Writing Tips

Member News/Links
Upcoming Events
Writing Tips
Meeting Agenda
Favorite Links
Contact Information
In Memoriam

This space is for occasional contributions from our members - articles, practical tips, and general observations about the writing life.  This month's article is from a popular on-line workshop by award-winning romance writer Carolan Ivey.

Feeding the Writer’s Spirit – A Practical Guide

By Carolan Ivey

Part Two: Claiming Your Space 

Physical space

For most writers, having a place to write is as important as having something to write about.  It may be a whole room to yourself.  It may be a TV table set up in a corner of the living room.  I wrote and finished my first manuscript at the dining room table, with herds of kids and dogs whirling by and the smell of dinner burning on the stove.  It seemed to flow effortlessly, and took only a few months to finish.

 Then we moved to a bigger house, four bedrooms, full basement.  Ah, elbow room.  Should have been a writer’s dream.  But the reality was, I was having a terrible time trying to finish BEAUDRY'S GHOST.  I realize now what the problem was, and still is.  Although the old house was smaller, and my writing area was in the middle of everything, it was MY space and no one messed with it.  Woe to the mortal who moved a pile.  For some reason, when we moved, all those old rules went right out the window.

 Despite the larger house, I don’t have a space within it to call my own.  There is no place I can leave my stuff set up so that all I have to do is walk in, close the door, and get to work.  The spare bedroom, which I had envisioned as my writing nook, became the catch-all guest bedroom, office, junk room and auxiliary TV/play room for the kids.  The funny part is, I didn’t even figure this out for a long time.  I kept wondering why I wasn’t getting anything done, why I was anxious and depressed, why I was doubting myself.

After you’ve worked with Reiki for a while, you start having some of those AHA! Moments.  This was one of them.  It dawned on me that I need to have a personal, inviolable space.  Also, that a certain amount of alone time is vital to my mental health as well as my creative life.  I married a man whom I love dearly, but  lets face it; he grew up sharing a bedroom with his two brothers, then shared a dorm room with three other guys. As far as I know, he has never in his life lived alone.  To this day he has no concept of personal space, and does not understand my need for it. He's trying, though, and that's progress. <g> 

I firmly believe that the only reason BEAUDRY got finished is because my day job got slow enough I could work on it there – in my own office, where I could be confident when I walked in in the morning, everything would be exactly where had I left it the evening before.  Nothing would be moved, doodled on, folded into paper airplanes, or sticky with spilled pop. 

One of the basic tenets of Reiki is that the person takes responsibility for his or her own healing.  So, slowly but surely, I am reclaiming the spare bedroom back from the unwashed masses.  When we got a new PC, it was fairly easy to have the old one moved downstairs for the kids to play on, and the new to be strictly off limits.

Then, it was time to get rough.

 When my husband took the kids on an outing on Saturday, I made my move.  I dis-assembled the bed and moved the parts to the basement.  By the time they got home, it was done.  Oh, yes, my dearly beloved huffed and puffed and tried to blow me down, but in the end he realized that going along with me was easier than carting the bed back upstairs and reassembling it – because I certainly wasn’t going to do it!  I now have room for my Reiki treatment table, plenty of floor space for yoga, and the top of the new file cabinet is my altar – candles, crystals, incense, a water fountain and a wind chime.   

And my beloved looks at me with narrowed eyes and comments that I’m a lot more stubborn than I used to be.  My reply to that?  “It’s about d*mned time.” <grin> 

My quest is almost complete.  My next task is to get the TV moved out of there and down to the basement.  It hasn’t been easy, but I know that if I don’t dig in my heels and reclaim my space, no one is just going to hand it to me. 

Mental and spiritual space

The concept of a writer’s personal space isn’t limited to the physical.  Claiming your space also means protecting yourself from people that drain your mental and spiritual energy.  Lisa Hamilton has a good term for them – “auric vampires.”  Julia Cameron, author of THE ARTIST’S WAY, has another name for them.  “Crazymakers.”  (I love that word!)  Crazymakers are people who think nothing of claiming your time and energy for their own use, because your needs couldn't possibly be as important as their own.  Before you know it, they’ve loaded you up and those hours you'd planned to use writing are stolen from you. 

Despite my vigilance, I let someone do this to me again just recently.  A woman at my church asked if I would handle sending church press releases to the local papers.  I said, sure, no problem. The next thing I knew I found myself listed as the chair of the publicity committee with a page-long list of duties. Helloooo!!  You should have seen her face when I handed the list back to her and said, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t agree to this.” She was confused, because frankly, no one had ever stood up to her before.

Sometimes, crazymakers are people you love.  For example, my husband now knows to never, EVER volunteer me for something without clearing it with me first.  He can definitely be a crazymaker, but he's proof that these people can be rehabilitated.  (See above about digging in one's heels.) 

“Auric vampires” are those people who are their own little black clouds of misery, who rather enjoy being there, and attempt to suck you right down into the mire with them. Once you learn to recognize vampires and crazymakers, you will find it easier and easier to utter the one word that will make them all go away and free you and your Writer’s Spirit once again.  Come closer, my dears, so I can make sure you hear. 

The magic word is... NO. 

I’m finding it easier to say No these days.  In fact, I’m enjoying it about as much as your average 2-year-old who has just learned what the word means.  No no no. NO NO NO.  Wheee!!  This is fun! :) 

“But I have too many demands,” you say.  “I’ve got kids and the house and PTA and soccer and Scouts and I’m on three church committees, etc etc etc.  Things that are just more important than writing.  I'll write once the kids are grown and gone and I have more time to myself.”  OK, I hear you.  What I’m hearing underneath it is that you don’t value your writing talent enough to give it wings.  I’m also hearing that you are afraid if you begin to say no more often to demands on your time, that other people will think badly of you.  (Am I starting to sound like Dr. Phil? Good. I love that guy. <g>)  I know this because I have been where you are.  Actually, I'm still sort of there, but I'm climbing out. 

I understand your family needs you.  But also understand, your family needs you to be a whole and healthy person.  Being whole means not denying who and what you are.  Listen carefully.  You are a writer.  By definition, this makes you Different From Everyone Else.  Putting your gift on hold or denying it altogether because other things seem more important, is doing a disservice to the higher power that gave you the talent and the will to write.  It will also wreak havoc on your mental health.  Trust me on this one.  The same principle stated above applies here - if you don't validate yourself, no one is going to do the validating for you. 

There are also situational vampires.  Things that are beyond our control.  You all know what I’m talking about.  How many of us have been unable to write so much as a grocery list since 9/11?  For a while, we have been overwhelmed by grief, sadness, anger and fright.  This is not a bad thing; it is important to acknowledge these emotions and let them out in a safe and healthy way.  But at some point, we have to decide if we are going to let a situation break our spirit.  A time comes when we have to look our fear in the eye, stare it down, and use the magic word.  “NO, I will not let this stop me.”  And get back to work.  The more we write, the better our healing process will be.  Not necessarily quicker, but it will be more complete. 

Dig out those auric vampires and crazymakers.  Practice in the mirror if you have to, but tell them all, “No, sorry, I have a book to finish.” 

Next time: Journaling and Simplifying










Home | MCWC | Member News/Links | Upcoming Events | Writing Tips | Meeting Agenda | Favorite Links | Contact Information | In Memoriam

 Copyright 2005 Medina County Writers Club.
For problems or questions regarding this web contact the Webmaster.
Last updated: 05/20/05.