Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Clean Desk = Sick Mind

Virginia Woolf extolled the virtues of "a room of one's own." Dorothy Parker simply needed room enough "to lay a hat and a few friends." Annie Dillard cautioned that the writing room should be "a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark."

None of these women had preschoolers. The idea of having a room all my own, for writing stuff, fills me with unmitigated joy and glee. And the ridiculous mockery of a pipe dream.

My writing space? Yer lookin' at it. Or rather, yours is the approximate size of mine, which is the size of an average computer screen. Actually, a little smaller, as I'm on a laptop. Somehow, with the extra bedroom, the toyroom, the study (aka Mr. Xandra's Fortress of Solitude, or at least, Fortress of Leave-Daddy-Alone-For Five-Minutes), Mom got left out.

First, there was a hunk of the toy room, a charming alcove with a closeable secretary, complete with nooks and crannies for paper, writing utensils, a nice little platform for the laptop, and a bit of storage for some modest promo items. Right in the same room with the kids, I could keep an eye on the little rugrats and still have an "office." Well, the secretary's bottom shelves went out of use and became a depot for Lego starships and crayon bins. And the main shelf now houses art paper and the paints which need to stay out of reach of the younger one for the sake of my carpets. Mom's been kicked out of the toyroom nook.

Mom tries next to invade the Fortress of Leavemealoneforfiveminutes. The effort is at first a success based on a strategic invasion powered by shock and awe. But I didn't go in prepared for siege. The toys crept in and very quickly, I was booted out. But then again, so were the toys, proving that it can indeed be done.

For the next several months, I was sentenced to the kitchen. The edge of the counter island, fighting for the space with the toaster, the mixer, and George Foreman's Fat-Bustin' Grill (Junior Size). Sometimes--I even got to sit on a stool.

Twenty extra pounds later, I put my foot down. All that camping out in the kitchen meant I was constantly snacking, and so were the kids. I made a concession and moved into the breakfast room at the table. Finally, a chair, with arms, even. Until the cold set in and a room full of windows with a Northern exposure did great to keep my chipset cooled down, but it's damn hard to type when you can't feel your fingers. Ten more pounds and I put the other (swollen) foot down. No more trying to set up writing space near the kitchen. There's too much temptation and I did not sign up to be a short-order cook for everyone who wanders by.

I made up my mind. I was going to take over that spare bedroom. It's been acting as a library of sorts, although the move from our old house (and its built-in bookshelves) to the new one (and its bigger mortgage) meant that "library" really meant "room where books are stacked all over the floor and stuffed into the closet and lining the walls and windowsills." So about two months ago, I joined Weight Watchers, grabbed two of those book stacks and a piece of pine shelving from the garage, and marched into that spare bedroom. Now, courtesy of Robert Jordan's propensity for long and involved fantasy epics (mayherestinpeace, bless his soul), and George RR Martin's determination to follow in his footsteps, and maybe a Norton Anthology of Literature or two from my college days, I now have the makings of a desk. I stole the chair from my son's room. It is uncomfortable, but functional, if I put down a pillow and sometimes prop the heating pad up behind me for my lower back.

"Aha," you think. "So she finally did find a room of her own!" quite. It's still the guest room, and gets regularly invaded by the grandparents on pilgrimages to see their grandchildren and stuff them full of cheez doodles and cheap, rip-off-the-fillings candy and pop. And spending any stretch of time in there usually ends abruptly with a thud, a shriek, crying, or the sound of something with many pieces being smashed or dumped over a railing, or any combination of the aforementioned. And now that it's getting warmer outside--or at least, the glaciers are receding, leaving behind a green-topped mudpit that looks deceptively solid and dry, there's no way I can merrily type away in a place where my only view of the Great Outdoors is a window. However, I have dropped twenty of that thirty pounds.

Officially, I'm a nomad. I move from room to room, seeking out a convenient wall outlet when I can, hoping for a chair or pillow or soft place at least, to sit down and hold the laptop on whatever lap I can find. And yes, sometimes it does wander back into the kitchen, which is why the last ten pounds are coming off just a bit slower than I'd like.

In the midst of all this, when I look back at what I've written, I wonder how on earth I got writing done (and I have, even if nothing's come out for ages). It's no small wonder that I haven't got the vast quantities of writing I wanted to have done. But I'm chugging away, and even if that pace is slow, takes more skill to hit a moving target.

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Lynda K. Scott said...

Boy, Xandra, I thought I had it bad with my computer located at the foot of the stairs, lol. All I can say is you've got fortitude, woman. My hat's off to you :D

Xandra Gregory said...

LOL Lynda. I will prevail. Someday, My Little Pony and Legos and Star Wars People will stay in the rooms they were put in.