Ten years ago, when I was a fancy rich person, I turned a sun-drenched bedroom in my fancy house into a writer’s space. Actually, my ex-husband decorated the room. He thought he knew more about decorating than I did, and I thought he knew more about decorating than I did, and besides, if I didn’t let him and his mother choreograph every aspect of our lives, things got a bit tense.
So I would sit in the room that had been decorated for me and swivel in my Aero chair, past my L-shaped desk, and scan the titles of the books in my floor-to-ceiling bookcases. When I needed inspiration, which was every ten minutes, I’d gaze out the window onto the backyard and watch water from the blue-tiled jacuzzi stream into the the black-bottom kidney-shaped pool below.
Fluttering in my gilded cage, I would labor over pleasant first-person essays and generic articles for women’s magazines. I had all day to labor because Prince and his mother insisted I have a full-time nanny to care for my children in case I had a sudden urge to take a yoga class, or meet a friend for lunch, or do something to distract myself from the fact that I was astonishingly unproductive. Every so often the anaesthesia of my pristine existence would wear off and I would be wracked by shudders of self-loathing from living a fraudulent life.
My marriage was a sham. I was a dilettante. I had nothing meaningful to say. Actually, I had a lot to say, but I was too afraid to say it. I was afraid to admit that I stayed miserably married because I suspected my husband and his ruthless family would disembowel me if I left, which, of course, they did. So I hid out in my Eden of a writer’s space having a functional nervous breakdown until my writing imploded, along with my wits and my marriage.
After my divorce, my two children and I moved into a bungalow with about 50 years’ worth of deferred maintenance. I still had some money and some vanity at that time, so I remodeled the house. Full disclosure: I remodeled the house with the assistance of a contractor and my ex-husband, who had helped me buy the house since I could not afford it on my own. Per our agreement, he set the budget for the remodel and allowed me to make the creative decisions. He still needed to control me, and I still needed his approval. Despite technically ending our marriage, we remained tied up in toxic knots.
My contractor converted half the garage into an office that overlooked telephone pole wires. Workmen laid paver’s tiles on the floor and painted the walls red and yellow. I squeezed my L-shaped desk and Aero chair into a narrow strip of a writer’s space in which I did virtually no writing because I was exhausted from going to school, working part-time, raising two kids and defending myself against Prince’s public, slanderous remarks, which ranged from my poor choice of powder room paint color to the “fact” that every one of our son’s problems was entirely my fault.
Per our agreement, we dissolved our real estate partnership when I got remarried. That was a really fun process that stretched out for a year and involved a real estate attorney, a renegged-upon buy-out and a last-hoorah attempt to screw me out of $20,000. After that good time was over, Atticus and I moved into an old craftsman house in a funky neighborhood. Given that neither of us are rich people, and any money we have is routinely sucked into the vortex of post-divorce litigation, our decor is best described as genteel decay.
In our once-grand home, all the bedrooms serve as bedrooms and the dilapidated carriage house stores my L-shaped desk and Aero chair. My “office” is really the butler’s pantry. I perch myself on a dining room chair with a view of cups and dishes. My laptop sits on a counter, sharing space with wine bottles, piles of papers that I may actually file one day, and occasionally, a cat.
Here, in this clutter that defies every law of Feng Shui and decorating dictate of Prince, I started writing again. Feverishly. Compulsively. Honestly. I steal pockets of time, blogging early in the morning before I take my daughter to school and at night after she goes to bed. I have been far more productive in my downwardly-mobile writer’s space than I ever was in my swanky office with a scenic overlook. I’m no longer constrained by what others think of me or my writing. Writing keeps me sane. Living honestly keeps me writing.
When my daughter goes to college, I’ll turn her bedroom into a real office. I’ll dust off my L-shaped desk and Aero chair and place them by the window, where I can gaze at the jacaranda tree that erupts in purple blossoms in the spring. I’ll throw some art on the walls, file my copious papers in a cabinet. But I’ll always be sentimental about my cramped, makeshift blogger’s space. It’s where I learned to piece the shards of my life back together again, one word at a time.
Intrigued by the notion that writers need a dedicated work space to craft their stories, I intended this post to kick off a series called Blogger’s Space that will showcase the places other bloggers choose to blog. At a desk in an office? On your lap on the bed? Over iced coffee at Starbucks? Does where you write affect how and what you write? Send a photo of your blogger’s space, a brief description of why you write where you do, and a link to your blog to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll feature you on Blogger’s Space.