by Hannah Roveto
Carolyn See's Making A Literary Life is oft-quoted here, far beyond our tribute to her each Friday, for good reason. Her words inspire, demand, coach and make us laugh in recognition. Charming notes, for example, are among her advice. She says to send one every day, which I don't do. I did send one off this very week, though, and two last week.
My favorite chapters depend on what's happening in my life. At the moment, the best one is Chapter Five: Pretend to be a Writer. She asks, "if you were a writer, what would you want (to make you feel like a writer)? Hemingway wanted to spend his life outside the borders of the United States... Richard Ford must have wished for a madly dashing trenchcoat, because I saw him once, at a reception... swathed in a madly dashing trenchcoat." Anne Rice travels with "an endless supply of Tab." And so on.
What I need most to feel like a writer is the very thing counseled by Virginia Woolf. Room. It doesn't necessarily need to be of my own, but it needs to feel like it's my own. What brings me to this is the fact that I am sitting in my office surrounded by papers that sit at waist-level -- my husband's description, not mine -- on the futon pull-out sofa, the table, the chairs and yes, on top of the vacuum cleaner. My chair is filled with children's game CDs and the brush of the vacuum, in fact, so I am perched as I write on its very front edge.
Ten years ago the room had a desk and the futon couch. Then it took on some files. Then another desk, to hold the old computer for the kids to use when we upgraded. We got a cat, and our house is small, so this room is the only one with a door that shuts that is not a bedroom. You get the idea. It was looking like a large walk-in closet with the cat as the final addition.
Yesterday I moved every piece of furniture except the desk before me. I swung the couch to a different corner, the wicker basket in front of it, like a reading area. I put the files in a different corner. I went to Target and bought a bookshelf and a TV cart that will become a printer cart. Today I will put together the cart, I will rearrange this table. I will put the papers where they go or (gasp) throw them out. Tomorrow or Friday a nice man is going to come and take care of my computer and make it not spit system error messages at me every five minutes. By this weekend, folks, I will have a room in my house that holds two working, healthy computers -- mine in a separate, special corner -- and a futon couch and files, but that is airy, better organized, and feels like a creative space instead of a waystation. I will be (more) bumped and bruised and sweaty and tired and very slightly poorer, and far far happier, all because I re-read Carolyn See and took a look around and realized, you know, that's what I really need most.
I don't know what any of you need; maybe it's a certain coffee, a certain pen, the private car with driver that See needed due to physical limitations and began to see as her special requirement. For me, for now, the room is all. My entire mindset will shift, open, widen, relax. I will feel not only like a writer, but like a writer who has a place of her own.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
by Hannah Roveto