"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Room of Her Own

Does your secret heart yearn for a place that is yours alone? Where no one will intrude? My dream writing room promises to eliminate all my excuses.

As I write this a carpenter is putting the finishing touches on a 10x12’ writing room in my backyard, complete with a set of solid wood, double pane French doors that I found twenty years ago at a garage sale for $30, and a vintage leaded glass window I found at Edna Valley Antiques.
This little room, like Julia Cameron advocates in The Artist’s Way is my way of reclaiming creativity after a few years devoting too much energy to caretaking my mother-in-law and newly-retired husband. Everything in my little room will resonate creative expression because I’m a crazy woman seemingly incapable of compromise.
My husband thinks the white beadboard will make the room seem smaller, but I’ve carried a picture of wainscoting for so long that I’m intractable. Painted that very light green that changes to peach when the setting sun infuses shadows in the room, this room will ooze creative charm. The wicker furniture will be glossy white with airy cushions. A tole-painted makeup mirror from the forties will have a place of honor, its relic lightbulbs left unwired since the only lighting will be a battery powered, faux mariner’s lantern hanging from the open beam ceiling. 
Here it is the day I finished
We began calling it my writing room when it wasn’t a room at all, but a storage shed built by a college construction class and delivered on a flatbed trailer. It was a disappointment from the first day, its lovely eaves chopped off for some indiscernible reason so that it set like a forlorn outhouse in the pasture, slowly rotting from moisture until I asserted my claim.
My husband and I rolled the shed into the back yard on steel pipes, then jacked it onto concrete pyramid blocks. We built a free-standing deck to meet the requirements for a non-coded room and rebuilt the roof with real eaves. I hired a carpenter who shares my vision for small rooms and used lumber.
When Eric is finished I’ll paint it. I’ll seal the deck and rails. They’re old-growth redwood from a small barn we tore down years ago. I’ll polish the vintage brass hinges and doorknobs I've been collecting with this project in mind. I’ll install antique glass pulls on the leaded glass window and shine the crank-open window—the only thing in the room that is new—an Anderson crank window with a view of the creek.
Granddaughter Ava and Annie the hen
Every day is a delight, listening to the hum of the Skil saw, the splat, splat of the nail gun. The process makes my heart happy—not the bursting happy when something surprises, but the savoring joy that occurs when life is good.
 My writing room has become a metaphor for taking control of the things in my life that I couldn’t change even if I wanted to. It’s become a playhouse for me in middle-age, a replacement for the one built for my three sisters and me by our father so that—ironically—we could practice our homemaking skills. (Now we’re burned out and we wonder why we didn’t spend our childhoods riding horses or something.)  
Unlike previous projects there's no rush to completion. (see note)  The process is a journey, not a destination. Paying for it out of my writing income is part of my agreement with myself. Staying true to my vision is giving me a room of my own.
 Truth time. I'm such a liar! I wrote this last year and the act of writing it made me realize how anxious I was to finish it. I stayed up nights sanding and priming. I'm happy to say the room has already seen a novel born within its walls. Stay tuned for the particulars.
 My advice is to do what you have to do. Claim the bathtub, climb a tree, slide into Starbucks, but find a place of your own. In high school, with a family of nine, I used to climb into the front seat of the car bundled in a blanket and read. I didn't do this a lot, but the barn was too drafty and sometimes just I needed a place of my own.

So where's your secret place? Tell us where you go to create.