Thursday, February 24, 2011

Claiming the Closet

I’m writing this morning with my laptop balanced on a nightstand stolen from my daughter’s room. A chair hauled up from the kitchen fits in front of it, with just half an inch to spare. The nightstand is so wide, I have to straddle it. My back is against the wall. My husband’s clothes are brushing my left arm. You see, I’m in a closet in our bedroom. It’s approximately six feet long by three feet wide, not a tiny closet by any means, but not very large, not the kind of place most people would look at and think "Hmmm, wonder what it would be like to work in there?" Its best feature is a very long window, just a bit wider than my computer. It looks out to our front yard where we have two lovely maples and a pear tree, which will soon be bursting with white blossoms.

I know this because when we looked at the house with our realtor last spring, one last time before making our final decision about buying it, that tree was, in a word, glorious. There was a breeze that day that shook some of the blossoms down onto my three-year old daughter who responded by spinning in circles and saying, “Look, it’s snowing!”

Well, what can I say? Cue the music, because we knew this house was ours. Call it intuition, call it simple-mindedness if you want, but I believe in that feeling that tells me something is “right.” This house, I knew, from the first step inside, was “right.” Nine months later, I’m even more sure of that. My office space, however, has never been “right.” It consists of a corner desk in our finished basement, which is also a play area/guest room/storage space/cat hangout. A couple nights ago, I tried to go down there to write. First, I stepped over a hairball. Next, an obstacle course of stuffed animals and plastic bowling pins. The kids, in their ever helpful ways, had removed some of the books from my bookcase and left them in a loose pile. It was dark. It was stinky (the litter boxes are down there, too). I got so cranky, I gave up.

And that’s when I started eyeing every spare corner of this old house. I have to tell you, it feels cozy here in this closet, wonderfully cozy, not claustrophobic at all (thanks to the window). I can watch the neighbors walking their dogs on the street below, as opposed to watching the wall in the basement. Listen, I know writers can, and do, write anywhere. Over the years, I’ve written and revised my first book in my office at our old house, on the couch, in bed, at a coffeehouse, at a Bed and Breakfast with Amish buggies parked outside.

But, I also know that, for me at least, physical space matters. It affects my mood; it affects my creativity. I’ve been in here an hour, and I already feel more optimistic about my work. I’ve had some false starts on my work-in-progress. Maybe I just needed a change of space. Instead of thinking outside the box, I’m going to try thinking inside it. I’ll keep you posted.