When we moved five years there weren’t enough bedrooms in our new home for a dedicated writing/office space. There was however a bizarre alcove in the lounge room, above the internal stairs, so I moved in there with my books, pens, computer and my newly minted desire to write stories. Our housemate secured a desk and chair and I joyously jettison the three-foot high drafter’s table and green Ikea kid’s stool I’d produced 10 issues of Down to Birth magazine at. I was pretty pleased with it all until I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” several months later.
King mentions the importance of a door in the third chapters of the “On Writing” section:
The space can be humble… and it really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut. The closed door it your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business; you have made a serious commitment to write and intend to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
So for the last four and a half years I’ve had door envy. I’m pretty sure there’s no Freudian evaluation for that particular psychosis.
I’ve written and worked in all manner of locations in the last five years: a crowded indoor kid’s playground, a park bench, in the car (not while driving!), cafes, the library, bed, the kitchen table… As long as I had music (my metaphorical door) I could write. The lack of a door didn’t really hamper my sporadic writing and I never suggested my lack of writing was due to the lack of a door. What the non-existent door hampered was my ability to step away from work. Work was always there—I could see it from the kitchen table every night. Walked past it every morning on the way to make breakfast. It never went away. And I struggled to turn it off.
Work got between Dave and I, between Mr D and I, and between writing and I. If you never turn off the work part of the brain, the fun part, no matter how insistent the flashing lights are, doesn’t get a see in.
Arriving home from a much-needed three-week holiday in January this year, and with the worst of my last bout of depression behind me, I set about rearranging rooms. It seemed ridiculous to me that our guest room was occupied less than a month every year and I spent up to ten hours a day crammed in an alcove up to six days a week—too cold in winter and too hot in summer. As for the spare room, Mr D seemed to occupy his room (where he refused to sleep), our room, the spare room (where we played musical beds in the dead of night) and the rumpus room downstairs. How much space did one small boy require?
Mr D never slept well in the room he’d been set up in, so after years of promising to move him, we dismantled and emptied the spare room, gave it a lick of paint and decked it out with new furniture. All the (going-to) sleep and staying in bed problems disappeared over night. We then set about making over Mr D’s old room as an office. It’s always been the best room in the entire house and every Winter I’ve stood at the door and coveted the space as my own.
While I was away in Sydney over Easter Dave painted the walls and the last two weeks we’ve been tidying up the trims, doors etc. Thursday I began the process of pulling down my old office space, throwing out boxes and boxes of used papers and general dead energy. I did find gems among it all—my signed copy of From Dark Places and the card Em sent with it which reads: “next time you doubt yourself, pluck this book from the shelf and remember ‘I made this’. I discovered my copy of 50 Stories for Pakistan and my world building notes from a master class three years which I’ve been searching for.
It’s late autumn, a little after 2pm and I’m sitting here in my new space, drenched in afternoon sun. In summer the room remains cool, getting next to no sun. In winter it is filled with light and natural heat. The room is more empty than full and I like it that way. I’m being selective in what I bring in here, what energy I infuse this room with. I’m not thinking of it as an office. I’m thinking of it as wide open terrain for a free ranging author-in-waiting. One who is not going to be waiting much longer. I wanted a door to close out work so I could have a life, now I want a door to close me in so I can have a writing life.
I wish I there were nice things to say about my old space or good memories, but no matter how hard I tried it was never a creative space, just a place of hard graft and late nights. I produced six anthologies sitting there and hundreds of stories, but ask me which story I enjoyed writing there the and it’s a blank. I penned my first publication Demon Lover there in 2008 and The Man Who Would in 2010, but beyond that my stories have come to life in cafes and the library, from the comfort of my bed, the chaos of the kitchen table or a makeshift space I set up in the corner of the rumpus room during summer.
Now it’s time to make new memories and pen new stories, surrounded by my favourite books and authors, in a space which is all mine. It’s not the answer to all my problems, however I feel it’s a good start, a clean slate as I prepare for the next phase in my life.