Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Cave of One's Own

Virginia longed for a room. 

Some writers can afford something a tad grander ....

... and then there are the rest of us.

But the desire to have some place to go and make stuff up is pretty universal.

Stephen King in On Writing agrees with Virginia that "We do best in a place of our own." 

And - he's right.

There are quite a few things that lend themselves to being done with a background hum, that don't really suffer from random interruptions, phones, doors, distractions, twittering. In fact, sometimes it's nice to have human company when the word track blues strike. 

And then there's the other stuff.

The getting-it-out stuff. The first draft stuff, in fact the bits and pieces that come before the first draft. That stuff is better done alone. We all know what happened to the creative flow thanks to the visitor from Porlock. To quote Stephen King again, "Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open" - and I'd add, ignore the visitors.

Ignoring family members who drop by, or those who live in, is somewhat easier said than done, and can have certain ramifications. This is one reason why I like to write by hand, in notebooks, out and about, in parks, by the pool, on the train. That's where a lot of the fresh stuff gets its first airing. Away from the screen, from the delete and back buttons. I'm not in a room alone, but I'm still alone. No distractions. 

But it's finding a space for the next stage that has been trickier this time round. The Old School made its transition from pen to pixel in a study space provided by my university, UTS, where I was enrolled in a research degree. Hours would fly past. No phone. No doors. Lots of wall space to blu-tack up images. The day would turn into night and I wouldn't even notice. 

I'm discovering, with Book 2, what writers always say, that every book is different. This time around I'm working from home. Not an office but a corner of a room. And sometimes I have to share it.

This time around is different. I find I'm wanting wall space to write on. I'm close to the end of the first draft and I have a burning need to have a space to "see" it laid out - plots and people - but even more importantly emotional touchstones. 

This book has required me to step a bit out of my comfort zone. To explore, in some detail,  psychological spaces I haven't (thankfully) been. I've felt the need to create a space where I can have certain truths about the wounds my characters carry, and the way those wounds effect them, "in my face" as I write and as I edit the first draft.

I need to be able to look up and weigh the truth of what I've written against the truth of what I have discovered. Such things don't really belong on the walls of rooms that non-writers, visitors and family members share.

So, I've found a cave.  

All it needed was to have some storage things crammed into other storage places and then I could cram in me.

It's a small rom. With a small window. And lots and lots of wall space.

This was taken a few weeks ago. The walls have more posters blu tacked up now. Notes to self scrawled. The white board has been wiped and new notes added, subtracted, altered.

There's even a bit of a view out the door for when I want to keep it open.


  1. I love your cave! At the moment, my spot is a possie on the downstairs lounge, laptop in lap (yes I know, I know, bad back, bad neck, whatever). I've discovered of late, that I need some background noise. Normally, I like quiet when I'm writing. Lately without background noise, I can feel the words echoing around inside my head. I guess we found our own places as we need them, yes?

  2. I'm getting the feeling that every book, writing project, is going to be different, Bec, don't you? It's going to have different wants and needs, it's going to require different approaches and strategies, frakit.

  3. Great room, a woman definately needs a view of outside in her writing room, and wall space.

  4. Apparently my writing room is very 'spartan'. I have a small studio in an artist's co-op (for which I fortunately pay a subsidised 'peppercorn' rent), too small for an artist to use but perfect for a writer. I have a desk, a chair, and a comfortable couch - all essential. I admit that I'm occasionally jealous of my artist neighbours, who wander in and out of their rooms, music on, pot smoke drifting down the corridors, while I sit hunched over, static, a stormcloud positioned over my head, staring at the cursor on the screen. My neighbour in particular is horrified at the stained but empty walls, the grey carpet and lack of any decoration whatsoever - horrified that I haven't tried to 'frou-frou' it up. But strangely enough, I wouldn't have it any other way...(OK, maybe I'd like a cat, for company...)

    ps - Pam - I watched Treme last week - you're going to love it, especially the music...

  5. Hi David - I missed this as well.

    Your room sounds excellent. Bloody artists bet they get their wives/husbands/partners/mothers/agents to write their "statement" thingies that go in the catalogues.

    Trust me - you don't want a cat for company. I have two. Being a good and responsible owner they only get to go outdoors on a lead. (No wrecking death and destruction on the wildlife for my boys!) So, they yell. For food. For walks. For attention. Walk on the keyboard. Leap up unexpectedly. Distraction central.

    Trust me. Stick with the pot smoking neighbours.

    Looking forward to Treme.

    I've just started S.4 The Wire - made myself wait. Already wanting to climb under the lounge in the foetal position - the school. Oh man. Frank Sobotka was tragic but these kids, this is going to hurt.