Sues Blog

A Room for an Author

On Monday I began my third round of the 30 day writing challenge called WriteYourselfAlive. Each day includes some inspirational quotes and some prompts for writing. On day 3, the prompt suggested writing, with lots of sensory detail, about our favorite writing space, actual or imagined. This is mine. The real deal. An author named Annie Dillard feels that writers should work in basically empty, not very comfortable, completely uninspiring spaces that will not distract them from the truth of what needs saying. I’ve enjoyed some of her work quite a lot but I don’t think I’m going to her place to write!

Bill says I am a cat. (Orange tabby. Nice wide face. Not the pinchy-faced kind. Huge sea green eyes. Twitchy tail.)

For 25—almost 26—years now I have prowled around the various places we’ve lived, trying to settle on a spot in which to write. My spot. The best spot. We change the purposes of rooms, decreed by builders in the days of Leave it to Beaver. We move furniture. I try to settle in.

The light isn’t right. It’s too loud. Too cut-off. Too in-the-middle. Too many interruptions. Not enough connection. Too far from the kitchen. No place for the dog. (I’m only sort of a cat!)

We change. We move. So often, the process has a name. Furniture Yahtzee!

We’re close now. Closer than we’ve ever been.

Cozy lamplight morning and evening. Random collection of lamps. Edison bulbs. Warm-ish but not sharp. Skeletons of shades, the fabric stripped off for more light.

And, by noon, sun. (Though not today.) Two skylights. The round kind with the prism covers that fling rainbows around the room. West-facing windows. A whole wall of them. Hung, but never covered, with deep gold toile drapes I adore. Fifteen minutes—about 4:30 on a winter afternoon—of sun directly in my eyes. A benediction. (Though not today.)

“Eclectic Urban Farmhouse” furniture. Mostly tables and shelves, cobbled together from antique bits and galvanized pipe legs. Old wood, well waxed. Faded paint. Functional memories.

White walls softened with artwork. My quilts. Pictures of my kids. Folk art angels. Bright colors. Nothing perfect.

Books everywhere. Shelved neatly. Stacked precariously. Sprouting gardens of little sticky flags. Seed catalogs jockeying for space just now with ever multiplying black, spiral bound sketch pads. My journals of choice. And, these days, a couple of books are my own!

Though, what helpful soul put Alice Waters next to Alice Walker next to Alice Hoffman???

My sewing machine lives here, too, for my other art is quilting. Waiting, almost lurking. It’s been feeling ignored for far too long. Though there is hope. Today I cut fabric.

Blacks, creams, greys, lots of sunny yellow, a smattering of dark moody blues, and just a glimpse of vivid red. Lots of dots. And typography prints. Odd, for baby quilts, perhaps, but I can’t help myself.

An old back table from an operating room. Stainless, on wheels. The perfect height for cutting fabric.

It’s a challenge, this room. Or, rather, I am the challenge. Knees. Hip. Back. Shoulder. Wrist, too, at the moment. None of them made for writing or sewing.

Accomodations. A recliner chair, tricked out with more buttons than I can manage, of the so ugly it’s almost cute variety. Bought in a panic. Book deadline looming. In it, with a laptop perched on a pillow and all the angles just so, I can write for more than 10 minutes and still be able to get up, which is good, because it’s only a few steps across creaky, unvarnished oak floors to the magic tea faucet in the kitchen.

And back. Hands wrapped around a Fiestaware mug, Sunflower yellow, with the fragrant steam of Organic Dancing Leaves green tea curling from the patina splotched interior. Writing and quilting are much more fun than scrubbing tea mugs with baking soda!

Oh! Can’t forget the dog bed. Big. Ugly brown and tan memory foam pad. Just the right height for dog TV in front of a window. Big, brown and white Newfoundland dog, snoring gently, wanting to be near me.

What would make it more perfect?

Easy! All the same stuff in double the space! I’m fond of white space and there’s not much here, for this room isn’t just about words and white paper. It’s also about symbols and memories and aspirations. It’s about making room for what is so that what might be might be.

Not so big, though, that I’m too far from the kitchen. Somebody has to listen to the cauldron bubbling deep, garlic-y bone broth and stay alert for the sudden whiff of roast chicken that promises perfection!

A few more light sockets. A wireless printer.

And one more thing. Just one. I really, really, really want the Sirius radio to finally work right. Sixties on Six. No skips. No nails on a chalkboard buzzing. Just the music that beats with my heart. A promise that familiar still exists in the midst of the chaos of newness which spreads like ink every time I pick up a pen, lost for some time with hot tea and rain pattering on the skylights. (Today.)

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