Creating Space to Write
If you think I am going to tell you how to take a room in your home and make it your writing sanctuary, you’re reading the wrong blog. Or at least this blog on the wrong day. Soon I will share the details about how much fun I had turning a eight by ten foot shed into the sacred spot where I spill my words, but not now. Today I’m talking about space in a more global sense. Many of us are so accustomed to multi-tasking, multi-careers, multi-homes, cars, pets, and multi-everything else, that we have become overwhelmed with the details of daily living. What to take out of the freezer for dinner, which bill is due online, where to be in the morning and how to get from there to the place you have to be in the afternoon, leaving food and water out for the pets, getting the car inspected let alone putting gas in the sucker, who picks up the kid at soccer, is it my day to do the car pool. It’s exhausting. If you’re like me, you make lists everyday and at the end of the week, you highlight what you didn’t cross off, so you can start the list for the next week. I once threw out about fifty notebooks filled with just lists but only after perusing them and realizing my entire life could be chronicled in a compilation of lists. When do I write, where do I write, what do I write are questions often left to fill in the spaces between what is sometimes referred to as “The Activities of Daily Living” or “ADL.” The stories about writers trying to create space during “down time” when they aren’t consumed by the ADL’s that gobble up your life are legendary. John Grisham wrote on the train while commuting to work. Claire Cook of “Must Love Dogs” fame wrote her first books in her minivan while waiting for her kids at activities. I remember hearing an author at Book Passage (a fabulous book conference at the bookstore in Corte Madeira, California with the same name) recount how she would hide in her laundry room where she was sure her husband and kids would never venture just to secure alone-time when she could write to the humming of the washer and dryer. The struggle to find time and space to write is nothing new and is suffered by New York Times bestsellers (well maybe less once they’ve made the list), mid-list authors, and those praying to be published. As if the quest to find time and space isn’t enough, add the booming voice inside reminding us, “You must write every day.” I have heard this so often, I am certain there must be a tablet on a mountain somewhere with this inscription. The older I get, the more I hate rules, especially when I realize that the people who break through and succeed have almost all broken the rules. So write every day. If you can. But if you can’t, then write whenever you can and don’t beat yourself up. I couldn’t write every day and still managed to write six full-length novels, two of which have been published. The constant struggle about time and writing raised different questions for me as I grew older. How did I want to spend the time I have left on the planet? Was it working as a lawyer twelve hours a day to live a lifestyle where I had to squeeze in time for writing when writing was what gave me the most pleasure? I was living in a ten-room house with a husband, a dog and a cat. The 2015 winter from hell in New England underscored that we basically only lived in three of those rooms. We sat in the living room in front of our fireplace, cooked in the kitchen and slept in our bedroom. Why were we perpetuating an existence that required efforts that no longer rewarded us? For seven vacant rooms and a soul that was beginning to feel withered? I decided I wanted time and space to write. I downsized my law practice. My husband, already retired, applauded and was thrilled we would have more time together. We began the excavation of our life, emptying and selling our home of thirty-three years. With every item I tossed or donated, I could feel space within me opening up. The dumpsters we filled were replaced by a sense of freedom and lightness. We now live little and light and divide our time between two locations near the ocean, which we both love. I know that for many people with families, jobs, and lists of what they have to do each day, it may seem impossible to discard the things that will create space in your life to write. But if you look over the tasks on your “to-do” lists, ask if they make your life better. Maybe treat yourself to a dumpster and experience what getting rid of stuff does for your soul and your writing.