Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Room of One's Own

Virginia Woolf has famously written, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." While her essay resulting from that seminal line is an argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition, I’ll take her statement even more literally: A woman writer needs a room of her own.

Some writers find it crucial to have a room far from the madding crowds in order to produce any quality work. Has this been your experience? If you've ever used a writing loft or rented a place to use as a writing room—either alone or with others—then your experience will resonate with mine.

I have tried writing in a coffee shop, but the ambient noise—at a near shout—made it impossible for me to concentrate.

I have tried sitting on the couch in our family room with a laptop. After 15 minutes, my wrists and neck hurt, and the touchpad mouse got difficult to use. Even after stretching and walking about and returning to write, a few minutes later, it’s the same result.

Settling on the breakfast table by the large windows, I thought, an occasional look outside at the yard and the forest beyond would prove to be soothing and inspirational. Wrong! The phone keeps ringing. My family keeps on interrupting: “Where is this?” “What do you think of that?”

I have tried sitting on the bed with the door closed. Now, at last I would have peace and quiet and a warm, comfortable spot. Well, it turns out it was too warm and too comfortable. I’m writing steadily for a while but then start feeling very sleepy. So in the short term, it’s a good solution, but it’s unworkable for anything more than 30–45 minutes.

The last place I finally tried was the barely furnished bonus room upstairs. It was located on one end of the house and with the door shut was nearly soundproof. A sign on the door kept the family out and the desk and chair meant that my arms and body were supported in the right position for hours of pain-free writing. My fingers few over the keyboard as my mind concentrated on my story. It wasn't fancy, the view outside the window wasn't great and the heater didn't work very well. But it was quiet, isolated, and I didn't have to drive to get there. It was heaven.

The room is much more comfortable now, with two 60-inch wide tables, a color printer, a sound system, zillion bookcases, a chaise (mais oui!), and a rug. I also have the requisite fuzzy slippers, fleece rug, and cardigan to ward off the cold. But best of all, I have it completely to myself for a few hours everyday.


Diane Gaston said...

Keira, I love using a laptop and I never get muscle strain. I think I shift positions too much. I generally write on the couch in the middle of everything. Although, I might do better in a quiet place, like you have. It sounds like writing heaven.

Keira Soleore said...

How wonderful you can do that. I'd love to be able to focus on your work and still be with my family.

My cousin used to do her medical school studying in the family room even with visitors staying over. Just like you, she had a remarkable ability to concentrate.

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