I Dream of A Writer’s Room

I have a vision in my head of a large room filled with writers, each with a private desk and comfortable chair, the perfect blend of privacy and camaraderie. Heads bent over laptops, fingers tapping, muses dancing in the air, stories being born. A creative haven–the Writer’s Room.

No, not the BBC-TV version.

BBC-TV, The Writer's Room

BBC-TV, The Writer’s Room

More like the New York and D.C. versions.

NY City Writer's Room

New York City Writer’s Room

DC Writer's Room

DC Writer’s Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How cool is that? A dedicated space just for writers. Published and emerging writers. Novelists, memoirists, and poets, oh my!

In this era of telecommuting, shared office spaces are springing up all over the country. Working from home sounds like nirvana until the loneliness sets in, or the laundry starts calling, or the phone won’t stop ringing with nuisance calls. It can provide a wonderful sense of freedom until you start to feel stagnant from lack of interaction with other humans that aren’t inside your head.

For these very reasons, Writer’s Rooms have existed since the 1970’s. In addition to providing a place for writers to go to get out of the house, a Writer’s Room is a community, a place where collective creative energy will invite the Muse and inspire great writing, (If more seclusion is needed, a good set of headphones can shut out distractions while you stay surrounded by community.)

Some comments from the DC Writer’s Room explain it best:

“Many writers, even writers with workspace at home, are finding that a totally distraction-free environment can do wonders for their focus and productivity.

Another often-mentioned benefit, interestingly, is the presence of other writers. Motivation and seriousness are highly contagious. Some writers also ­value the chance to talk with fellow writers in a social space like our kitchenette.” 

Writer’s Rooms generally have a tiered membership pricing schedule–a pay-as-you-go, monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or annual fee for use of the space. For just over a year, I have tried what I call a seed experiment. For the price of coffee and breakfast, our writer’s group, Just Write, has reserved space at a local coffee shop every Monday morning for three hours. There might be as few as two or as many as ten writers on any given Monday.

 

Just Writing at Java's Brewin'

Just Writing at Java’s Brewin’

Novels have been written here, memoirs drafted, blogs posted. It is an atmosphere of focused intent and warm camaraderie. It is my dream to create a space where this atmosphere can thrive on a daily basis. My vision also includes a creativity room for brainstorming, workshops, classes, and coaching sessions.

It is a big dream, and I worry that it will remain just that–a dream. But I know that big things can happen with consistent small steps, so I will continue to put one foot in front of the other. Next steps: 1. Find a space to meet more frequently. 2. Impart the dream to more writers.

Where do you do your best writing? Do you have a writing community? Would you take advantage of a Writer’s Room if one were available in your area for a reasonable cost?

A Sense of Self-Protection

Chapter ten–almost through the twelve-week Artist’s Way recovery course–is where we learn about recovering a sense of self-protection. We all need to learn to protect ourselves from the crazymakers in our lives (see chapter two) and when to say “no” to infringements on our creative time and space.

But I took a different twist on this chapter. Cameron writes about the “dangers of the trail.”  When creative energy starts to flow and you’re not sure where it’s leading, you might feel shaky and out of control. Where is this path taking me? You slam your foot on the brakes; your artist child sits down in the middle of the road and refuses to take another step. This, in a sense, is another form of self-protection: we protect ourselves from fear of the unknown.

As a writer, I have heard and read, written, and spoken a lot about writer’s block, but I am only recently beginning to understand that there is only one thing responsible for writer’s block: ME. Wether we realize it or not, we all have our favorite ways to block creativity (because, you know, that Muse can be a scary bitch).

My go-to blocks are sleep, daydreaming, reading, television, and Facebook. And sometimes food. I need a muffin. Now.

For some, alcohol, drugs, or destructive relationships might be the chosen blocks. Others escape into busyness–work, work, work to numb out those nerve-wracking creative ideas.

How to stop reaching for blocks? Make friends with creativity-induced anxiety. Allow yourself to feel the anxiety and use it to fuel your imagination. Put on some calming music, or whatever music motivates you and helps you focus. Exercise. A simple twenty minute walk can calm nervous energy, un-jumble anxious thoughts, and bring clarity to your path forward.

I don’t mean to over simplify what can sometimes be a crippling issue, but here is another situation where small steps can bring about big changes. If you recognize that your artistic blocks might be self-induced, that can be the first step to overcoming them.

o-CALIFORNIA-DROUGHT-facebookIt is easy to confuse a block with a time of drought. While blocks are often self-induced, droughts “appear from nowhere and stretch to the horizon like a Death Valley vista.” (p.169).

 

A creative block is when the Muse is speaking, but we are not listening. In a drought, she is silent. “A drought is a tearless time of grief. We are between dreams.” (p. 170) I am learning to appreciate these periods as a time of gestation. A new dream is being implanted.

But how can anything grow in that parched landscape? Think of your morning pages as rain. To continue the practice of writing, stream of consciousness, three pages every morning when you feel it is an empty exercise–that is an act of faith. It will water the tiny seed that you may not be aware of yet and eventually, it will bloom and the drought will end.bloom-where-planted

What do you do when you feel creative energy carrying you along at a faster pace than you want to go, or you’re not sure what direction it’s leading you? Do you go with the flow or do you go into self-protection mode and reach for one of your favorite blocking devices to slow things down? Are you even aware that is what you are doing?

Have you experienced a creative drought? Are you in one now? Hang in there. Keep writing morning pages, and a path will emerge.

My First Blog Tour (#mywritingprocess)

When I was first asked to participate in the #mywritingprocess blog tour by my writing buddy and blogger extraordinaire, Middle-Age Butch, I had a little too much on my plate at that moment to accept. So when the opportunity circled back around to me through mutual friend Vicki Gael, I finally joined the tour.

Vicki recently started blogging over at Rumpled Ruminations. She is working on a cozy mystery, a sci-fi space adventure, and a medieval romance adventure with a dash of magic. Such a fertile, creative mind!

Middle-Age Butch has just finished her memoir and has started querying agents. How exciting is that?!

Check out their blogs. They’re funny, insightful, and inspiring. I’m proud they are both members of the Just Write writers group.

So, about #mywritingprocess. . .

What am I working on?

I am currently working on my first novel. It’s a romance, or women’s fiction, or maybe both. I’ve been working on it for two years, but I guess that’s normal. Some days I think I’ll actually finish it. Other days I’m ready to trash the whole thing and start over. But my writer friends won’t let me. They think it might be pretty good. Besides, my mother is waiting for it.

How does my work differ from others of it’s genre?

I’ve never read anything quite like what I’m writing, which I think is part of my difficulty. My protagonist is a middle-aged woman who is agoraphobic. The male character is ten years younger. There are elements of Native American culture and spirituality woven into the story. I believe all of this adds up to something different.

Why do I write what I write?

Crabby baby

I write because I get really crabby if I don’t.

Writing is my salvation. It is catharsis, liberation, healing, and joy. I write about writing to inspire others to write their stories. We all have stories worth telling. I write about grief and fear to overcome them and help others do the same. I write about romance because I like the warm, fuzzy feeling I get from it.

How does my writing process work?

My writing process always starts with a dream or a daydream or a movie in my head. I have to see it before I can write it. Once I have the vision it usually goes something like this: I sit down at my laptop and open my document. I stare at it, maybe rock a little. I get up to pee, get a glass of water, sit back down. Stare some more.

"So you see, imagination needs moodling–long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering." –Brenda Ueland

“So you see, imagination needs moodling–long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” –Brenda Ueland

After repeating some version of this a few times, I give myself a kick, shut the laptop and pull out my notebook and pen. I set the timer for ten to fifteen minutes and write like crazy until the buzzer sounds. Somewhere in that mess is my starting point.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a firm believer in the “shitty first draft.” I had the recent privilege of meeting the much-lauded and prolific Mary Higgins Clark. I told this tiny, lively octogenarian what an inspiration she is to me as someone who is just writing my first novel. Her words of wisdom were, “Just get the story down. You can always fix it later”–words I try to live by, reinforced by a pro.

MHC and Me

MHC and Me

Next on the #mywritingprocess tour:

Ida Arici calls herself “just a woman with a voice.” She blogs over at The Ramblings of a Young Writer where she writes about life after college, job hunting, and dreams. Ida was one of the first members of Just Write, and we miss her when she’s off working temporary jobs and diligently searching for a permanent one.