master bedroom that I commandeered as office when I moved here, transfixed by the idea of that lake view all day. It has so much more space than the room where I sleep now, and I could create a spot within the bedroom for my writing, and one for my yoga. But the more I think of it, no, I do not want a room that multitasks. A pox on multitasking!
Instead I should turn the tiny spare bedroom into a studio, where I could write, and do yoga, and maybe the collages I’ve thought about and for which I’ve been saving scraps of material for years. Would it be so bad to have that studio be on the shady side of the house instead of the sunny side? There’s still a big window on this wooded side. I could take away the bed and the vanity and bureau (though they are family antiques and have to find a new spot somewhere, but where?) What I call, as some default to a ‘50s shelter magazine, “the spare bedroom,” serves as a bedroom only one or two weeks tops per year; the other 50 weeks it’s a place to dump laundry not yet folded or plant a suitcase to pack for a trip. Studio would definitely be a more suitable use.
I could bring in one of my tables that have never really found a fitting home, the gorgeous, carved-oak, antique library table we bought in Frederick when I was married, or the funky painted pine table from a contemporary fine artisan. I could place it facing the window, or perpendicular, and there would be no phone in the room, no fax, just a laptop and a couple of treasured inspirational books, perhaps, special pens and journals. Behind my chair closer to the door could be a space for yoga, maybe a fountain and a CD player and box of only soothing music, like Tibetan flute. Very little in the room.
Here’s the epiphany—that I am not honoring my creative self because I don’t have a sacred space for my writing. Maybe it’s time to create one.