Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rituals: Fighting Entropy

By Kerry Schafer

It occurred to me this week, while reading my sister whores' wise and wonderful posts on ritual, or the lack thereof, that it's time for me to dig in my heels again and create a barrier between me and the rest of the world. A fortress, you might say, because sometimes it feels like the minute I decide to sit down and write, the universe conspires to prevent me.

Much of this occurs with my permission, I confess, and some of it because I'm very good at the Martyr Complex:

~hand to forehead~ Oh, woe is me, why must everybody need me to do something when I am trying to write?

Seriously, though, it often feels like I'm fighting a failing battle against forces of entropy directed specifically, and personally, at me. My first novel took me ten years to write. Most of it was written at a desk situated squarely in the middle of the kids' play room. Those of you who have experienced small people will know exactly how that worked out. My schedule does not lend itself to routine - no two days of the week unfold the same. Writing time happens where there is time and energy. A lot of this I can't change. What I can do is organize and streamline so less time is wasted on fighting off the chaos.

At this house, there is no separate office space available to me. The first year or so we lived up here, I worked at the table in the open area - right next to the TV and the XBox and the food preparation. But I'm learning, and as I was focusing more and more time and attention on writing, we decided to put a desk in the only possible separate space, the Mud Room. This at least separated me from the rest of the family by a door. A glass door. But still a door.

However, no changes were made other than to shove a desk into a space that already had a life and a purpose all its own. Clutter and chaos continued to abound, and I found myself avoiding writing here because it felt like sitting in a coat closet, fending off the powers of chaos (my own and everybody elses') with energy that could have been put to a better and more creative use.

I chose a day this week when everybody was away - the Viking sailing the high seas of enterprise, the kids off at school - so there would be no questions, arguments, criticisms, or other discouraging comments from the peanut gallery. And I began to turn the mudroom into My Writing Space:

Yep, the shoes are still here, as are the coats. But there is considerably more space for me and it feels, as it was meant to, like a space for writing. Inadvertently, I even created a special spot for my feline assistant:

I'm still not done, of course. I need to hang the bulletin board. The filing cabinet is crammed with junk that needs to be shredded. But this is progress - an affirmation that the writing matters to me, if nothing else. I can draw a deep breath, and it feels like a place where writing should happen.

The next challenge - creating time. I'll let you know how I do with that one.


  1. I feel your pain, Kerry! Still waiting to get a room with a door on it. My desk sits behind the living room couch and seems to be the family's dumping grounds for things needing to be fix/ handled/paid/ called, what have you. Yeah, I avoid it like typhoid Mary.

    Good for you claiming a space and sending the message that your writing is important!

  2. I hear you, I'm still trying to get into a space/routine with writing. One of these days I may be tempted to move my computer desk from the office room to the back bedroom (the cats' room currently and possible future guest room).

    That's great how you reclaimed the chaos of the mudroom into a more productive space. And that's cool how your assistant found a spot to.

  3. Just *love* the kitty sitting in the basket. That's a very special blessing on the space. I'm excited to see how this works for you. Long ago when I made a dedicated work space - we had to convert a former coal bin to do it - it made a huge difference for me. Suddenly the writing became "real."

  4. Furry companionship in a basket makes it a lot easier to reach the keyboard...'specially when the basket is on the other side of the room.

    Cute little kitteh

  5. I am doing a happy dance for your writing space, Kerry!

  6. Jenna, I spent most of my writing life under those conditions - I know exactly how that feels. Hoping your door comes soon.

    Claire - I somehow think this battle to carve out time and space affects a lot of writers.

    Jeffe - the writing has been real for quite some time, but it gets realer every time I move it up the priority list. As for the cat - she's part blessing, part curse.

    KAK - Ha. Like she'll *stay* in the basket. Don't let her cuteness fool you - she was named GDC for a good reason.

    Thanks Johanna. Me too. Hoping to get some of the filing system organized this weekend so I can keep the chaos at bay.

  7. Love your space! Especially the window.

    I think that there's a lot to be said for making a space for writing. It does something to the subconscious - by giving writing real estate in the physical world, I think that it also creates space in one's head to work. It makes it "real."

  8. I love your new writing space! Seems appropriate somehow -- somewhere you can get down and dirty with your characters and plot. ;)

  9. I would love a dedicated writing space - good for you for getting yours. :)

  10. You did a great job creating a space. I have the luxury of a separate office but currently the dog and puppy have invaded and are fighting over a toy. I can't wait to hear how you create more time. That's the tough one. Seems like when I have the time, exhaustion is the next issue.