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True to Life, Step 5

                                                                Carve out a creative space
you’ve begun to keep a journal and jot down notes, writing on a regular basis,
you are getting used to registering the ideas, emotions, and memories in your
head and heart, your brain and your gut. You are learning how to transfer them down
your arm, through your hand(s), and out onto the page.
It’s time to think of the next step. You want to
write not just thoughts but stories. Maybe you want to write a memoir or
publish some personal essays or put down the family saga so it’ll be preserved
for the coming generations or get that trip to Bali on paper before you forget
You want to become not only a diarist with private
thoughts but also a writer with public thoughts. A writer uses special tools.
You wouldn’t begin to make a bookshelf without a hammer, a measuring tape, a
drill. You shouldn’t begin to write seriously without thinking about tools to
make the job physically possible. The questions you need to answer first are
where, when, and how. The place, the time, and the implements.
I’ve heard that long before Alice Munro dared admit
to herself that she was a writer, she sat for hours at the breakfast table and
scribbled stories on the backs of bills that had just arrived in the mail.
Colette wrote many of her books in bed. You need to make a place, however
humble or odd, for your writing self. It doesn’t matter where, as long as it
affords you physical and psychic space: the local coffee shop, the commuter
train on the way to work, or, ideally, at least sometimes, a desk in a room
with a door that closes. You will feel freer creatively in a comfortable,
encouraging place.
One day in class, a shy,
self-deprecating student informed us that she had gone to IKEA, bought the
smallest desk they had, and assembled it in a corner of the bedroom. This, she
told her husband and kids, was where she would be a writer. It was as big a step
toward artistry and independence as she had ever taken. One small desk for
If your job involves writing, you might need to use
a spot other than your workspace for creative endeavours. Some, as Sartre and
de Beauvoir did, enjoy filling pages in the anonymity and bustle of cafés. In
this age of laptops, we’re free to set up a kind of office anywhere. Try different
spaces and see what works.
I used to think I couldn’t be a proper writer
because, as a single mother, I was at the centre of constant domestic activity
in my household. When a windfall came my way, I rented a tiny office space and
discovered I couldn’t work there either; it was too isolated, too quiet. Then I
read Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won a Nobel Prize for his work in Yiddish. “I
think that being disturbed is part of human life,” he said. “I have never
really written in peace.”
I ditched my excuses and just got on with it,
sitting at the desk in my home office when I could—which for years was not
often—grabbing time as the commotion swirled around me. Maybe my work has
suffered. Maybe it has profited.
Carve out your space, and make it
work for you.
I feel that art has something to do with the
achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos.
Saul Bellow



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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