For the first time ever in my life, I am lucky enough to have an office in which to write. An honest to goodness room of my own, just as Virginia Woolf suggested. A room that is upstairs, with big windows that look out over our backyard, our vegetable garden, our (currently swaying in an oncoming storm) crepe myrtle trees. A room that I have, as of Sunday night when we finally hung pictures on the walls, decorated how I want, switching out curtains to lighten the room, hanging my diploma and a bulletin board and a large frame of my first published magazine story about restaurants in the Outer Banks. I bought a new desk months ago, and a chair I could stand sitting in longer than 15 minutes.
A room of my own, exactly how I want it. And you know what? It makes a difference.
It’s not necessarily the room, though I think it’s nice to have a dedicated space that’s specifically for working. I have written in many places: outdoors, in the library, in bed (a lot), on couches, at coffee shops. When I lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts, one summer as an intern at the Fine Arts Work Center, I claimed an antique desk as my own, pushing it up against a window that faced out onto the parking lot.
My desk at my old apartment was an unfinished door that I propped up on two shelving units. That door is now re-purposed as a sort of bulletin board where I storyboard my novel (or have, twice, story-boarded my novel).
Rather, perhaps, it’s not just having a room of my own. But it’s having a personalized space. As a blank room, it didn’t inspire me. I had to decorate it. I had to make it mine. I had to fill it with good luck charms like a “Sugar Says” poster on the wall. I needed my Cape Cod rock. My boss at the Fine Arts Work Center picked them up along the shoreline and gave one to me, telling me it was good luck for writing. It sits on my desk next to my computer.
When my grandmother passed away, she willed her old sewing table to me. Her original Singer sewing machine is inside, and on top, I have placed her old typewriter, on which my mom used to write her school reports. Beside it, I keep my grandfather’s Navy-issue suitcase from when he was in World War II, usually propped open and sitting on top of a green leather footstool that I used to stand on to help my Grandma wash dishes, not yet tall enough to reach the sink.
I even have a live cat that stays close to me, sometimes guarding me, sometimes doing his best to get in my way, to make writing a bigger challenge.
These objects become relics, talismans, good luck charms. These familiar objects help me because they bring with them my memories, my identity, my personality, my heritage. My history. My family. My heart. So a rock isn’t just a rock, and a suitcase isn’t just a suitcase. It’s lucky. At least it is to me.
And it all makes me wonder: do any other writers have good luck charms, relics, talismans? Do other writers have special hats or sweaters or objects or decorations? What helps you write?