Virgina Woolf, that beautiful genius, proclaimed that for a woman to write, she required a room of one’s own. Man or woman, we should all be so lucky. The reality is that most of us share our living space with another creature – sometimes many of them.
Ideally we all have a Writer’s Room, complete with a locking, sound-proof door and a window overlooking misty fields, sparkly city lights, or the vista of your choice. But never fear – if I can journal in a 300 sq. foot studio I share with another human and a needy feline, you can, too.
I assure you it’s not necessary to have a private room to successfully keep a journal. But it is important to create a space that is yours alone and defend it like a crazed animal.
If square footage is at a premium, you may find the stuff of life encroaching on your space – mail, homework, keys, cats. Especially in the beginning, it’s important to remind those with whom you live that this is your space alone.
1. Take Over a Closet
A closet can make an excellent writing space. Although this seems like an unimaginable luxury right now, my last apartment had two closets in the bedroom. Neither was very large. But I don’t have a lot of clothes, and I was able to cram all my textiles into one closet and wedge a tiny desk in the other. The closet even had a sliding door, so when I was done writing, I could quarantine that portion of my life and keep it safe from the rest of the world.
2. Defend Your Desk
If you have a dedicated desk that can’t be partitioned off, at least make it yours alone. Inform those around you that they need to find another space to dump their receipts or eat their PB&J. Personally, I’ve found a large “NO BOYS ALLOWED” sign effective.
3. Create a Collapsible Writing Surface
Another option is to install a wall-mounted, drop leaf table. Ikea has some great options for smaller spaces. The benefit of using a fold-down or fold-out surface is that when you’re done writing, you can put it away so other material doesn’t accumulate on your writing space and when you sit down to journal, it’s always ready to go.
4. Hide in the Loo
I’m not too proud to cozy up to the toilet and write. I did my fair share of bathroom composition growing up because it was the only door in the house that locked. (Until I brought home a very large boa constrictor, and my parents installed a deadbolt on my bedroom door.) You don’t even need to tell anyone what you’re doing in there. Heck – you could fill the tub and multitask your journaling with a therapeutic soak.
5. Create a “Virtual” Space
Presently I use the kitchen table when I journal at home. This means I have no walls to hide behind, nor can I lay claim to the space 24 hours a day. So I’ve created a “virtual space.” You can do this using headphones and very clear rules for those around you. “When I am wearing my headphones and sitting in this seat, you must pretend I do not exist.” You don’t even have to plug the headphones into anything – they’re just a visual cue for those around you (and they muffle the whining).
It may take a bit of reinforcing in the beginning, especially if you have kids. Make a table tent or sign to remind folks: “Do not interrupt me unless there’s fire or blood!” You could even make a game of it for the kids. When you’re sitting on the bed, you’re on Goal, and you’re surrounded by an invisible force field that will turn intruders into stone. Get creative. And assure them it’s only for half an hour or so.
If you are consistent about enforcing the rules, everyone will deal when they realize you’re serious about this.
Hopefully this will help you eliminate the excuse of “But I have nowhere to write!” I’ve had dedicated writing rooms, off-site writing rooms, card tables in closets, and a miniature desk in the galley of a houseboat. It’s possible to stake your claim anywhere. The beauty of journaling is the freedom to write anywhere, as long as you have paper and a pen.