This past spring, Rob and I finally tore the walls and
ceiling and even the rotting linoleum out of the Hobby House and put in
insulation and new walls, ceiling and floors. The Hobby House is a small, one-room house in our back
yard. It has one window, one door,
one room and electricity. The
concrete stoop in front of the door says, “Hobby House 1963”. Someone, long before we lived here,
felt the need to build a place separate from his or her house to spend some
time creating. What they created,
I don’t know, but I understand completely their need to do so.
For years, we used the Hobby House as a storage unit, which
like all storage spaces at our house, quickly became a junk hole stacked high
with things we no longer need or use and a home to numerous mice, bees and the
occasional copperhead. It was a
So we tore it all out, hauled stuff off, and redid it. For a while, we debated on the actual
purpose for which we were clearing all this stuff. Would it be an office, Rob’s bike shop, a bunkhouse for the
kids and their friends, a workout room?
What it finally became, thank goodness, was a room of my own.
I bought an old desk from the Habitat shop and painted it,
moved all of our art supplies into a cabinet, also from the Habitat shop,
stocked the shelves with paints and crayons and paper and beads, and sat my
laptop on the freshly painted $20 desk.
I also hung some photos, random pieces of art and threw in a colorful
rug and a cozy armchair. It became
my room for early morning writing and afternoon art with the kids. It has even become a makeshift yoga
studio and quiet reading nook in the evenings.
All summer, I got up before the sun, made my coffee and
headed out to my little house for a morning of writing. I can’t explain the difference this
change of venue has made in my creative endeavors. I still have the off days when all I write is pure trash,
and some mornings I end up only writing in my ragged journal with its scrawled
handwriting and kooky doodles, but for the most part, I feel grounded and ready
to work whenever I enter the door.
Virginia Woolf knew what she was talking about. One must have a room of her own if she
wishes to accomplish much of anything.
I was writing before we redid the hobby house, and I’m writing now, even
as my laptop is in California undergoing repairs for the second week, but it’s
not nearly as much fun. Without
the laptop, I’ve had to write every morning in our home office on the giant
gargantuan screen that is Rob’s computer.
(Rob believes in big.)
Aside from the dust that is gathering by the inches along the back of
this desk and the laundry that is piled within my line of vision in the living
room, there just isn’t the same creative vibe in here as there is in my little
I understand now why most artists want to work in a studio,
even if that means a spare room in the attic or basement, rather than at the
kitchen table. A room of your own
lets you spread stuff out, leave it where it is for a while, and make a mess,
which I’ve discovered is pretty much essential to any creative pursuit. That, and it’s quiet.
In the hobby house, I don’t have to worry about waking
anyone up or fool with the spastic dogs or hear Rob when he gets up to take a
shower. It is completely quiet in
the hobby house; there is a stillness that, as well as the ability to let go
and make a mess, is also necessary when writing, painting or whatever. My quiet mornings have become my
favorite part of the day. They
seem to set the tone for the rest of it, and I can tell when I’ve missed one.
I know that not everyone has a ready-made house in their
backyard, but I do think that it’s not out of the question for everyone to
carve out a little space that is just for them. Even kids have nooks and crannies that belong to them. Don’t you remember crawling into the
back of your closet with a good book and a flashlight, or snuggling down behind
a hay bale in the loft of the barn and listening to the rain on the tin
roof? I do. I remember little places, rooms that
belonged to me where I could be alone and read or draw or just sit for a
while. Sometimes they were in
buildings, sometimes they were in laurel thickets, but always, they were quiet
and I was by myself. I don’t know
if those things rank among food, water, air and love for basic needs, but I’d
say they’re pretty darned close. Everyone–
men, women and children– need a room of their own. Otherwise, how can anyone ever expect to know himself?