Monday, February 28, 2011

Bird House, indeed.

My post from the Liars Club Blog is below. Check out the Liars Club for steady stream of info on writing and the writing life.

My husband and I moved into the house intending to share the tiny, dark den off the living room. It seemed reasonable enough: couldn’t anyone who managed to share a bed and a bathroom share an office?

I would use it during the day, to write, and he would use it late in the evenings, to pay bills and catch up on emails.

The problems began immediately: I wanted to paint it a pale color; he loved the dark green. “It’s the color of money,” he smiled, and I frowned. I’m a writer, I responded, what does that have to do with money? Turns out the color was the least of my decorating worries. Every night I left him alone in the office, unpacking, puttering, and every morning I would wake up to some strange thing hanging on the wall or sitting on the bookshelf.

Paintings of ducks flying across a meadow. A carving of a pheasant he did in seventh grade. Pictures of his friends from high school. Watercolors of golf courses. A trophy he won in a sledding competition. Then, a freaking television appeared.

He was turning my office into a man cave!

I confronted him. “I can’t work in there,” I said. “It’s dark and filled with golf balls and f’ing birds!” He pouted. There was no space for his stuff, he said. He needed a place for his stuff. I struggled to understand what he was talking about – in my view our whole house was already overflowing with crap. I’d grown up in a modern, ‘60s style Brady Bunch house where there weren’t even magazines on the coffee table. I wanted less; he wanted more.

When I thought more carefully, I saw his point: he was living with four women, after all. (Even the dogs were girls.) He’d probably reached his limit of pink and lavender. And everything I liked was pale: white, beige, pale blue or green. He wanted his darkness, and there was only one room available.

So now I have no office. No desk. No tether. I move from room to room, depending on the light or the level of noise. When I’m on a diet, I stay as far away from my own kitchen as possible. When there are workmen on my street, I retreat to the local library or a coffeehouse sometimes, just to break things up. When I have to go to New York or DC on business, I write on the train, which is one of my favorite places. I make “writing dates” occasionally with other writers and go to their houses.

A lot of beginning writers seem to think they can’t get started unless they have their own office. People attach something holy to the altar of the desk. I know better. Writing isn’t done at a desk, or in a room. It’s done in your head. And sometimes that means you’re writing on a walk, or in your car, or in the shower.

You don’t need a desk. It could be argued that all you need is paper and pen. And what you don’t need is a room full of flying ducks.

Note: Kelly Simmons' new novel, The Bird House, has nothing to do with her husband's duck prints.

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