“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write.”--Virgina Woolf
This is a very well-known quote from a very famous writer. The reason I'm starting with this is because I am one big fat ball of frustration at the moment and can relate to this quote like nobody's business.
Let me start off with the good stuff:
I submitted my writtng assignment for the workshop I'm attending in Portland next month. I hesitated calling it a "manuscript" because it's just a few representative pages of what will eventually be the book (they limited us to 20 pages). But still, it felt good to send it off and sigh a bit because I'm not supposed to work on (at least that part of) it between now and the workshop. Also, some of my classmates have uploaded their manuscripts on our Basecamp project page, so I'm downloading those and reading them as I have the time.
In the meantime, I'm getting very excited for the trip itself. I've booked my flights, and arranged it so that I have time to spend with some dear friends who live there and their daughter, who I've never met. This trip will get me out of this godforsaken heat and drought (it's been MISERABLE in Austin...record breaking..."hottest spring on record") for a few days. Also, I've got tickets to see Gillian Welch while I'm there. Love her, never seen her live. But the most exciting part for me is that I get to focus on writing and writing alone from July 10 to July 17. Not what laundry needs to get done or what groceries need to be purchased or work or family or anything else. Just writing. How fucking AWESOME is that, y'all?!
Which leads me to this:
Even if I manage to find the time and mental energy required to sit down and write during any given day, I do not have a place to write. BH works from home for the most part, and he has to make due with a small desk crammed in the corner of our bedroom. His work stuff is in our bedroom, our dining room, our bookshelves and even our garage. It's not his fault: He needs this stuff to do his job and the nature of his work and the agency he works for means that he doesn't have an office building to go to each day. And the size and layout of our house does not allow him to have a space he can dedicate specifically to work. In fact, the poor guy can spend the bulk of one entire day in the confines of our bedroom sleeping/working unless he makes a concerted effort to get out of the house. He is definitely hard-wired differently than me because, if that were my situation, I would go insane and/or start drinking by noon every day.
Whenever I work from home (which is infrequent, but does happen), I set up at the dining room or kitchen table. It's not comfortable and definitely not conducive to focused thought. Plus, I always feel like I'm getting in his way or disturbing him, which kind of blows.
When I was eyeball-deep in writing my submission for the workshop, I would have to make arrangements with (the very supportive and understanding) BH so that I could stay at work late and utilize my workspace to write. And let me tell you, it's not very inspiring to sit at the same desk you've been sitting at all day and suddenly try to switch in to "creative mode" and write. Sometimes my fingers would, literally, quit working, as if to say, "Fuck this. You've been typing all day. We're done." I would get so frustrated with my endless string of typos, I'd just have to close up shop. Other times, I'd be on a roll and kicking much ass, but then the office's A/C would cut off around 6pm, and I'd soon grow so hot and uncomfortable that I couldn't think. And so, yes, I'd just have to close up shop and head home.
"Why not go to a coffee shop?" you might be asking in your mind. Well first off, I don't drink coffee, and second, those places are not good for me when I need to focus. Too many distractions.
And as if to add fuel to the fire of my frustrations, I frequently torture myself by going to Open Houses on the weekends--exploring homes for sale in parts of town I'd like to live but have no means to do so. Almost without fail, the houses I tour have a study. Usually nothing fancy: just a room with a window and a door. But a place where (were it OUR house) BH and I could contain our work and creative lives and separate ourselves from the distractions of home and family.
Usually, after I have seen one of these houses that's larger than ours, with more storage than ours, with a better layout than ours (including a study), and a kitchen that can accommodate more than one person cooking at a time, I go home and get depressed. I pout over the fact that I'm a hard-working, well-paid 42 year old woman who should, at the very fucking least, have a "room of my own" in which to seek the solitude I so desperately crave and the creative space I so badly want. I imagine that, if I just had a room, I would be able to carve out and committ to the time required to do some real writing. That I could become one of those people who writes daily. But the reality is that I am hardly better off than the generic woman Ms. Woolf describes in her 82 year old essay, and this makes me very, very sad.
So will I appreciate the time I get to spend at this writing workshop in July? More than you will ever know. It will be worth every dime I've saved in order to pay my way and I will soak up each moment like a sponge. And when I return home after living in a dorm room on an idylic college campus for over a week and spending my days and nights focused on the craft of writing, then what?
I have no idea.