The question I’m asked most about my writing is ‘When?’ When do I find the time to write between a demanding day job, two young kids and a busy husband?
I was talking to a friend the other day about writing and after discussing the When, she asked about Where: Where is my writing space? What is my set up at home?
Stephen King, unhelpfully I think, said in On Writing that a writer needs to be able to shut a door. I’ve spoken to wannabe writers and aspiring writers who focus on their writing space (or lack of it) rather than on what they are actually going to write. A nice desk, in a beautiful office would be great, but it isn’t essential.
Virginia Woolf of course wrote about the room of one’s own. But as well as being a literal room for space, privacy and lack of interruptions it was also a symbol for larger issues like leisure time and financial independence. These are all still hurdles for writers to some extent.
The most important thing I take from Woolf’s work is the bit about killing the Angel in the House. Even more than those little darlings that routinely need to be edited out of my manuscripts, the Angel in the House is the thing that needs to be murdered every single day. It’s the voice that tells me I should cook, clean, do my tax return. It’s the Mummy Guilt; the pressure to be a perfect wife and mother. I have to tell myself I don’t need a spotless house, I don’t to cook a gourmet meal every night, I don’t need to spend three hours a week volunteering at my kids’ school or join the fete committee (let’s face it, they wouldn’t want me anyway).
I was also guilty one and told myself things like ‘I will write when I have my own study’. But thinking this is as helpful as thinking ‘I will write when I have time.’ If you’re waiting for a free year with nothing but free time and a beautiful study in which to sit, you’ll probably never get a book written. You need to make the space, just like you need to make the time.
I don’t mean you need to build an extra room on your house, but I’ve never had a study, the best I’ve had is a nook – an alcove near the kitchen. The kids can’t see me, though I can hear them and there’s no door between me and the endless questions and requests to mediate. But it’s the best I can do. I’m also at my most productive when they’re in bed, though as they get older and their bed times get later this golden time is shrinking. I have to make do with the time and space I do have.
Which is where the laptop comes in. If only Virginia had a laptop (Come to think about that how did anyone write before PCs? A post for another time maybe).
The laptop is portable – you can pick it up and move to a quiet part of the house. Or the library. Or a café if you are so inclined (I’m not, but that’s just me). A laptop with an internet connection is a room in itself – all the reference materials you could need. With Pinterest and Scrivener who needs note boards anymore?
And if the computer is truly your own you have privacy as well. No one to judge your search history. No fear that anyone will read your work before you’re ready for them to. And it’s all yours whenever, or wherever you are able to write.
While an actual room would be fantastic – I think the room Virginia Woolf wrote about is more metaphorical – freedom, privacy, time and lack of guilt are more important than a closed door.