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A Room Of One’s Own

If you studied English in college, you probably read Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room Of One’s Own in which she states: “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I won’t go into the figurative and feminist meanings of the text, and I’m opening this question up to men as well: Do you have a room of your own? Do you have a quiet place to write, free of distractions and noise and To Do lists and kids? I am fortunate to have such a place an hour and a half from my house (or two hours and a half if I’m talking to my sister on my cell phone and miss the exit by 30 minutes like I did on Saturday). And twice in the past month-and-a-half my husband has put on his halo and agreed to watch the kids all weekend so I could come up here to write. The best part is that it’s in the second rainiest town in California, and it’s rainy season, so it just pours and pours while I sit here in my pajamas (I haven’t gotten dressed since I arrived Saturday, although I did switch into clean pajamas yesterday) and write.

I have an office, too, in which I write, and it’s wonderful and quiet, and I get to chat with other writers over lunch, but there’s something different about being up here. Maybe it’s the view of the redwood trees, maybe it’s the comfort of having the kitchen (and thus pizza and chocolate and tea) right next to the dining room table where I work. Maybe it’s the solitude—no kids! For three days! No appointments, no commitments, no dishes, no laundry! Because there’s something about having NO interruptions all day—no phones to answer, no mail to check, no mouths to feed, no bills to pay—that allows me to settle into a quieter state of mind in which I write much better. My mind is relaxed, not rushed, and my writing takes on a softer, more introspective quality. I wrote “Portrait of a Model As a Young Girl” when I was up here last month, and it needs work, but it’s a good complement to my other writing, which is full of snappy dialogue.

So here’s my question to you: Do you have a room of your own? A place you can write that is free of distractions (possibly free from Internet, so you don’t have to use MacFreedom like I do), where you can roll up your sleeves and get your fingers inky? How does that space affect your writing? Do you find that you write differently in different places? At a library versus at a cafe? At work versus at home? Where (and when) do you do your best writing?

My writer’s retreat, although I mostly drink tea, not wine, or I’d be passed out on the couch instead of here writing at the table.

11 comments to A Room Of One’s Own

  • Oh, what a beautiful getaway. I'd feel inspired there for sure. And I have always liked that Woolf quote.

    I have a nook in the living room where I write, but now I am working on setting up an office in another room so that when my baby is born, I'll have a place to hide away with a door–for child safety and also for greater isolation. I don't know how often I'll get to use it, but when Daddy or Grandma are available to care for the child, I can have a place to "get away" without leaving the house. I'm pretty sure writing or working from home would otherwise be impossible with a family!

    I also write well at cafes that serve espresso. Go figure. 🙂

    And I found, in college, before the smoking bans in Michigan, that I felt mentally sharper working in a smoky cafe down the street. I've never like cigarette smoke or been a smoker, but I always felt sharper there. Someone suggested it might have to do with positive ions from combustion. Apparently electronic devices let off negative ions (or maybe I am getting it backward?). Anyway, the idea is that combustion, running water, and wind all serve to counteract the ionization of electronic devices, making some people's brains work better.

    So, my new office is being set up behind the family room fireplace. I hope that gives me some kind of molecular boost.

  • Sounds like a nice writing space! I have a great office in our house in which I can write, but I've found that I get a lot less done there than I do at a neighborhood cafe. In our house, laundry beckons, the kitchen beckons, and the dog barks. Because the office is also the location of the checkbook, bills, and other such things, sometimes that stuff distracts too. The biggest distraction of all is the Internet, which it is hard to get away from these days. I have a cafe I go to when I want COMPLETE focus – no wireless, and a cafe with wireless so that I can jump back and forth between writing and social networks, as well as check facts, research, spelling etc. It's a fine line. Since having a child I've found that uninterrupted time is more of a gift than a distraction-free space, so your husband's "putting on the halo" is really fantastic.

  • I have an office, but nothing like that gorgeous space. Mine is piled with books and papers I mean to get to one of these days and three computers in various stages of disrepair. Oh, I envy you that deck and those gorgeous trees!

  • I do have a room of my own but it doesn't make disciplining myself to write any easier!

  • Genie – first of all, welcome fellow Michigander! I grew up there. Where do you live? 2nd, I had a boyfriend once who used to talk about the negative ions of water all the time and how good they were for you. (And yes, it's the positive ions that electronic devices give off.) I have to confess, there's a hot tub at the end of that deck. I use it once a day and I feel FANTASTIC afterward. Totally energized. I also have to confess that I only drink caffeine when I'm up here writing because I want so badly to get a lot done while I'm away from the kids. It IS very hard to get work done at home, even with the babysitter there, because I can hear them running around. And caffeine is a huge help.

    Elizabeth – I like Mac Freedom because I can block out the Internet for a couple of hours, then go on to do some research, then back off. There's also Antisocial by the same guy that blocks only social networking sites, and Self-Control by another guy that allows you to choose which sites you want to block.

    And since you all like working in cafes – here's my cafe story: I used to write at my corner Starbucks for the same reason Elizabeth mentioned – laundry and bills, etc. were too distracting. So one day I'm tapping away on my laptop with my earplugs in my ears to block out the Hear Music station and CRASH! the window above the door implodes! I thought a bomb had gone off on the street and jumped out of my chair – just in time for an SUV to drive through the door! It crashed into a pole, reversed and crashed again a few times like it was trying to break through the pole, and then finally backed out of the store and sped away. I found out months later, when my sister was watching Dr. Phil, that the guy had bipolar and had thought he was in an Al Pacino movie. He had driven through Starbucks on PURPOSE. I could never write there again.

    Anne – I know, I'm super spoiled, but the best part, like E said, is being alone up here without the kids.

    And Karen – speaking of which, time for me to get offline and back to work!

    Thanks everyone for your comments!

  • I have an office downstairs but I mostly write upstairs on the kitchen table.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Travener – if you're writing at the kitchen table, you must not have kids! Happy Thanksgiving to you.

  • hi, meghan! happy holidays. I'm from michigan, too. did we ever discuss that? I was born in ann arbor, and we have a place in the U.P. how about you?


  • Georgia – first of all, sorry for the late reply. I just realizet hat I'm no longer getting e-mail notifications when people make comments, so I missed this one. There is also some funky italicization going on with my home page. Weird! Anyway, I did NOT know you were from Michigan. I thought you grew up in Berkeley? I grew up in Bloomfield. We used to have a place up near Manistee, but sold it years ago. Where is your place in the UP? do you ever go there?

  • testing…1…2…3…testing…

    hi, meghan. I miss you! we go to Big Bay and I was just there last summer. lovely.

  • I don't even know where Big Bay is, but my brother and his wife both went to college up there. And last summer I took Martin and Shea to Macinac Island. I LOVE Macinac! We rode bikes around the island and ate way too much fudge!