Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Writer's Life - Where We Do What We Do Best

This is the view from my garage; this is the view from my House of Sky. Two summers ago, with the support of a poet friend, I renovated my one car garage into my writer's studio. It is the best decision I've made in a long while. After almost twenty (gasp!) years of writing and publishing poetry, I decided to allow myself a designated writing space. Why did it take me so long?

There are several wild and perhaps helpful aspects of the story I want to share with anyone contemplating their own writing space.

1. It changed my writing. Yes, if I was going to spend money and time to create this magical area, I needed to write better. At least that's what I think happened. The poems I write in this space are palpably different. I seem able to go deeper into my work in this place away from time and space.

2. Renovating the garage - hiring people to insulate the roof and walls, finish the window frames, paint (inside and outside) and put in a gorgeous tile floor was cheaper than getting a small part of the garden landscaped. Really. The entire renovation was under $5,000. Most of this was paid for with a writing award.

3. When I started talking to friends, I found out that many writers have a shed or a garage or some small space away from their house where they write. If we have a room especially for sleeping or eating, why not a room especially for poetry?

4. Saying yes to a writing space was a way of more deeply committing to poetry. There were so many voices in my head that said I wasn't worth such a splurge; that my writing doesn't pay the bills or make me famous. What if I gave up writing and started scuba diving next week. Then what?
The truth is that I feel like I have finally made a life-long commitment to my work. Finally.

5. I had never ever done a house renovation project before. I used Angi's List as a way to feel comfortable with hiring folks and all but one were fantastic. I made changes on how I wanted it to look as I went along. 1/4 of the space is walled off and used for storage. The lovely blue door you see leads to bicycles and garden tools, my sixth grade scrapbook. It was good to leave a little part as it was so I can see how transformation is a real thing.

6. It's still a garage. I purposefully left the gray cement along the bottom of the walls and the electric garage door opener is still in place. I didn't want to get too high and mighty about it all. This magical space is only as good as I make it - and that means writing more and aiming higher.

7. Do you have an old garage with good light? What deserves it more - your car or your writing?


  1. Wonderful, thanks for sharing. I shall have a look into my interiors as well as exteriors and find a special spot for myself...not easy, but it should work... if you did it after 20 years, I should take the example and maybe be faster? have a good day! Ginster

  2. Ginster, Yes, don't wait twenty years. Life is too short not to do what's important. Let me know what you find!

  3. I'm blessed with a generous husband and a "mother-in-law cottage." My husband actually uses the cottage as his man cave and office. I use our only spare room, which has three giant windows and a view of several old, old trees, although we live in an older part of the city where lots are small and neighbors can see into each others' houses fairly easily. I have to have a window and natural light to write, so this works out well.

    Love your pictures Susan and hope to take some glamor shots of my own space soon!

  4. This post has heartened me, Susan (and such a lovely space yours is!). My husband and I share a rented 2-bedroom (and therefore share a home office - NOT helpful for writing, I'd might add), so renovations are out of the question... But I've been looking at off-site office/studio space to rent, as I agree that having a dedicated writing space helps one to go deeper with one's writing. I hope to have my own writing space at home one day!

  5. Mari, Do it! There is something about making the financial and physical commitment to a space that will strengthen your sense of yourself as a writer. Of course I only know you through your poems and our on-line correspondence, but I feel sure it would benefit you. Can you do a month to month kind of arrangement? I have a friend who rented a studio apartment in Seattle as her writing space as it was cheaper than renting a writing space!
    There are so many different ways to do it.

  6. Susan, agreed about a dedicated writing space strengthening one's sense of oneself as a writer. And the contained solitude allows me to go deeper and more easily into reverie, which is how most poems arise for me. The Bay Area is pricey, but I'm considering my options and hope to have something in place w/in the next few months. Thanks for your support and encouragement! Of course, nothing can quite beat those cottages (and lunch baskets) at Hedgebrook... Alas.

  7. ... and I like that Olena Kalytiak Davis's book is included in your photo.

  8. Thanks, Mari!
    I love that book and I read it in the garage during the first week that the garage became a writing studio.