My writing space is – finally – relatively spacious. After our daughters moved out of the home we’ve lived in for 20+ years, my partner and I each took over one of their former bedrooms, abandoning the adequate but far from ideal office spaces we’d used for the first decade and a half – basement (chilly and slightly mildewy) and a room off the kitchen (often noisy and full of house-traffic).
My space is now painted a sunny yellow, has plenty of light, and is crammed with things I love to have close at hand. Bookshelves of course: poetry flanking both sides of the desk, fiction (authors A-Mc) along another wall, and a small shelf with various places where my work has been published (including THREE issues of TNQ!). Artwork, including the first original art I ever bought (a wintery water colour), illustrations from fairy tales and children’s books, two favourites among paintings by my late mother-in-law, a couple of pieces given to me as gifts, a line drawing entitled ‘Shy’ that people have said looks like me, and some palm-sized prints by Chris Tse and Manahil Bandukwala pinned to the end of one of the bookshelves.
Lotsa tchotchkes (or mathoms as I prefer to think of them, after hobbits’ collections) grace the tops of the shelves, and most other surfaces. I have cloisonné and pottery that belonged to my mother, craft projects my children made for me, small gifts, and objects that I somehow acquired and that seem to belong. Spirals abound, in a carved stone fossil ammonite dish that holds two other ammonites, on a silver dish where I keep a spell-bottle my niece Nicole made for me, and on a ceramic bowl with a collection of buttons. Family photos, tote bags with meaningful logos, various assemblages of feathers/stones/shells/dried flowers…
I fight a constant battle with paper, trying to keep things more or less under control so that clutter doesn’t frazzle the edges of my concentration. I recently gave away, to a grad student acquaintance, an old desk from the basement. But getting rid of it meant that its jam-packed contents spent several months in boxes stacked around my writing room. Conquering the chaos by sorting and finding space for all that stuff in the closets and drawers in my room felt like a major accomplishment.
Of course, not all of my writing happens here. Most of my pen-and-notebook work is done in an armchair, either in the living room beside my ‘to be read’ stack of books and magazines, or in the room off the kitchen, which now houses the M-Z fiction bookshelves along with the TV. But the writing room is where I sit, at my insufficiently ergonomic desk, to do the real work of revising and fine-tuning my poetry and fiction, as well as writing pieces like this one. It’s also where I take care of the business part of writing – research (aka getting lost down internet rabbit holes), submitting to journals, such self-promotion as I feel comfortable with, staying remotely connected with writer friends, and spending almost certainly too much time on social media. I’m grateful for the privilege of this space, the touchstone objects I’ve filled it with, and the comfort and inspiration of the memories they evoke.
Photos provided by Frances Boyle