Lately, I’ve been thinking about spaces and how important they are to what we’re able to accomplish as writers.
Let me explain. There have been times in my life in which I’ve been frustrated beyond belief because I’ve attempted to fit a certain-sized project into a certain-sized space, and it wasn’t a match. Once I was able to step back and see that the time wasn’t right for that particular project, due in large part to space logistics, I could let go and accept. “It’s not that I’m not supposed to do X project, but this may not be the right time — the appropriate writing space may not be available right now.”
It’s exciting to have an idea for a project, to feel we alone can take on that particular project, that our life has been leading us toward that project. But I also think we can easily be misled and frustrated trying to jump into a writing hole that isn’t really there — not yet anyway.
This is sort of a hard concept to convey, so just stay with me, if you will, and I think you’ll get it (assuming you’re scratching your head).
When I was a mother of really young children, I did not have an interior “writing space” large enough to write a full-length novel. I wrote picture books and magazine articles. These I could manage in the brief writing spaces at my disposal. That’s not to say writing picture books is easy. But it was something I could start, leave, and come back to, again and again, without losing a lot.
The point at which I began writing my memoir, I realized my writing spaces had changed somewhat. I could expand beyond the shorter stories and create the space I needed to sustain my attention from Chapter 1 until Chapter 22. But even then, I was working with material that already existed. It was more a matter of rearranging it and putting a creative spin on it. Even though it required commitment and a juggling of priorities, I was able to make it work. The non-fiction writing space for a book-length work was at my disposal for that period in my life.
But I don’t yet have the space it takes to diligently pursue a proper home for it. That takes sustained effort. I can make small jabs at it, but a full-out attempt isn’t possible right now. My writing spaces are taken up, currently, primarily by my freelance work, which is real bread and butter for my family. That takes priority. Anything left over is fair game, but it’s got to be the right project for the space that exists when everything else has been tended to.
I hope I’m making sense by now, because I think this is crucial to the writing life, and something many writers bump their heads against at one point or another. Just because you don’t have the right-sized space for a particular project right now, or even a particular phase of the project, doesn’t mean that space won’t come in time. But sometimes that’s what you need: time. We writers, especially if we’re going to be successful, must be patient with ourselves above all else.
Our writing spaces are always in flux, depending on what else is going on in our lives. For me, the job of raising five children requires a lot of space right now, so my writing spaces are limited, though not nonexistent by any means. I take the spaces I do have and try to make the most of them. But I’ve finally come to the important realization that the novel I’ve been wanting to write may not happen for a few more years. The right-sized space for book-length fiction isn’t available at this point in time. But I look forward to the day it will be.
I’m okay with all of this. In fact, I feel freed by the realization that certain spaces fit with certain phases of life better than others. The important thing is not to become discouraged when writing spaces don’t match up with the will, but to pull back and see what spaces do match, and then to use the spaces you do have to be the best writer you can be today.
Q4U: Have you ever been frustrated by a lack of a match between will and available writing space? How did you come to terms with this discrepancy?