Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Creating a Space
About thirty years ago I was in a Creative Writing course at Utah State taught by the late Ken Brewer. Ken was the state's Poet Laureate when he passed away last year with a fast life-taking cancer. He was one of the most inspirational teachers I've ever had. One thing I remember him saying is that you needed a space to call your own to do your writing. It should be a place free from distractions and somewhere dedicated to writing.
At the time that was a pretty impossible thing for me. I was sharing an apartment with five other girls. Our apartment was often the gathering place since we had the largest living room on Darwin Avenue, right behind the LDS institute. Boyfriends, friends, and others would gather at our place for dances and parties. We would put on Dolly Parton music and my room mates would teach me and others how to do the country swing and how to waltz and do the two-step. With all that was going on, there wasn't a quiet spot. Sometimes I'd find a corner in the LDS institute, or outside on the lawn, or in the Merrill library to write for class.
Now thirty years later, I have my own office, but instead of using it, I most often do my writing in the kitchen. I sit on a chair that should be hauled to Deseret Industries, and type my stories on my lap top, with my feet propped out in front of me. But it's quiet, or at least free from distractions. Our children have been out of the house for several years now. I can even hear the gold finches outside my window, my neighbors coming and going, and the occasional cat meowing at my door. It's my space and I love it.
Another important space for me, and one that requires much more is my pottery studio. My first pottery space was in my parent's basement. Then when I attended USU, I hauled my wheel with me and placed it in the Art Barn. I still use the same potter's wheel. It was a top of the line Robert Brent and I've had it for thirty-three years and it still works beautifully. After we got married, finding a space to throw was more difficult, but my husband always tried to help me find somewhere. In our first apartment, I threw pots right in our kitchen. Later in unfinished basements, or under the stairs, or outside in the garage. None of the places were ideal. Then when we moved to Paradise, and I rented the old post office. It was perfect. I used it for about seven years. Recently though, we purchased some property to build on. The property had been a pig farm lots of years ago and had a pig shed on it. The pig shed had been converted to a quilting studio and then was used for storage. Right when I peaked inside I was excited. It already had cupboards, and shelves galore and behind it a lean-to with a cement pad--perfect for kilns and glazing.
My friend Sherry helped me pull up the carpet and clean out the mouse dung. Then in the dead of winter I made my first mistake and sealed the cement floor. Now six months later the floor is still tacky, but oh well, now its covered with clay dust anyway. The cupboards although nicely built were a baby blue. I didn't love them, but could live with them. However, Ginger, my 23 year old daughter thought we could really brighten up the place. We painted the cupboards kind of a terra-cotta orange in the background and a split-pea green. The blue paneling became a bright yellow with the terra-cotta trim. We moved things around and still have to paint the outside (now peeling pink) and put up display shelves and my new space is done for now. We also have some larger windows to put in. It's amazing what paint can do to make you feel excited to work in a place. Again, it's my space and I love it. Within another six months we could be moving into our house on the same property.
Finding space can sometimes be daunting. I have author friends who carry around their laptops or notebooks and write while they sit in doctor's offices. They've written several books in these snatched times and less than ideal places. I can't seem to do that, but if I could have, I probably would've started my career at least ten years earlier that I did. No matter what your situation, don't let not having a space keep you have being creative.