I have a little study at home. It’s a tiny room, 2×3 meters, filled with books, art, boxes of paper, pens and stamps (I regularly write real letters), candles, a globe of glass and a madonna figure of bronze, a good sized desk and a little daybed in a nook (with the prettiest William Morris wallpaper), where I snuggle up when reading or doing something that doesn’t require me to sit by the computer.
I absolutely adore this space. It’s my very own room, and, as Virginia Woolf pointed out, having one is necessary for doing good, creative work.
It doesn’t have to be an entire room though. That’s a luxury I’ve never had before, and I’ve managed to keep up my creative practices when that “room of my own” was really only a part of the kitchen table.
We need actual, physical space for our work, but the first and most important aspect of creating space is making a commitment to our creative expression, and then to honour that commitment. To first create a room within ourselves, where our creative work is held sacred. If we do, we can find a way to make it work in the physical realm as well.
A table at a café becomes our desk. We remove some furniture from our crowded living room, so that when the kids are asleep, we can spread out on the floor. We keep a suitcase (preferably one of those old leather things!) filled with the tools and supplies we need to do our work, and wherever we open that suitcase, that’s our room.
Your family and friends will not always help you honour your commitment (to put it politely). They don’t necessarily see what you’re trying to do as sacred work. They see a hobby, and a time consuming one. They see you disappearing somewhere they cannot follow, into something they don’t understand and perhaps don’t even appreciate.
This is where your commitment is tested, in the face of their doubt. This is where you need to claim your space, over and over again. It’s heart-breaking sometimes, when they don’t get what you’re trying to do, but you know what? It’s not their job. It’s yours.
But take heart. There are kindred spirits out there. Living and dead. They will support you if you reach out, and they will remind you when you forget. Others have done this before.
I love to browse my bookshelves, reading the names of the authors, touching the back of my favourite books. They remind me it’s doable. They remind me of women who claimed their writing at a time when a woman was ridiculed for even claiming to have a functional intellect. Of brave souls who write in the face of oppression, sometimes giving their lives for the freedom to do so.
I think of them and the obstacles I face seem manageable.
And behind every authors name I sense the presence of a thousand others, who never saw their words in print, who never made it to people’s book shelves, but who kept writing, nevertheless.
I think of them and I feel their commitment in my own bones. It is never about the results. It never was.
You are doing brave work, my dear, just by showing up. Claiming a creative life is not easy, but you’re doing it. You keep creating even though circumstances are far from ideal, and you don’t know what you’re doing half the time. But you keep going.
And I salute you for it.