Room to Write

June 6, 2022 § 21 Comments

By Victoria Lynn Smith

A couple of weeks ago, within twenty-four hours, both Stephen King and my mom told me I needed an office for writing. I decided if Mom and Mr. King agreed about something, I needed to listen.

Of course, Mr. King was talking to me from the pages of his book On Writing. He advised me (okay, he was talking to all writers) to have a space of my own with a door that closes. He wrote Carrie and Salem’s Lot in the laundry room of a trailer, but there was a door that closed. He never mentions if he ever threw a load of dirty clothes in the washer. I would have washed and dried clothes and written between the cycles.

Then Mom called. I felt too blue to just put a smile in my voice and chitchat about weather and family and the latest movie she had seen. Spurred on by Mr. King urging me to have an office with a door and frustrated by the traffic patterns in my writing space, I was weepy about not having a quiet place of my own to write.

My office space in the living room had worked if I was home alone, but my amygdala had begun to associate it with interruption and chaos. The living room is a thoroughfare from one side of the house to the other. When my husband is home, he likes to stop off and chat as he motors through. My grandkids also play in the living room three days a week. They inhabit the space with toys and voices and nonstop movement. While playing, they chatter with delight and argue with rancor, all of it mall-level noise. So, it didn’t matter if my husband and grandkids weren’t in the house when I tried to write because my brain would anticipate interruption and commotion anyway, leaving me frazzled. Logically, I understood why I was antsy, but it’s not easy to calm down a fired-up amygdala.

Mom suggested I turn the spare bedroom, tucked at the front side of the house, into an office with a pullout couch. “You can take a nap on the couch when you’re tired, and you can use it as a bed when the grandkids sleep over.” I wondered what Mr. King would say about napping in one’s writing office.

I rejected the pullout couch solution, but Mr. King’s and Mom’s advice started me thinking. Over the next several days, I wandered in and out of my two spare bedrooms with a tape measure, sizing up the dimensions of the rooms and the furniture, arriving at a solution. I swapped a desk and dresser and bought a bookcase. For the first few days, I would wander into my new space and stare at it with wonder and love, the way I looked at my children when they were newborns.

It’s not a whole office, but I like it that way. It’s a little cramped, but when I sit at my desk, it feels like a hug, and in a pinch, the bed right behind me serves as a table. Mr. King says a writing office should probably be humble, so my space measures up. I can shut the door, so I’m not interrupted. And when the grandkids visit, they aren’t allowed to play in my room.

My amygdala does yoga. I breathe and write.

Victoria Lynn Smith writes fiction, and creative nonfiction. She lives by Lake Superior, a source of inspiration, happiness, and mystery. Her work has been published by Wisconsin Public Radio, Twin Cities Public Television’s Moving Lives, Brevity Blog, Better Than Starbucks, Hive Avenue Literary Journal, Persimmon Tree, and several regional journals. To read more:


§ 21 Responses to Room to Write

  • It looks grand! Go with the lavender I see on the wall. I did do the sofa bed and it works well 🙂

  • victorea2015 says:

    Victoria Lynn, Thank you for this lovely article. I wonder how you are feeling in your new space. Has it improved your creative process? ❤

  • I agree. Everyone needs a space, no mater the size, to call their own. Happy writing and creating.

  • Lynn Watson says:

    es , now breathes, and MMMMMMmmmmmmmmHMMMMmmmmmmmm. The writer in you lives, now breathes. Your fingers do a fast tap dance, or a slow waltz over the keys. Congratulations on the new addition, Vickie.

  • […] My blog essay “Room to Write” was published on Brevity Blog today. […]

  • Yes! Close the door and breathe! Thank you, Vickie.

  • Thank you for this. I can identify on so many levels! Well, all of them, really! For now, every room in this house is full, so I just re-created a desk space for myself against a window wall of the “mall” (living room), but just keeping that potential/pandemonium at my back while my eyes are screen-forward helps center my focus. I do everything computer and bill-paying, etc., here, but now I see your wisdom in my moving that sort of business to the desktop in the other room and keeping my writing space for writing. Much appreciated!

    • youngv2015 says:

      If I’m home alone, I sometimes write in other rooms, but nonwriting chores, like bill paying or doing work for a board that I’m on never get done in my writing office. It might sound strange, but it has helped me to focus on my writing.

  • Delightful essay! You also validate my own writing space which is a spare bedroom complete with a twin-size bed (perfect for napping or lounging), a window that looks out on my potted plants and our backyard (all that green is good for the eyes), and a door that closes. It is a bit too cluttered with non-writing stuff but … all in good time. It also served as my “office” when I worked from home for about a year. I can relate to this: “So, it didn’t matter if my husband and grandkids weren’t in the house when I tried to write because my brain would anticipate interruption and commotion anyway, leaving me frazzled.” It’s taken me about a year since retiring to defrazzle, to see my computer as my friend and not my enemy.

  • Janice Reid says:

    “I would wander into my new space and stare at it with wonder and love, the way I looked at my children when they were newborns.” Love this line maybe even as much as you love your new space😊 .

  • I enjoyed being drawn into this writer’s world and appreciate the wisdom shared on establishing a writing space. The accompanying photo testifies to how the office hugs the writer. I note also that the tree outside has opinions on this writer’s life acting both as a soother to worries and a beckoner to adventure.

  • stacyeholden says:

    Great piece!

  • bchapmorr says:

    Sounds absolutely divine!!! That’s the thing I’m missing and desperately craving! My desk space at our shop is wonderful but because it IS a shop, we have customers- so I get “interrupted” any time I’m about to start something. Unfortunately, there’s no extra spaces in our home for me to use, so I end up going to the bedroom. It’s not bad, but the time I have between cleaning up from dinner and until my husband comes in to lay down for the evening is very short. So I don’t get much time to enjoy the only quiet space available. Maybe eventually though! Great read! Thanks for sharing!

  • […] [This essay was published on Brevity Blog.] […]

  • Anne Lehman says:

    Great suggestion! I like your style of writing and decision making!

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