Find a place you trust . . . Part II

A private space

Photo copyright Ev Bishop

The Saturday before last, I wrote about Rule 1 (Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while) from Corita Kent’s Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules. This week I fully intended to explore one of her other wise instructions, but realized I wasn’t finished with finding that place you trust (or it wasn’t finished with me).

I previously thought of the place she refers to on inner terms: finding that place within you that wants to create, allowing it room in your life, and having faith that it will always be there within you, ready when you are. I still think that’s the most helpful reflection on the quote (for me)—yet a literal, physical space also strikes me as very important.

I know other writers who can pile up plots, twist story threads, and ponder deep thoughts in coffee shops, on buses, in parks . . . you name it. Their muses seem to spring to life and find amusement anywhere and everywhere. Not so for me.

Perhaps ironically, creative spontaneity is more likely to hit me when I plant my butt at a specific time, with great regularity. The more disciplined I am in carving out time and adhering to it, the more wild my imagination and flights of fancy seem to be. I don’t really understand that . . . but it’s how it works for me. And the same can be said about having a private space to work that’s all my own—that people don’t interrupt me in, that I can trust is for my eyes only.

One of the greatest gifts I ever gave my writing (thanks to my husband’s ability with a hammer and saw) was my own work station in my old house—a corner nook in the heart of the house, that, literally, put my nose in the corner for my writing stints. Now I have an actual office. With a door. I love—and I need—to be able to shut the world out, while I go inwards.

The idea of people watching me work and wondering what I’m up to is intimidating, makes me self-conscious, pulls me out of whatever world I’m trying to tread into. Random questions, or, worse—gulp and blech!—requests to “share” a piece in progress shuts me down. Doesn’t inspire at all.

One of the most damaging things I ever did to my writing (twice, before I learned!) was to share first a long short story, then later a novel (much worse!) with a “first reader” (different people each time), before I felt the stories were ready to be read.

It took a bit to recover, but I learned a valuable lessons (why are those often so painful?). I not only need a private, physical place I can trust. I need a private emotional place. This is very subjective and personal, but I have no interest and see no value in having young drafts responded to, let alone critiqued. But you learn what works for you as you go along. . . . Other writers swear by a more shared “process.” Still, I think, most writers would say that first drafts especially require privacy. That they, at least need to be able to choose when and if and how the bit of their souls they put into print are revealed.

So yes, for me, the place I need to find, keep and trust that Kent refers is both figurative and literal, but I’d love to hear thoughts on this. Do you need a private place to work, or do you like public/shared spaces? And when it comes to projects . . . do you workshop and share as you go along, or do you, like me, prefer to wait ‘til the story is solid, quite close (sans final cutting and polishing) to what you envision the finished result will be?

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