Virginia Woolf said a woman must have a room of her own if she is to write fiction. I am grateful to have such a place on the top floor of my home. My writing studio has a door I can close, even lock, and large windows overlooking the street. I savour the enclosure, the feeling of privacy I enjoy in here. I can venture inward and also look outward at what is happening in the world, on my street anyway. I don’t mind the sounds of summer, lawn mowers and children playing that filter through the wide open windows, or the scratch of leaves being raked in fall, or people excavating their cars from the snow, shoveling their driveways, the plows roaring through my neighborhood during our long Northern winter.
When my children were small and life was hectic, sometimes I would retreat to my room just to daydream, to reconnect with myself as an individual beyond the rondo of rocking, feeding, changing my babies. Even if I did not write a word, it felt renewing and expansive to just be in this space alone and recharge.
I have a big old-fashioned mustard-coloured armchair that was my late mother’s. It’s comfy and keeps me connected to my mom and is a favourite place to read or to edit work. When I’m not sitting in that chair, my Brittany Spaniel Xeno is curled up there keeping me company until his next walk.
When I lived in New York, I bought my desk at a discount office supply place and I love how huge it is, over six feet long. I can lay out notebooks and pages, journals and books for reference, as well as display mementoes, photographs, and tchotchkes that make me happy. You’ll see new items, like the tiny pair of pinecones I found hiking in Jasper this past summer, as well as very old things, such as the Valentine my younger child Rosamond made for me in Grade 2 and the unusual paperweights my older child, Tobias, sculpted for me in elementary school.
I keep an inspirational framed August Wilson quote on my wall which says, “What happens all too often is that we run from the parts of ourselves that we least recognize. You have to be willing to stand up to that and push beyond it. That’s where your writing takes a leap.” Wow. I believe in these words and reading and re-reading them gives me strength in creating, which can be terrifying.
I keep lots of books in my writing space, as well as copies of my own novels and short story collections, and journal publications. This is a reminder in the rough early draft stages of a project: I can do this!
Though I do plenty of writing in here, I do a good deal of thinking, or writing in my head, while in motion: walking, hiking, and especially, swimming. I will swim anywhere: the ocean, a lake, a pool. I’ve gotten many of my best ideas and epiphanies while swimming, such as a motif that became a crucial part of my latest novel, In Many Waters, or the deep nature of the connection between Collier and Rachel, the two main characters in my TNQ story, Male and Female Created He Them. Writing often springs from the constant flow between inside and outside.
Ami Sands Brodoff is an award-winning novelist and short story writer based in Montreal. She is at work on a new linked collection, The Sleep of Apples.