creating space, from the outside in

Vestiges of fall lay on the ground in bits of dried leaves, acorns, weakened limbs, and memories of a landscape once in vibrancy and motion. A blanket of frost covers it, encased like a tomb to be nudged by a dawning sky and the promise of sun.

I was out for a hike in the early morning when I saw a new landscape . . .

striking me as if it had evolved overnight.

Light pulsed through trees standing naked in a monocromatic carpet. The sky was void of any canopy. Silence was cavernous as birds have fled, and dry air rushed in. The spicy scent of decaying leaves had dissipated.

I tasted cold.

Fall had halted, and winter was soon too follow.

. . . revealing nothing but open space.

I was in contradiction; my spirit was willing to pierce the openness, tread with pillows of crunchy leaves underfoot instead of mud like quicksand, and discover nooks and crannies among the fallen landscape. Yet, the flesh desired to refrain, to be bundled, wrapped from the cold of an emerging season.

I thought about how I looked at my physical surroundings, and what effect it had on me. How inspiring a robust season had been—dense, brilliant color, swirling leaves, and breezes sending it all into a frenzy, exhilarated by the natural world’s seasonal change. And now, a pale scenery, stark and still, dry on my face and in my mouth.

Yet spacious.

Calming the energy I once felt.

After I returned home from that morning’s hike, I retreated to my writing space. But before I even fired up the computer, I considered the space, and after a contemplative stare at it, I realized it was no longer serving me. I had grown to feel confined and perhaps not as productive or inspired as I had come to rely on when working there.

Why was I looking at my writing place differently, and all of a sudden?

I wanted the same feeling of openness sitting at my desk as I had when standing outside that one morning. I desired that feeling of spaciousness to be with me, here.

Born from a desk to pay bills, write letters, send emails, and file insurance documents, my writing space was a busy one, a multi-tasker, as it had everything to do with domestic maintenance and management and less with inspiration and creativity. I was okay with that . . . once upon time. Now I see my writing space as a desk too big for a small nook in a guest bedroom where guests don’t stay much anymore, but I do, to write. A single file drawer’s frequent use has made its rails rusty and more difficult to maneuver with each push and pull. Next to the desk, a heavily burdened library cart-like bookcase overflows with a growing second collection of books. There’s not much of a view ahead, but a couple of Chagall and F. Leger circa 1960’s prints from the house where I grew up hooked on a wall painted in Martha Stewart vanilla-ish Wheatberry. My neighbor’s pebbly grey siding, and a six-foot weathered fence separating our yards is in my peripheral vision through tall windows on my right side.

After many years writing here, I had grown encumbered, stifled perhaps, unconnected to the very thing I sought in my writing in this dual-purpose small room. I didn’t feel like the space was mine; it didn’t belong with my work, and my work didn’t feel as if it belonged with me.

I thought about our spaces and what effect they have on us. How they may change our moods, our emotions, our contentment in them or wishing for a change of it.

“Everything you see, touch, smell, or hear contributes to the sense of space—and your sense of space contributes to your creativity,” says artworkarachive.com. We should use our senses as a guide to connect us to the present moment—where creativity lives. Everything in our spaces should allow us to be in the moment or drive us back there.

Ah, yes, using our senses . . . in the moment.

Connecting with the natural world in a newly discovered open space was being present. Where limbs of leaves once camoflaged a grazing deer, hid chickadees, held herons nests lost in the high sky, now were out in the open for me to see.

Creating a sense of space where I work was about bringing things out into the open.

I now have a new desk with more area to spread outlines where I can see the progression of a story I am working on. A new five-shelf bookcase allows me to easily search for and grab craft books. A rocking chair is nearby, in front of the window, to sit and read by natural light, hear birds nesting in song under the eaves, feel the sun’s reflection off the siding of my neighbor’s house, warming my new writing space.

I can move more freely now because of the spaciousness I desired here, taking a sensory cue from the outdoors, in.

When intrigued by the effects a sense of space has on us, I came upon a post by Jared A. Brock, “100+ Famous Authors and Their Writing Spaces,” in The Writing Cooperative.com. I found how well, large or small, elaborate or plain, the authors wore their spaces. Sharing with you a few favorite author quotes and photos of their writing spaces.

VIRGINIA WOOLF

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

ANNE FRANK

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

BOB DYLAN

“Get outside. Get out into the world, man! You wanna read poetry, look at the stars. Light a candle and write under the new moon. That’s when The Operator comes to whisper the Secret Words to you.”

E. B. WHITE

“Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about Man, write about a man.”

JACKIE KENNEDY

The deep desire to inspire people, to take an active part in the life of the country… We should all do something to right the wrongs that we see and not just complain about them.”

ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Never compete with living writers. You don’t know whether they’re good or not. Compete with the dead ones you know are good. Then when you can pass them up you know you’re going good. You should have read all the good stuff so that you know what has been done, because if you have a story like one somebody else has written, yours isn’t any good unless you can write a better one. In any art you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better, but the tendency should always be upward instead of down. And don’t ever imitate anybody.”

WALT WHITMAN

The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment — to put things down without deliberation — without worrying about their style — without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote — wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught

6 thoughts on “creating space, from the outside in

  1. Great anthology of writers and their spaces. I often to the the local library when I am seeking a new space. I agree that a writer’s space should be multitasking, if possible, particularly with a bed! If you rarely have guests, make the space primarily a writing space and secondarily a guest bedroom. Think of Virginia Woolf and a “place of our own.

    Liked by 1 person

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