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Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Room of One's Own

I'll confess, I've never been able to make it all the way through any book by Virginia Woolf. Particularly not the extended essay, A Room of One's Own. I had friends in college who swore it changed their lives, but I found it dull. However, I do know what it's basically about, and I can agree with the premise that in order to create, one needs a dedicated, private space.

For the first time ever, I'm about to have that.

The first book I wrote was in college--I scribbled on it during classes, over breaks, just wherever I happened to be sitting. Which is somewhat reflected in the writing and plot--the whole thing feels scattered and unfinished. Which, to be fair, it is. The second book, the one filled with hot demon sex, for those keeping score, was written mainly at a small built-in desk in the corner of the laundry room off the kitchen. 'Desk' is perhaps a bit of an overstatement; my previous writing space could more accurately be described as an extended shelf. The space was about four feet deep, with windows on all sides, making me feel simultaneously cramped and exposed. Not ideal, but I did manage to actually finish this book, and while some people liked it (my loyal critique partners, Mel and Maria!), the biggest note I got was that it felt like I was holding back--not completely comfortable letting my characters stretch and express every nuance of emotion and reaction to one another.

Obviously, there's more to writing than the space you do it in. It's a learning process, and every book will be different. I'm not trying to blame less than ideal conditions (what ARE the ideal conditions, anyway? Stephen King famously wrote Carrie in the laundry room of his double-wide trailer, so clearly laundry rooms are not anathema to the creative process) for my creative missteps. But I do think there are some intriguing parallels, and I'm very excited to see how having my own office, decorated by and for me, used by no one but me for no other purpose than writing and reading and researching, will affect what I write.

Where do you get your best work done?


My best work gets done when I just make myself sit down and do it. Or on airplanes. I write really well on airplanes.

One more thing - Tag, you're it.

Oh, congrats on the room, Louisa! Post pics so we can see it.

I write in a closet. Literally. I needed my own work space that was quiet and secluded (that's where I do my best work) but with 3 kids there's just not a spare room to convert into an office, so my hubby volunteered to give up his walk-in closet for me. It's tiny, but it's mine. The only draw back is that it has no window. I'd really love a window :)

You know... I have a room of my own... yet I do my best work in noisy coffee shops. Okay, not too noisy. And there can't be a loud conversation near me... But background noise is fine.

This is true not only for first drafting... But even more so for editing on hard copy. I lurve doing that in a coffee shop. I can't seem to concentrate on it at home.

Oh, and I borrowed my sister's copy of A Room of One's Own a few years ago, after we had this huge argument... Her: the publishing industry no longer discriminates against women, the world has changed since Virginia Woolf. Me: Sure, we can have rooms to write in now, doesn't mean men are going to take what we write seriously. My fav part of that essay (just skimmed it -- my sister's copy was underlined by a previous owner, very handy) was her saying that stories about war are considered serious and important while stories about families are not. THAT was my point in the aforementioned argument... Anyway. Serious digression.

Coffee shops. :-)

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