A woman must have…a room of one’s own to write.—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
As a woman who writes from inside a busy home with three kids, a partner who is on call most of the time, and a deep awareness of the ongoing social injustices of our time, Virginia’s demand for women to have a room of their own sends a vibration of truth through my whole being. I’ve often brushed off my own need for space as desperate, unnecessary, or demanding but the truth is we all need space. I need space to write.
Writing is the way I’m working to change the world. It’s the way I think, the way I imagine more and better for myself and others, it’s the way I push back against injustice. But even if you aren’t trying to change the world with your writing, if you want to write you need space. And I’m not only talking about physical space. There are different kinds of space and you need a little bit of each to get any kind of writing done.
A room, a corner, a chair, a table at a coffee shop, a park bench, a bedroom with a closed door, an office, a writing shed, a whole empty house if you’re going to write you need somewhere to do it. Having a physical place where you can be undisturbed while writing is the foundation of everything.
Choose a space, set it up, make it happen. Dedicate that space to your writing. I’ve had to have serious conversations with my family about staying out of my space while I’m writing. It doesn’t always work (let’s be real, four-year-olds have a hard time with boundaries) but it works some of the time and that combined with creative timing means that even as a busy mom my writing corner is all mine for a small part of the day.
If you want time to write you need to make it happen.
I’ve written before about how to find the time to write. The essential thing to understand is that if you want time to write you need to make it happen. You need to make it a priority. A lovely pocket of undisturbed, unoccupied time is not going to fall into your life. You have to decide that your writing is important enough that you will set aside time to do it.
My writing time matters. The kids need to be fed, the laundry needs to get done, and I need to write. It’s right up there at the top of the list. It wasn’t always like that and when I pushed my writing aside and waited for there to be enough time, I never wrote a word.
Schedule writing into your day. Set boundaries for yourself and others around your writing time. Don’t schedule things at that time, don’t allow interruptions, don’t use that time to do other things that feel “more important.”
Having time and physical space to write are useless if you haven’t carved out the mental space in your own head to use them. This was the hardest and most important part for me. Until I sorted through my own feelings and beliefs about the value of my writing I wasn’t able to make it a priority and I wasn’t able to set boundaries around my physical writing space. Once I chose to believe that my writing mattered, everything else was easier.
Once I chose to believe that my writing mattered, everything else was easier.
Give yourself permission to be fully present while you write. Leave feelings of guilt or that you should be doing something else outside your writing space. Value your writing. Honour it. Give it the respect it deserves.
Take Up Space
And so here I am, writing. It’s early Saturday morning, my husband is out hunting, the kids are watching a movie, and the breakfast dishes are all over the kitchen. I’ve created this little pocket of space and time for myself and I’m using it to write. I’m writing because it matters to me, I’ve given myself permission to be here. My words and I are taking up space in the world and I’m proud of us.
How are you making space for your writing?
I’d love to hear from you!
Laurie MacNevin, HF Associate Editor
Laurie is an editor, writer, and researcher. Her deep love of stories led to an Honours degree and a Master’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Originally from Southern Ontario, Laurie has lived in Manitoba for more than ten years, exploring the stories, landscape, plants, and people of some of the most remote parts of the province including three years in Churchill and two years in God’s Lake Narrows First Nation. Laurie and her family now live on an acreage outside of Carberry.