Virginia Woolf would not like my writing space. I don’t necessarily have a room of my own in the apartment I share with my boyfriend, certainly not a place where I can shut the door. (Aside from the bedroom, which we of course share, but I personally cannot write in the same room as where I sleep.) What I do have is a big desk that sits against a space of wall in between the kitchen and the living room, not far from my bookshelf, that is mine and mine alone. I’ve replaced the solitude that comes from a closed door with an hour of carved out time in the morning. I’m lucky to have a partner who respects this, who, when he’s not sleeping through my morning writing hour, understands my need for this quiet, uninterrupted time of my own.
This time for me is breath-of-life vital. In the morning, my head is the clearest, and I can fully escape into a short story or longer piece I’m working on before my mind catches up to thinking about the rest of the day. This is when I am at my best creative self. I work full time, and I’ve never been a person who can find my creative space in the evening when my head is already clogged from the happenings of the day. By the time I’ve finished work and practiced yoga (another necessary “me-time” part of my day), there’s dinner and another hour or so of winding down before I fall asleep, so the morning is the only time I have to write. If I didn’t have it, I would absolutely feel like something was missing.
I say this because I understand how important it is, as a creative person, to make the time and space for your art. One of the most unpleasant years of my life—I say this in relative terms, I acknowledge I’m a privileged person who had a job and food and all the trappings of a normal adulthood—was spent working at a law firm, writing for lawyers, and realizing the only time I had for my own writing was a few hour block on the weekend, and several times that few hour block turned into a one hour block, if at all, because there was grocery shopping and cleaning and weekend things that needed to happen.
It wasn’t until six months into this job that I decided in order to change the way I perceived my day, indeed, change the entire focal point of it, was to force myself to wake an hour earlier than needed, spend a few minutes meditating, and the rest of the time writing. Only then was I able to reclaim my sanity. When I started at my current job, It was an absolute breath of air: more relaxed hours, working with artists who understand the need for creative space, having colleagues who celebrated the two weeks I took off to attend a writing residency in the middle of the country. They understand and appreciate this need.
I can say that I’m lucky. For many, creating this space doesn’t necessarily come easily. There can be logistical concerns: not all of us live alone, or live with a person or people who understand the need for this time. Some of us have children, or loud roommates, or less understanding partners. We may not have a desk of our own, or a non-communal space that we can occupy for an hour each day.
And then there can be motivational concerns. Making room in your life for your own creative space comes with its own set of impediments. There’s fear involved, anxiety, reminders of a million other things you could be doing (There are dishes in the sink! How can you be writing when there are dirty dishes in the sink?), there’s the voice that pops up to tell you you’re selfish for taking this time out for yourself. It can take a tremendous effort to ignore all of these internal and external distractions in order to just sit down and create.
But this is what you need to remember: you are worth it, and your creative self needs it. Creating is not a selfish act. Creating is your time to put forth into the world your thoughts, feelings, ideas. It impacts change, whether just in you and how you perceive the world around you, or on a larger scale. It is necessary and worthwhile and your life will be better because of it.
I urge you to find that space, and then urge others to find that space. Maybe it’s your kitchen table. Maybe it’s your bedroom. Maybe it’s an hour before your roommates wake up, or for thirty minutes after your kids go to sleep. Just find a time that is only for you, where your phone is put elsewhere, distractions have dissipated, the voice in your head is quieted, and you can fall into that space and just create. The dishes can wait, your story cannot.