A Room of One’s Own: The Importance of a Writer’s Environment

Virginia Woolf believed that in order for a woman to write fiction, she needs two things: money and a room of her own. Woolf lived during a time when women rarely had their own income or a space they could call theirs so this was apt advice at the time she wrote her famous essay on the subject.

Now, times have changed and while equality of the sexes still has a long way to go, women have come a long way in securing those two vital things that Woolf believed was essential for writing: money and property. Nevertheless, Woolf’s observation remains relevant to all writers today. Writers need an income to support themselves while they are working on their manuscripts and they need a space of their own to work without interruption. In a world of constant interruptions and financial uncertainty for many, these can still be difficult things for today’s writers to acquire. Even if a writer does have her own space to work, it may not be the perfect space that she would choose if she had the option.

What would your perfect writing space look like? Mine would be a small home library. The room would be just small enough to be cozy without feeling cramped. The colour scheme would be pastel blues and yellows accented with white and wood floors of a light colour, perhaps pine. Floor-to-ceiling white bookshelves in a sleek minimalist style would house all my precious tomes. There would be a white desk with plenty of storage for my gadgets and notes sitting in front of a large window with a nice nature view. I’d have a new, high-end laptop sitting on the desk, equipped with my best friend, Scrivener. There would also be a cozy armchair with some sort of vibrant floral print and a coffee table for my reading sessions. Maybe I’d even have a Keurig or Tassimo in the room for easy access to caffeine, but now I’m just indulging in flights of fancy.

In reality, I write sitting on my bed with my old clunker of a beat-up laptop resting on a makeshift portable desk in my lap. The walls are a hellish hot pink, the carpet old and stained, there is minimal storage and my bookshelf can’t hold all of my books. I have rows of books in front of rows of books just trying to cram them all in. I do, however, have a large window with a beautiful nature view, so it isn’t all bad.

I imagine many writers just like me struggle with having to write in a room that may technically be theirs, but doesn’t feel like theirs because it doesn’t suit their personal style. Being in that room doesn’t make them happy. How does a writer reclaim a space they don’t enjoy being in to make it more conducive to their writing? I’ve struggled with this myself for a long time now and it was only recently that I started developing some small strategies for claiming ownership of a room I’m actually not very fond of.

Of course, I would love to paint the walls a nice eggshell blue like I dream about, rip up the carpet and replace it with pine wood, and install floor-to-ceiling shelving units for my books but that takes a lot of time, money and DIY know-how. I needed a simpler, easier solution. Here are the two main things that helped me the most:

Keep Your Space Clean

The first solution might seem obvious but you’d be surprised how many writers forget about mundane things like cleaning when they’re invested in a manuscript or struggling with mental health due to being in an environment they dislike all the time. Clean. Your. Writing. Space. Often. Every week, at least. Vacuum or sweep the floors, dust off all the surfaces, organise any scattered objects lying around the room, wash any fabrics like throw blankets, infuse the room with a pleasing scent of your choice using incense, candles, or synthetic air fresheners. If it’s a nice day, open the windows and let the scent of fresh air and greenery permeate the room. Trust me, the nice smell makes all the difference. When my writing space is dirty and cluttered, my mind feels dirty and cluttered, too, which causes my emotional state to suffer, which decreases my motivation to write. Cleaning my writing space helps keep me focused and feeling good in my surroundings. Own your space by taking care of it.

Add Your Personal Touch

Having a clean space to write in is wonderful, but does it really feel like your space if it doesn’t have anything of you in it? My writing space had bare walls for years, leaving my eyes with nothing but that horrid bright pink that I imagine Lucy from The Heaven Corporation would coat the walls of Hell with. I decided if I couldn’t paint the walls a different colour, I could at least cover them up with artwork that I actually enjoy looking at. I’ve started putting up both my own artwork and art from local artists that I’ve picked up at various local festivals and artisan markets. It makes a big difference. Now looking at my walls doesn’t make my eyes bleed anymore. I actually smile when I see all this art that I picked out or created myself. It makes me feel like this room is mine and not just four walls I happen to spend time in. I didn’t stop at wall art, either. I’ve also adorned my bookshelf with small trinkets that make it feel more personal and added faux flowers for some extra colour. The bottom line is, whatever makes you happy on this earth, fill your writing space with it. Make it yours.

I’ve attached some examples of little personal touches I’ve added to my writing space to truly make it my own so feel free to click through the brief slideshow for some inspiration. Click on the circular thumbnails to get the full view and captions about why I added that piece to my writing space.

I hope I’ve helped you find a room of your own to write in this week.

Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias

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