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  • [Making the Leap] Creating an Inspirational Space
[Making the Leap] Creating an Inspirational Space
Written by
Julie Luek
March 2013
Written by
Julie Luek
March 2013

Soon after my son left for college, I quit my career and decided to take the writing plunge. (I know, I know, this isn't logical, but that was all covered in an earlier post...) Like the infamous Three Bears, we live in a house that is just the right size for our family, everyone has their own room. It adequately meets our needs, but there was no extra space to create a writing office.

Well, unless I considered the college sons' room. Which I did. I waited a couple years of course, until his visits home decreased in frequency. Then I asked his permission to paint his once boyish room a lovely lemony yellow. And um, while I was doing just a wee bit of redecorating, might it be OK to pack up a few of his things and paint the shelves a new color and perhaps just add a few items of my own?  Being a kind boy, he reassured me it was all right to make his bedroom into my writing office, but it still took me a couple of years to completely displace him without feeling guilty for being self-indulgent.  

Eventually, I forced myself past the guilt, and now I have an office I love. I revel in the space I have created. Claiming, for the first time in my adult, mommy life, a place in the house as completely my own has made the empty nest syndrome a bit easier to face. I had such fun thinking about how I want my office to look, how it could reflect me and be a space conducive to writing. It's my favorite place in the house now.  

There is still a bed, and when my son is home I, of course, vacate the office and relocate so he feels at home. 

Slowly, over time, with deliberate attention, my office has taken on a look and atmosphere I feel creative in.

  • I have three vertical shelves that hold my essential writing books: The Chicago Manual of Style, The Writer's Market (quickly getting a little out of date), several books on creative fiction and nonfiction, and my shrine of Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, Bill Bryson and Stephen King books on writing. 
  • The aforementioned girly lemony walls. 
  • My quirky 70's style clock radio and brass lamp (reminding me of every lamp in my house growing up).
  • A bodacious violet providing bursts of pink flowers, year round.
  • A scented candle. 
  • A refurbished, giant cork board with my writing projects, queries, and contests lined up. 
  • A shelf lined with precious memories: my dad's old camera and cigar boxes, my childhood worn and sagging teddy bear, and my Beatles White Album. 
  • And perhaps my favorite: my desk facing an uninterrupted view of layers of mountains. Talk about inspiration!

Some writers claim a comfy chair and table in the living room. Others have put stake on the dining table, claiming its big wide space. If you haven't designed a space, I encourage you to claim a little piece of your home and make it your own. A flower by your favorite writing area, or a lovely pillow, afghan, or a beautiful writing journal or pen, maybe a special lamp you found at a secondhand store. It needn't be ornate or expensive. But feeding your spirit through a lovely and inviting space is a wonderful way to nurture your writer's soul.

What about you? Have you put thought into your writing space? Does it feed your soul and inspire you, even if it's just a small corner in the house? What's your favorite part of your writing area? 

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  • A touching bit of your story, Madeline.  Thank you for sharing it.  Sometimes a space isn't just a space.That's apparent from all of what people are sharing about their writing rooms; how they feel about them, how they struggled to claim them.  Sometimes a space serves as permission, validation, an assessment of self-worth, or as inspiration. Sometimes a space is where memories are housed and we fear that by repurposing them, we dishonor those who inhabited them before. Sometimes as writers (and particularly as women writers) we find it a challenge to claim for our own a space that others in our families might want.  Whether it's a cubby, or a hallway, a moveable office, or a writing studio with a view, every writer deserves a space to call her own.    

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Ms. Becky! I have a rescue pooch too-- he's my companion but likes our bedroom bed the best. Sounds like you've found a perfect comforting spot for your writing that works for you. You bring up a good point too-- it's nice to have a special nook, but it's not the panacea for writing. I hope you find the perfect cozy space for you all. 

  • Becky Povich

    Hi Julie! Great post and I LOVE your lemony yellow walls. And gosh....mountains right outside your window?! I HAD my own room, in a spare bedroom of our house. I'd bought new furniture for it, had writerly things all over the walls....and it was a really nice room, but it didn't help one way or the other as far as my writing ability. I went through my worst cases of writers block, self-sabotage, and doubt during those years. None of it had anything to do with the room itself. I couldn't write ANYWHERE. Long story short.......my writing area now is a small table in what was our dining room. (my office was upstairs) After we got Vern, (and for those who don't know me....Vern is our beloved, rescued dog!) I moved my things to the first floor because we have very long windows...almost floor to ceiling and he lays there and looks out, while I write, or blog, or pay bills, etc. on my laptop. My husband and I are going to downsize very soon. In fact, we've been selling furniture that we know we won't need or want and I'm really looking forward to this next segment in my life. Who knows where I'll be writing, but whatever room it will be in, I know I'll be happy! (Sorry if I went on too long!)

  • Julie Luek

    Sue-- Oh the seasons of life. Good for you for finding the space and time with a little one. I think I put myself on hold for two decades while my kids were growing up. My "baby" is still 17 and in high school, but life is sure different when they can drive and have some independence. So maybe the missions is to find a way to make that table a pretty place to work-- a table cloth? Flowers? A photo or special pen? 

  • Sue Barsby

    I'm hopelessly jealous! I'm a dining room table writer since having my daughter - my writing room is now her nursery. We have a desk downstairs but I share it with my husband. We're desperately short of space and I crave a place of my own - all my accumulated notebooks and bits of paper, research and scribblings travel about with me in a file. One day, one day...

  • Julie Luek

    Yay Pam! Do we get pictures when it's completed? What kind of plans do you have to turn it into a creative space? How exciting!

  • Julie Luek

    Oh Madeline-- what a touching and beautiful tribute to your son. I'm so thankful and touched you shared this story. You created a beautiful, heart-felt space to lift up your writing and, as you said, continue to celebrate the role of muse he plays in your life. Thank you so very much for sharing a picture and the story. 

  • Julie Luek

    Monette-- what a fantastic and creative idea to make a space. Yes, a lovely temporary, folding wall is a wonderful way to create a little room and privacy. I'm so glad you shared that idea. 

  • Julie Luek

    Mark-- I love seeing your space. Reading about and seeing everyone's writing areas is so fun! Your room is great and looks very conducive to writing. I don't know if having a devoted space speaks to our commitment or not. I don't always think claiming an entire room is an option in some households. It wasn't for me until very recently. But I love how your room is a creative haven for your writing.  

  • I have a "nook" at the top of the stairs in my house. I share the space (mental and physical) with my "day job", but I am seriously considering converting it to a creative space. These posts have inspired me to finally tackle this task (which has been on my "to do" list for a year!).

  • This is part of an essay I wrote a couple of years ago about creating a writing room of my own.

    It took me almost six years after my son Paul died to redo his room. Once in a while we used it as a guest room, but the closet still had the dust accumulated since he last played his keyboards in there and his books and records – first in his meticulous alphabetical filing system on the shelves and later in neatly packed and labeled boxes stacked against the wall. We finally gave away his furniture and instruments and stacked those boxes of books and records out in our garage, leaving the dusty closet empty and ready to be transformed with file drawers and book shelves and a place to store my evening clothes.

    I recreated his room, with a new hardwood floor, a bay picture window, walls painted deep taupe, a white ceiling and crown molding, and furnishings in vivid oranges and black, into my writing room and office. But, putting my style and tastes into it didn’t mean I was erasing him. Paul had been my muse for so many years; he would continue to be my muse in my new room. I recreated his room into a place where I could finish telling his story and mine – about his bipolar illness and how the medicines didn’t work for him, about how hard he fought against taking his meds because he realized he couldn’t live a creative life with them and how ultimately he couldn’t live without them either, about his suicide and its devastating aftermath, and how I managed to survive through it all.

  • I put up a wall, believe it or not.  You know, one of those folding screen walls, only in real wood, with slats I can open and shut.  I decided I needed to try and avoid distractions and I found this very helpful.  It's otherwise just the back end of a very long family room.

  • Mark Hughes

    Doesn't the place we devote to writing say something about our commitment to the work? I remember seeing a picture of the writing "building" Mark Twain put together (after he was successful). A octagon with windows on all eight walls, looking out over a rolling countryside, a pot-bellied stove for warmth in the winter. That image comes back to me often.

    So, as for myself, I don't have the same, but I do have our guest room set up for my writing work as shown here.

    This was taken four years ago, and the then-current version of my novel lies to the right of my computer. On the walls are admonitions, suggestions, and the novel's major points. Writing books are within reach as well, if not so neatly stacked.

    I must give this room up when guests arrive (and, as we live in San Diego, that's pretty frequent). Then I move into our bedroom and have a view of Mt. Soledad. But I prefer this setup with no view except the corner - because the best views are in my mind, anyway.

    So, a good chair (note back support), a good, big surface, and a reliable partner (computer). The only other necessary ingredient is discipline...



  • Julie Luek

    Hiya Julia-- I know her space is just so lovely, isn't it! Really, like I said below, I really don't mind the dining room table-- it's bright; I can spread out; it has a lovely, sunny view. What I miss when I'm there are a few personal items that make it cozy for me. 

  • Julia Munroe Martin

    I agree, Julie, a place of our own, even if just a desk, is essential. That said, I'm a dining room table writer (even though I have my own office!). And now that I've seen Adela's space, all I can say is WOW and I'M JEALOUS. Still my dining room table suits me well...if it were just a little bigger.

  • Julie Luek

    Kathleen-- I loved this statement you made: This was one of the best decisions I've ever made for validating what I do as a writer and editor. 

    I absolutely applaud and agree with this. I realize not all of us have a room, but somehow marking (sounds like what a dog does) a space that is our, with something personal, lovely and motivating, yes, validates us. Well said.  Also, I love orange! I have a lot of orange and burnt sienna (Crayola speak) around my house. 

  • When we moved into our current house, I had a tough time designating the tiniest bedroom as my office. We have a lot of house guests and there was always the question of sharing the space. There was also the fact that I don't make enough money as a writer to pay the mortgage myself. But I finally became bold enough to say, this space is mine. I don't want to share it. I want to be able to leave it messy, have projects in progress left undisturbed, not have to move my computer out of someone else's way. A creative space is important to me. My family agreed. This was one of the best decisions I've ever made for validating what I do as a writer and editor. And we still have a lot of house guests.

    My favorite part about this office space is that I painted it deep orange and put magenta sheers on the window. It's an amazing color combination that is all mine.

  • Julie Luek

    Ohhhh and Ahhhh-- what a gorgeous space, Adela! I love the brightness of it. Sigh. Lovely, lovely. I'm so glad you shared (I had no idea we could insert pictures in comments- I hope a few others share their spaces too!). Oh Elements-- yes, yes and of course, On Writing. The sacred tomes. 

  • Here it is!  I just love my space.  Loved One and I both work from home (both empty nesters.)  His office is like a cave in the basement.  I need light.  I have some of the same "required" books that you have, plus "Elements of Style" to keep me company and inspire me.  My goal this year is to get a boat-load of rejection letters.  Gotta get out Writer's Market and get some things submitted.

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Melissa--During the summers or holidays when my son is home, I pile the essentials into a basket and "move" out to the kitchen table. Actually I like it out there too. It's right in front of a big glass door that opens to our deck and the mountains behind the house. Since my kiddos are all grown up, I still have lots of quiet time. I remember writing a bit when they were young. It was not easy to focus! Kudos to you. 

  • Julie Luek

    Shaquez-- Thanks. It really is fairly simple, but it's mine, which is what I love most! I'm almost 50 and it took me until now to be able to claim any room as MINE MINE MINE lol. I still claim a chair in the morning as my place to read, journal and sip tea. 

    Betsy-- Your space sounds perfect too! How wonderful to finally have a room. And trust me, I had to neatly stack, put away and hide a few things before I snapped that picture. I had a Thomas the Tank Engine towel that I keep draped on my chair, in the first photo I snapped!

  • M. Kinnel

    What a great space! Lucky devil, you! I have a space carved out at our dining room table where I try to find solace when my muse comes to visit. I keep a picture of my family next to the laptop to help give me inspiration. Unfortunately, my ten yr old and seven yr old have yet to "remember" mommy needs quiet time and constantly come in to interrupt me. So the best time to write is at night after they've gone night-night. LOL! I sometimes retreat to the couch in the living room after the house is quiet for a change of scenery.

  • A year ago, Julie, I'd have been a slightly lime shade reading your post.  But this summer we moved, and I (for the first time ever) have what Virginia Wolfe called "a room of my own".  My writing sanctuary is a little studio separate from the house, but just outside the back doors.  I too revel in a view of the valley and small mountains in the distance.  I felt a little guilty at first, claiming such valuable square footage in our new place as my own. (There were designs on it being a family media room.)  But I adore it.  I only wish mine stayed as neat as yours appears in your photo.  But with a launch last week, and events upcoming, I have stacks and piles, boxes of newly arrived books.  I love it all...even the mess.  Thanks so much for your post.  I have a feeling you and I would like each other's writing rooms.  

  • Julie Luek

    Patricia, I spent 22 years in higher ed and still have a few remnants of that career in my office-- a handful of business cards I keep, heaven knows why, cards and little memories from the going-away party they threw, and a name plate from my desk, but most I gladly condensed and stashed in a drawer. I was...and am... so peaceful in this new life. 

  • Great!

    I decided to claim our extra room, as well. It is painted a soft buttery tone and has all the things I need for my writing.

    However, after years of teaching, I also have a surplus of items that I no longer need but can't decide. Your photo is an inspiration! I will give another try to toss some of these extras! :)