A Space of Your Own

Last night as I was falling asleep, I felt a strong desire to work on, not in, my office. I pictured myself vacuuming, dusting, emptying and rearranging shelves, then finally re-curating the photos on the walls and the collection of objets I have displayed over the years.

My office is in the northwest corner of our yard, facing my garden. My husband designed it with two sets of French doors that meet in the corner, admitting large infusions of light and offering me a full view of my perennial bed. Inside, a loveseat sits by the south wall, bookshelves line the wall to the east, and my desk nestles in the southwest corner, the French doors to my left. It is one of my favorite places to spend time. And it’s looked the same ever since I moved in.

But last night I imagined my office not only tidied up but rearranged and re-furbished. A new desk perhaps. Maybe a new desk chair and rug. Different art on the walls, and a renewed collection of objets. It deserves this, I thought. It’s responsible for all the writing I’ve been doing for the past 15 years, for my new book, for the rich relationships I have with my clients, for much of the joy in my life.

Given that I was once a terribly blocked writer, it’s amazing that the place I sit and write most days is associated with—no, has invited—so much happiness and joy into mylife.

My office used to be in the house, in a room just off the small front vestibule. I wrote and met with clients in that office, and it seemed to me at the time to be a lovely room. I certainly had no complaints about the space. Yet the minute I moved all my books into my new office in our backyard, and set up my desk and computer, I felt a great sense of uplift. This is mine, I thought, all mine.

I don’t know when I first realized that it wasn’t just the aesthetics of the space that nourished me. It was that, in a space separated from the house and household activities, I felt, for the first time, completely safe. No sounds other than those I produced would reach me. No activity other than my own would be generated. I would hear no footsteps moving from room to room. No conversations or snippets of conversation would penetrate my silence.

Not everyone is as lucky as I am. But I tell my clients that, if they want to establish a writing practice, it is essential that they create a writing space for themselves. If not a space completely separate from the rest of the apartment or house, a space you have designated and designed for your writing. A desk set up in a corner of your bedroom or dining room can work, if you place a screen behind the chair you sit on when you write. When you’re not writing, you can fold the screen, but it should be open when you write to delineate and claim your space.

As well, roommates and partners—even children– should understand that your writing time is sacred, and you wish not to be interrupted. This might prove difficult at first, but after a while everyone will come to respect your writing time and place, making you safe from intrusions. Because I didn’t understand this when my office was still in the house, I had never created the right parameters or set up the necessary boundaries, which meant that my husband and son felt free to interact with me, either through the closed door, or by opening the door and walking in.

To make your writing space completely your own, on your writing surface and on the wall in front of you, I suggest placing at least one objet that gives you pleasure. For some writers, a small bouquet of flowers, replenished each week, is an invitation to sit down and write. As can be photos of scenes or people you love. Or a lovely ceramic bowl. Consider these gifts to yourself, and know that someday, the time and space you set aside for your writing will feel like a gift as well.

Although I had been writing off and on before I set up my office in the backyard, I had never managed a regular writing practice. But after the first day in my new, very own space, I created a writing window. And I was able to honor the commitment. I still do. Which is why I said earlier that my office is responsible for so much of what is good in my life, especially my writing.

Abandoned Farm, Mendocino

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