Just look at this, the progress made from one day to the next.
The ceiling in my new office is going to be 1.5 stories tall. Down the road, I hope to add a wall of built-in bookshelves. Possibly a long way down the road. After I’ve sold a few more books and can pay for such an extravagance myself. Meanwhile, this seems quite extravagant enough. A room of one’s own. It’s really boggling my mind.
I’m gathering a lot of restless energy these days, and not spending it entirely wisely. What to do when a big project like Juliet is DONE? Really, I long to leap into something else, possibly something entirely different, and just keep moving. Pour this energy into the next big thing. But life doesn’t necessarily offer up one big thing after another. There aren’t always mountains to climb. I’m looking for the right metaphor (as always). I’m listening to the universe. I’m testing door knobs. I’m waiting for a sign.
When I look at the framed space that will contain a new room in my life, I’m wishing for something as concrete as that to shape my hours. Writing. It requires so much internal energy and drive. Stirring up freelance work takes effort and imagination. No one is (yet) knocking down my door offering plum writing gigs (will that ever happen??) And starting a new book is an act of pure faith: there’s your hope, optimism, and love, right there. It’s not something anyone can tell you to do, really. You have to do it by yourself, of your own initiative, because you feel it must be done.
Question: Do people who go out to a job every day gain a sense of satisfaction and purpose from the simple act of going and doing? Or am I romanticizing?
Can I create a sense of satisfaction and purpose without having an external employer to guide me? More to the point, will this new room create for me a sense of purpose? I’m loathe to hang that kind of responsibility on a room. I’ve been able to work in a variety of carved-out spaces: Hair Hat was written at the end of my bed; The Juliet Stories were written (mostly) here in the playroom. I’ve been proud of not needing a room of my own.
And yet. If I am honest with myself, that’s exactly what I’m hoping for, from this room, from this framed and real space: that stepping into it will create a sense of direction and importance and weight, and legitimize my hopeful efforts, and define me ever more concretely as a writer. That’s asking a lot. As the room gets framed, beneath my excitement, truth be told, anxiety roils.
But maybe, just maybe, stepping into a space devoted to the act of writing will be similar to getting dressed in the appropriate clothes. I’ve learned that simply putting on my running gear makes heading out for a run easy, somehow (and tomorrow morning I’m going to put on that gear for a 25km trail run). It’s not that the run itself is made easy, it’s those first steps that are made easy, and once begun, I never mind how hard it is, and even relish the difficulty. Taking the leap to start is the biggest obstacle of all.
Coming from a Mennonite background, I have minimal in-born appreciation for spaces that are designed to be sacred. I grew up believing that worship could happen anywhere, that stained glass and soaring ceilings and incense and elaborate stagecraft might as much keep people out as draw them in; further, that maybe we end up worshipping those external elements instead of wrestling with our own faith. Too much hierarchy. Too much evidence of wealth and exclusion. Too much us and them. And somehow that translates for me across the board. I’m only slowly, in my mid-thirties, coming around to ideas that others probably don’t find very radical at all. That the things that surround us matter. Clothes. Rooms. Architectural beauty.
I still strongly believe that any space can be sacred (just attend a birth and try to think otherwise). I believe that writing can happen anywhere (just add ear plugs, that’s my motto). But that doesn’t diminish the possibility that beauty and purpose is contained and expressed in beautiful or purposed spaces. That we’re drawn to these spaces for a reason. And that I’m damned lucky.