I’m moving house soon, and one of the things that’s occupying my mind (apart from getting the utilities reconnected, the piles of boxes to be filled and then emptied and the trauma of uprooting the children and cats) is wondering where I’ll find in the new house to work. Every house I’ve lived in has had a corner that I’ve chosen as ‘my space’ – somewhere I can park myself with my laptop and write.
It’s nearly 100 years since Virginia Woolf declared “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” She even put a price on that fictional space – £500 a year or about £25,000 in today’s money. A lot has changed since she wrote her essay; women have made great strides towards equality in many areas (in the developed world, at least), though women know their work still battles to be recognised and regarded in the same way as that of male writers (and that’s going to be a discussion for another day).
A few years ago, with my children growing and space at a premium, my family clubbed together to buy me a room of my own – a small shed in the garden, my precious writing shack. For four years, I’ve somehow managed to keep it for myself; it’s not been colonised by the lawnmower or the garden hose and no-one else is allowed in – there are simply books and a comfy chair and a tiny desk. When I started my own business, I moved in a shelf for filing and reference books, but without electricity for the laptop and heater, it’s never been suitable for long-haul work, but more of an escape, somewhere quiet to escape for a little while, to think and recharge. Even so, my ever-helpful husband plans to dismantle my shed, to try and move it to the new garden and preserve my haven.
I would argue that financial independence (or at least being above the poverty line) is more important for any creative artist than the space in which to create. Most of my writing actually takes place curled into a corner of the living-room sofa while life rages on around me. It’s half-term right now and Senior Daughter is attempting to watch her entire Harry Potter film collection back-to-back as I type this, giving me a running commentary on the action. I can hear Junior Daughter boinging around upstairs, which means she’ll appear in a minute wanting me to play a game of ‘Pigs in Pants’ or to find her some paper for drawing. And it’s nearly lunchtime, which means the troops will need feeding.
Sometimes I dream about being able to spend 8 hours a day in a quiet room, with no interruptions, no distractions, no responsibilities. Maybe I would write better (I’d certainly write more) if I had the luxury of more time, and enough money that I didn’t need to work at anything else. But I can’t help feeling that this way, the very fabric of life gets woven into my writing. The experiences of family, work, of the people I meet and interact with everyday are far more important to creating a rich and readable story than sitting on my own in some sterile quiet place.
So there’s a nook in the new house that I’ve got first dibs on – just big enough for a comfy chair and close to a window so I can sit and watch the world go by…