Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Writer's New Room

A while back I wrote a short story for the Josephine Ulrick Literature Prize.  It was a short piece about a writer and her new room - a place that was meant to inspire creativity, but instead it was too pure and too quiet and she couldn't write.

At the time I wrote the story (January) my new room did not yet exist, except as a wooden skeleton with a tarpaulin skin.  Yet in some respects, the story has come true, for I find myself in my beautiful new room, surrounded by all the accoutrements of the determined writer - computer, reading chair, bookshelves full of inspiration - yet I am unable to write (present blog excepted).

Sometimes I wonder if I can do this.

Yet this room, lovely as it is, does feel still and quiet.  I am used to writing in the kids' playroom, my feet on the box of Thomas trains, my chair on a Little Mermaid rug.  Maybe I need more stuff on the walls.  There is altogether too much beige in this room, and I am not a very beige person. Maybe I need to stop making excuses.

In class, we regularly have writing exercises.  Some of my fellow students dread them, being forced to write on demand, but I love it.  I love the urgency of it, the passivity of it.  We are set a topic and time and must produce within those constraints. Under these circumstances my pen flies across my notebook, my fingers will cramp because I am writing so fast.  The ideas spill and bleed across the paper, and I feel liberated by the constraints upon me.  Under the dictates of a proffered topic and finite period of time I can produce. 

Why then, when the kids are sleeping (sorry Natasha) and I have all the time in the world, when the choice of topic is mine and mine alone, do I struggle?  Am I so helpless and directionless that I cannot write unless someone has given me a topic? Perhaps.

Send me your topics and I will write about them. 

[I feel like the balloon clown at the circus... tell me an animal and I will make it out of balloons...]


  1. I think you need to mess that room up a bit. It looks too tidy to do any writing in. (it looks great though.)

  2. Ha ha! Beautiful room. I'll have to post a pic of mine when I finally unpack the boxes. I need pressure to write - leisure is too, well, leisurely. Maybe give yourself a deadline that you have to meet. And tell us all what the deadline is so we can pressure you too!
    My favourite writing prompt when I'm stuck is to take out a book that I think has a similar voice to the voice I'm writing in, open it randomly to a page, choose the seventh sentence and use that as the starting line for my own piece of work.
    And maybe you and your new room just need to get used to one another, spend a bit of quality time together and soon you'll be writing sweet words together!

  3. For some reason I always imagined your desk would go under the window. I agree deadlines focus the mind in ways nothing else can (as my house tidying prior to the arrival of visitors can surely attest!)

    Have you thought about doing product reviews? Activity/place reviews? Topical subjects like immunisation? (Just thinking these could then potentially be submitted elsewhere.)

    Unfortunately the only people I know making money out of writing are doing deadly dull (compared to your lovely prose) things like textbook editing, academic grant applications and company annual reports. Ho hum.

  4. Yes I'm with trying the desk under the window, or closer to it for sure!
    Topic: writing the kind of short story/article you imagine yourself to be writing in ten years from now. Just switch your age for an hour and write what you see(family life etc)from exactly where you are. Fun!

  5. Thanks for the great feedback everyone. I agree that I definitely need more art on the walls (though one day I hope to have lots of framed articles - by me - decorating the walls). In the meantime, more colour is absolutely required.

    I decided to put my desk facing the wall, primarily because I didn't want to be distracted by the view, but also because the windows are so low, the desk would prevent me from reaching over and opening them...

    I really love your suggestion Natasha for getting past writers block. I am currently reading Marley and Me by John Grogan, and the sentance I found was 'We needed professional help'. That'd be a great one to get started with...

  6. That's a great line Shannon - I'd love to read what you come up with from that.

  7. Your writing room is lovely Shannon! I really like your style. And, I love your writing! Just read your work for the first time - you are very talented!


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