Monday, January 5, 2015

on being a writer: arrange



In February 2013, my daughter and I lived in an apartment in Montmartre, Paris, for 10 days.  Spacious by Parisian standards, the apartment contained one bedroom (where I slept) and a good-sized living area with a kitchenette, a queen sofa-sleeper, and a dining area that doubled as a writing space for my daughter.  The apartment was warm, inviting, and very simply stocked.  Everything we needed to prepare and eat meals was there, but not too much extra.  I often looked around, pondering how much easier, and how freeing, how inspiring, it would be to keep a home that was so simple.

Every morning, I journaled at a wooden writing desk in the bedroom.  The grainy surface of the desk, the scratching of my pen across paper, and the texture of the aged wood floors under my socked feet, sealed the sensory experience of my records that rushes to my consciousness with the slightest trigger or call.  Even the memory of riding the coffin-like elevator from the fourth floor to street level and stepping out onto the cobblestone streets sends me into a giddy escape. 

I still dream of Rue Lepic.  For a time, Van Gogh lived at 54 Rue Lepic with his brother, Theo.  Artists and writers drunkenly stumbled and loved and cheated and created along those streets ages before me.  I can hear the clop-clopping of horses and the click-clackling of the wagons behind them, sometimes darting to the curb to avoid getting run over by their ghosts.  Aromas of chocolate, coffee, bread and the sweetest fruits mixed with cigarettes and wine, no matter the time of day, entice even the sleepiest, unhungry palate for just one sip, just one bite, and then one more.

Returning home after our travels, Tori and I were on the verge of major life transitions; she, heading off to college in NYC, and I, in a new season of singlehood.  I didn’t realize I was preparing for a move of my own, but I started to offload household items anyway.  Over the 16 years we lived in that house I had collected pots and pans, kitchen utensils, doubles, triples of things, glassware and dishes, decorations and furniture…I didn’t realize how much was there, because I had the room to neatly store or house it.  Now it was time for a change.  I had a vision of that Parisian apartment, and I wanted to live into it.

It was really so much fun to give things away, where they would be better used.  I prayed over the items, prayed for the volunteers handling the items and the people who would receive them.  I thanked God for His abundance.  Even after months of giving stuff away, I had more than enough, but was surrounded by just the things I loved.  I was thankful to be in a position to give, and mindful of the times I had a need that someone anticipated and met.

Then, last January, it was time to GO!  I moved to a condominium a few towns west, not as small the Parisian apartment, but closely resembling it. For the most part, this space is mine. (Just don’t tell Lucie, my cat, that I said it that way).  Thankfully, some weekends and school breaks when Tori comes home, we are making new routines and memories together, too. 
  
*****

As I settled into my new home, I left a lot of open space to allow new living habits to develop.  One conscious choice was not to set up a “home office”, for several reasons.  Firstly, I own my own business and have an office to myself just a few miles from where I live, and I tend not to bring work home with me.  Secondly, I wanted to test the need for that type of space in my new area, or see if I could integrate it somehow into the general living space.

This past year, I wrote at the dining table, at the computer workstation, sitting on my sofa; basically, wherever I landed for the allotted time.  Although I was able to produce when the ideas arose, a structured writing life did not emerge.  After reading through Chapter 2,  I realized I do have a need for a dedicated creative space.  What to do?  I really missed my desk from the old place.  It was a simple Ikea put-together, but a had large, flat surface, too big to fit anywhere now, or so I thought.  It had been sitting in my basement, waiting to be relocated.  The only possibility, after a careful survey, was in my bedroom.  Pushing all of the furniture about 3 feet to the window wall opened up a perfect space to fit my desk.  It was like Santa came down the chimney with my desk for Christmas morning! 

*****

Now I have been reunited with my desk, and the space is separate from the household workstation I established elsewhere.  No bills or errands to list here.  Just an easy plugin for my laptop, a few seashells from my latest winter beach excursion, a repositioned lamp, et voila!  Under the glass I have a few of my favorite photos, and to the upper right edge is a stack of books that I use to keep me moving deeper and forward with this craft.

When I look at this space, I breathe.  It’s a lovely feeling. And when I think about writing more regularly, I am ready to make that space in both my home and in my schedule.  I’m still working out the specifics, but I also enjoy the freedom to let a process unfold.  I’m a good meanderer, un veritable flaneur

I do plan to blog a narrative post, something other than poetry, once a week for the next three months.  These posts are hard for me!  I start them all the time, but abandon the thoughts before they are complete.   I have also found a writing partner to hash out the road blocks and cheer me along.  We are not working on the same projects, but we have taken online classes and know we work well together.  I’m excited and encouraged about that!

*****


Even if you are not a writer, or don’t intend to pursue writing in any way, I am sure you have places in your life that can use some off-loading.  Even good things can be a burden, or a block, to a new focus or endeavor.  Read along with me over the next three months.  Maybe you will want to make that next step wherever it may lead.  Let me know?

10 comments:

  1. Looking forward to reading about your writing adventures in the new space.

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    1. Thank you, Maureen! That means a lot to me. :-)

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  2. Love the way you describe the physical act of writing while in Paris. So sensory! I really enjoyed this Michelle!

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    1. Thank you, Donna! I bet we could make a good dent in a meal or two there...:-)

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  3. What a wonderful descriptive piece! Your time on Rue Lepic sounds, uh (forgive me) *epic.* :)

    How I want to have that same generous approach to off-loading stuff to make space throughout my home. That craving for simplicity nudges me to load up boxes often to donate, but not often enough. One day ... one day ... I want to live with lots of white space for my imagination to dance around. Although you know I don't think we need to wait for ideal conditions before writing, I do think our spaces affect us more than we know and thus we will benefit if we tend to them.

    I really enjoyed this rich reflection. You inspire me.

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    1. Thank you, Ann, as you have inspired me! :-)

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  4. Oh my, when I clicked the post image it enlarged to show me so much more detail… sorta like one's writerly journey, aye? That trim around the desk edge is unusual. I've not seen anything like that, but I like how it lends itself to layers and textures and even a rim.

    Look at this! You're on chapter 2 -- and I just started the intro and chapter 1 of a different TSP title. Let the journey continue!

    And you'll never not ever guess where my desk station is… because we have nothing in common. ;-)

    Blessings.

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    1. Hmm...I bet I CAN figure out where it is...;-)
      giddyap!

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  5. Michelle - Your rich descriptions and loose grip in stuff are inspirational. I used to be less connected to a single work space than I am now. Thought I do find it to be a very productive place for me. But right now, I am sitting in the living room with my laptop. Something I do very rarely. I like being here with everyone else.

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    1. I spent many years working, whatever the task at hand was, among the people in the living room and the time was rich~enjoy it! But yeah, the need for a single work space...a must!

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