by Deborah Raney
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
–Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
I started writing to help put our kids through college. But it’s a good thing I hadn’t read the above quote by Virginia Woolf before I wrote my first ten novels.
Because, you see, I didn’t have a room of my own then. My first three books were written in the eat-in kitchen at a small antique oak table, which was the only table in our four-bedroom duplex. Each day, when my husband and kids got home from school, my little Mac Classic computer got moved to the floor in the corner, with research and reference books stacked on top so we could set the table for supper. And breakfast. Once everyone headed off to their respective jobs and classes the next morning, back the Mac went on the table, and I was up and running for another day.
When our oldest son went to college I had a chance, for the very first time, to have a room for a dedicated office. I thought about it for a while and decided I rather liked working in the hub of the house. Having family drama and teen angst and toddler tantrums and true love teeming all around me was conducive to writing about those things.
So we turned that extra room into a TV room where my family could sequester themselves while I wrote. And I moved a new farmhouse table to a corner of our living room and set up my office there. I wrote my next eight or nine books at that makeshift desk surrounded by all the chaos a family of six-in-a-duplex can create.
After ten years, I had a dozen published novels, and we had three kids with college degrees–and a four-year reprieve before our youngest followed in their footsteps. So we bought a house just outside a tiny town in Kansas. And this time I happily accepted the opportunity to have a dedicated office–a room of my own. My sunny office had a lovely fanlight window overlooking the front yard where I could watch for the UPS man and the mail. It had a bookcase and file baskets and a wall where I could display my book covers. It had a door that I could close on the chaos that even one teenager at home seemed to create.
Now we’re in the (quite lovely) empty nest years and I feel like I’ve come full circle. We recently bought a house in the relatively big city of Wichita and I’ve chosen the space the architect intended for a formal dining room to be my office. We’ve never been formal people anyway. I write exclusively on a laptop now, so my new office has a loveseat and comfy chair and a coffee bar with space for my collection of more than fifty mugs. The “hub” of our home is remarkably quieter these days, but I’m still in it, happily writing away. And now that every nickel I make isn’t going to some college, I even have a tiny bit of money. (I think Virginia Woolf would be pleased.)
Still, I’m reminded every day that a “real” office was absolutely not necessary for me to write a publishable novel. In fact, some of my easiest-to-write books came long before I had a dedicated office. One of the great advantages of a writing career is the fantastically low overhead. All you really need to be a writer is a laptop (or even a pencil and pad) and a spot–whether it be your favorite recliner or a porch swing or a table at Starbucks–where you can let the creative juices flow.
DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Since then, her books have won the RITA Award, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Deb’s 23rd novel released from Howard/Simon & Schuster in May and she is currently working on a new five-book series for Abingdon Press Fiction. She and her husband, Ken Raney, recently traded small-town life in Kansas –the setting of many of Deb’s novels–for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.
This is a great post, thanks for sharing. I live in NYC where space is at a premium – my husband and I both have desks in the bedroom, but I’m often traipsing to libraries and cafes for writing time. Sometimes I gripe about not having my own space, but the truth is that I DO get the work done! Great perspective, thank you.
We lived in New York when we were first married, Kate??but that was before I started writing seriously. Still, like you, even now I sometimes head to a coffee shop with my laptop to write. There’s something about “writing away” that gives a new perspective or just a getaway from the things that distract at home.
I love it. And now I don’t feel so silly when I want to sneak out of my office and sit in the living room to write where all the action is. By the way, I grew up in Wichita!
Long live the Mac Classic!!! I had one of those two. Can’t believe I didn’t keep it. 🙁
I turned out breakfast room into an office a couple of years ago. There’s no door to separate it from the kitchen, but it’s fairly private. But I still divide my time between the recliner in the den and the office.
When I was writing as a teenager, I loved being able to take my spiral notebook and a pencil out to the field behind our house and just sit against haystack and write. Things have changed a lot since then, and even though I am a still a long way from getting my own office, I am perfectly content with the situation. Like you said, all you need is a laptop basically, and I take mine wherever inspiration tells me to, whether it is on my bed, on my front porch while watching my son play in the yard, out at the park, or at home in my favorite chair with a cup of tea. Thanks so much for a great post!
Karla, how cool that we have a Wichita connection! We are loving it here!
Pam, we still have that little Mac Classic I wrote my first 4 books on! It sits in a place of honor in Ken’s studio. It still works too…if only we had floppy disks. 🙂
Ashlee, my teenage writing was done in a spiral notebook with a Bic pen atop a haystack or under a hedge tree in the pasture on the farm where I grew up. Nothing better for inspiration. So glad you’ve discovered the joy of writing WHEREVER your “office” of the day happens to be!
Oh, I need money for books, to get microfilms from another country, to attend conferences. I need a new kindle now. So it’s not cheap.
My writing space is at my computer in the corner of the living room. I’m still at the center of family life, but I get so caught up in what I’m doing, sometimes they still get tuned out! Thanks for the lovely post. Thanks for the inspiration.
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True, Anna, (depending on how you define “necessity”) yet still much less overhead than many self-employed occupations I can think of!
And Sally, I bet your family prefers your physical presence (and knowing they can have instant access to you if it’s an emergency) even if you are tuning them out sometimes when you write. It’s a tricky balance! I remember!
I love this blog. I have been trying to find my niche in our house. I have moved around and around and think I have finally found it. But now we are trying to sell our house and move closer to my mom in assisted living. When that happens I will get to start all over. Life is never boring. Thanks again.
Sharon, life keeps us on our toes, doesn’t it! Our family is going through some similar changes with aging parents and it’s not for the faint of heart. And yet you’re so right. It’s never boring, and God is with us every step of the way.
I am new to your blog and writing. I like what I read. Came through a writer friend who had you guest post.
I would like to follow your blog. However, Feedburner popped up that your blog isn’t connected to them?
How does one follow your blog?
In a ‘lock-down’ with getting my first devo book published. Self-published, Westbow. Have another year to finish. Devo’s are written. Need to be edited by either Westbow’s editing dept, or hiring a professional editor with a Christian perspective. Either way, it’s more $$$$. Any suggestions,…