Feeding the Writers Spirit A Practical Guide
By Carolan Ivey
Part Two: Claiming Your 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
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
Then, it was time to
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
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.
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...
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