Patricia Burroughs: A Closet Of My Own

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Once again, we welcome author Patricia Burroughs to Magical Words.  Patricia Burroughs loves pooks glassesdogs, books, movies, and football. A lifelong Anglophile, she treasures her frequent travels in the British Isles researching The Fury Triad, the epic fantasy that has taken over her life and heart. She is a Nicholl Fellow, a proud member of Book View Café, and a fifth-generation Texan. She and her high school sweetheart husband are living happily ever after in their hometown of Dallas, Texas.

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

–Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”

 

When I first started writing, I had three young sons in a three-bedroom house. No place for an office.

My ‘office’ consisted of me and my typewriter (oh hush, yes, it has been that long ago) on a small folding table in the corner of the bedroom.

Later, I decided to turn the built-in vanity by the master bath into a desk and heaved my typewriter onto it (which kind of created tense moments when I was writing my first sex scene and kept embarrassing myself every time I glanced up at the mirror and met my own eyes).

Eventually, I bought one of those pressboard combination desk/bookcase office pieces from Office Depot and put it in the den, facing in toward me, with the ugly raw pressboard facing everybody else. I felt a kinship with Les Nessman and his duct-tape-on-the-floor office walls, if you remember WKRP. It gave me the closest thing to privacy I could create in a crowded house.

Sometimes I moved the whole setup into the living room. Or the den. Or back to the living room.

I kept moving it around from place to place over several years and several books, a move generally being a sign that my writing was blocked and suddenly moving my ‘office’ into a new location was the Absolute Only Thing that would help me get unblocked, as in, “I will go crazy and scream if I have to sit in this spot one more second, no wonder I can’t write!”

But during all this time, I had an idea. Nobody took my idea seriously, mind you. I kept telling people about it, and they just rolled their eyes.

I wanted to turn the closet into an office.

Finally the day came when my Dearly Beloved agreed to empty our ‘vast’ (4×6 feet) walk-in closet for me. We ripped out the built-in shelves and clothes rods. Finally I was left with an empty 24 square feet, painted a pretty turquoise, with white trim. I bought 3 inexpensive white bookcases and put them U-shaped around one side of the closet, and put my small office supply store desk against the remaining wall. Finally, I squeezed my rolling chair in.

I sat down.

Facing straight ahead, I was facing my Mac. All I had to do was spin in any direction, and I could reach any book on the shelves, the squeeze was that tight. Okay, if they were high, I had to stand up to reach them. But seriously, I never had to leave my chair (nor could I; there was no floor space); I was surrounded by my research materials, business supplies, favorite keeper books.

I had an office of my own.

PatriciaBurroughs_ThisCrumblingPageant_600pxSince that time, my kids have grown up, moved out, and left me a 10×12 bedroom to use as my office. Ironically, now that I have it, it’s often stuffed to the gills, an ‘inbox’ where I stick stuff that I am not sure what to do with. I muck it out from time to time and enjoy the space, but you see, I still regularly hit that, “I can’t write another word in this space; I have to go somewhere where I can think/not see housework/insert excuse here.” And now, I just pick up my MacBook Air and go to the dining room, the living room, go back to bed, go to Starbucks, go to the local TexMex restaurant (where WAY too much of This Crumbling Pageant was written, as my waistline will attest), claim my booth and settle in to write.

With the advent of the laptop, the need for four walls, for a desk, is less intense.

But you want to know the irony?

I have never written in any place as perfect as that closet of my own. That first time that my writing was given Priority and my need for space to do it was treated as Real.

How does this fit into This Crumbling Pageant? There is no doubt which room Persephone Fury would make her own.

The numbness was creeping back into her fingers. “I think I shall have a rest,” she said and would have left quickly to hide her unsettled state had not her brother Cosmo entered at just that moment.

Poppet,” he said. “Just the brilliant mind I’m seeking.” He offered his hand. “Could I press you into service for the afternoon? If an afternoon in the duke’s library appeals.

She shot to her feet. Aubyn’s library? She’d been wanting time in there since they’d arrived but had been warned against appearing too odd, and a young lady perusing volumes in the duke’s library was odd, indeed.

Cosmo tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. “We’ll take the back stairs, why don’t we?”

Of course they would, so she would be seen entering the library by as few people as possible.

Whatever your dream, your goal—you can’t make it real if you don’t make room for it. You have to fight for that room, defend that room, and finally make use of that room once you establish it. That doesn’t only mean creating a physical space where you can pursue it or embrace it. It means creating time, as well, which means giving up other things, even things you love, even things that are worthy. If you are going to achieve your dreams and your goals, they have to have room to live and grow.

What dream are you making real? What have you given up or claimed in order to do so?

 

 

 

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7 comments to Patricia Burroughs: A Closet Of My Own

  • “That doesn’t only mean creating a physical space where you can pursue it or embrace it. It means creating time, as well, which means giving up other things, even things you love, even things that are worthy. If you are going to achieve your dreams and your goals, they have to have room to live and grow.”

    Just love that. I’ve been fortunate, in that my wife has always insisted on setting aside space for my office, even though her career is a good deal more lucrative than mine. So my offic eis really my dream space. Roomy, comfortable, with a wall filled with book shelves, a spacious desk, and even a fold out couch so that it can be a guest room when needed and a place for me to “meditate” when nap time rolls around . . .

  • I’m fortunate enough to have my own physical space–it’s writing time I have to work on/worry about. I need to be more protective of my writing time, even if that means dropping other things, or maybe just scheduling my time more effectively. Still working on that.

  • I think the hardest thing is winnowing out activities and commitments in order to have time to devote to writing. Just because it’s worthy doesn’t mean it’s necessary for you to do, but letting go can be hard.

  • Razziecat

    My writing space….is in my head. Slap on the headphones, cue up something intense enough to block out the TV in the next room, and off I go. Because the dining room/living room combo is the only place in the house I can plug my computer in. When I get a new machine with longer battery life, I will probably be able to move elsewhere, although there aren’t a lot of possible other spaces in a small house. And finding time for it is the other problem, of course. I get about three hours writing time on the average weekday. I have been spoiled this week because I’m on vacation time. There’s no question that certain things get put off so that I can write (housework, I’m looking at you!), but I do come up for air now and then 🙂

  • Razziecat, good for you! I’ve spent many, many hours at Starbucks and similar places with earplugs in my ears, writing. Because nothing that happens there is my problem!

  • What an awesome post. Really resonates with me, especially this: “It means creating time, as well, which means giving up other things, even things you love, even things that are worthy.” I’ve been trying to get my real-life writers group to understand that I want a closed group of >dedicated, committed< writers. They're afraid to close membership. As I see it, after a hair shy of three years in the group, they're a changing, loose collection of hobby writers. Now that's well and good if that's what you want, but I'm willing to give up other things to concentrate on writing. Writing is not a hobby for me.

    *sigh* It's good to connect with dedicated writers online!

  • Owllady, it seems you have two options. First and most important, find [or form] a group of dedicated writers online or in person. It can be two or three people or larger. But do it. You need to surround yourself with like-minded writers at this point. As for the current group, keep it IF it gives you something that is worth the expense of time and effort, and IF you actually have the time and effort to expend. Otherwise, wish them well. Good luck! I’ve been there and done that, and it may not be easy, but it is worth it.