Monday, January 3, 2011

A Room Of My Own

This is a piece written in response to an open call on Open Salon on writing space.

My kindle has a name - Judith S. Porte.

The "S" stands for Shakespeare, and her favorite song is The Doors' "Light My Fire." She is thus named, because she came into my life at a point when a flame was ignited again.

I fell in love all over again in the fall in 2009. But the relationship was rocky. Then, late last year, I realized that to truly love, I needed to let go of fear and allow myself to be vulnerable. I threw caution and doubt to the wind, and joined Open Salon. It was scary to go out on a limb like that, but I made a committment to my love.

I have been in love with writing since I was a little girl. I wrote my first story in middle school.

It was a novella scrawled in girlish cursive in an unassuming notebook with brown paper cover. It was a romantic mashup of the first three novels I had ever read (Pride and Prejudice, Wutthering Heights and Jane Eyre), with an urban, present day setting and Asian names.

I showed it to my best friend, who took it home to read. She showed it to her dad. The next day, she came to school with a message from her dad: "Don't stop writing...and don't stop reading." He also loaned me a copy of Watership Down.

I realized much later on that he must have thought I was reading paperback romance. I guess he was my first critic and writing coach.

I can't remember where I wrote that first story. But my parents were not well off. I didn't have a writing desk and I did all my homework from school on the little child's size table that also served as my dining table. So I guess I wrote on the dining table.

The best part about that little eating/writing/all-purpose table was that it was portable. It was made of wood, with a white top and bright orange legs. Whenever Happy Days came on, I would move it to the room with the TV on. When I didn't want the distraction of the TV, I would move it away again.
Those early days of nomadic writing must have been ingrained in me somehow. This is the same way I write today.

I saw that post by aliquot on Open Salon on desks and started reflecting on my own writing space. Then, I read lschmoopie's open call post ( and a couple of responses with all the great pictures of everyone's writing space.

I realized I don't really have a physical writing space. For a start, I have a desk but I don't use it. Most of the time, I write in the kitchen, from the breakfast table. It is next to the window. I need to look out when I write, and this is what I see:

When it's not too cold, the black squirrel who lives in the yard comes out to play. He does that a lot in the spring. But fall is my favorite season because I like watching the leaves in the wind.
Sometimes, I move from the breakfast to the dining table.  I guess old habits die hard, especially those formed in childhood. Good thing is, I don't have to port the whole table, with the book I'm writing in now - just the Macbook. Still, I need to look out:

But they don't show Happy Days on TV anymore. So now, when I want to be around happy people when I'm writing, I go out to Starbucks. (Actually it's also for the coffee and free wifi.)

The people at my two favorite Starbucks locations are always happy to see me (and I'm happy to see them). I was told that at one of those locations, the manager and staff were shot and killed some years back, and even today, some of the takings from the store go to the families of the deceased.

I don't need to post a picture. Everyone knows what a Starbucks looks like. I usually get a seat by the window. It's not a pretty view. It looks out to a carpark in one location, and a road in another. But it's a view, nonetheless. 

There are times though, when the happy wanderer in me feels the need for a serious space to do some serious writing. Usually, that would be an essay or paper for grad school. Then, I would travel to the space that every student can call his or her own - the library.

I love libraries and I hang out in them a lot. It's communal and yet private. I get a desk of my own, even though it is one amongst many, and shared by many. In the campus library, there is a common identity and yet I can be anonymous.

So I can't take a picture in the campus library for this post, because I don't want my anonymous identity to be: "the weirdo who took a picture of the library." Right now, I'm "the girl with the purple mac who likes to sit by the window." I would like to keep it that way.

So I guess, in short, I don't really have a writing space. I write from everywhere. But then again, maybe I do. I write in a room of my own, with a window I'm always looking out of...and that space is mostly in my head.

Since I can't take a picture of the space in my head, here's one of Judith, who is often with me these days when I write:
Kindle pic

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