Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Writer's Room

Writing is a solitary business that requires, according to Virginia Woolf, a 'room of one's own'. Such a thing is hard to come by when property and office space is so expensive, so can writers be content with any old cupboard or corner of a room? Can any rotting shed provide the solitude and quietness necessary for inspiration?

There are so many distractions when working from home. The temptation to put the laundry on, the ability to quickly check Facebook, and even the proximity of the kettle can drag even the most dedicated of writers away from their tasks when the momentum falters. All things considered, mixing home and work can be a recipe for disaster. So how do writers and students maintain their focus when working from home? Allocating a room or an area for the sole purposes of writing often seems like a logical step. But do we need to be so situated to write? Surely a good writer can write anywhere?

Many writers dream of creating an idyllic writer’s haven, a quiet place to retreat to that somehow magically ensures that the artist will be sufficiently motivated and inspired to write a classic. Yet writers throughout literary history have not always had such a luxury; in fact, many of our greatest writers have had to make do with a writing space that is far from ideal. Which will surely make any aspiring writer wonder if a writing room really is a pre-requisite for art, or if they are merely making an excuse for procrastination? If the basement of a trailer was good enough for Stephen King, surely it's good enough for anyone!

We can we learn a lot from examining the writing spaces of famous writers, and they certainly they tell us a lot about their characters and situations. The Bronte sisters, for example, wrote in the evening, by the fireside in their vicarage; a homely and warm space, far removed from the bleak moorland outside. Will Self's office is covered in post-it notes. Jane Austen wrote secretively at the table in her family home. Dylan Thomas wrote in a boat house; Henry David Thoreau in his self-built pond-side hut; Roald Dahl in his famous gypsy shed. J K Rowling wrote the phenomenal Harry Potter books in various Edinburgh cafes.

So perhaps writers do not need a space to call their own, a room to conquer - does it really make a difference to creativity? Descartes managed to write his Meditations in an oven, after all. 

Nevertheless, most writers, students, and those lucky enough to work from home, feel it necessary to entirely possess a small corner of their home and make it their primary writing environment. The prevailing assumption is that a room, a desk, a chair and a laptop, all arranged in an orderly fashion, can ensure inspiration and provide motivation. A large, light-giving sash window, perhaps, and walls concealed by shelves and shelves of books; who could fail to be inspired?

Despite the attractiveness of a writing space, it is by no means a necessity. There is no magic formula, but the privacy and quietness of one’s own room will probably increase your chances of writing a bestseller.

No comments: