As I settled in to construct today’s post about my writing space, I was reminded of playing with my daughter when she was four years old.
Hannah loved dolls, all dolls. Our days were filled with her pleas to “play dolls” with her. When her wish was granted, her face would light up and she would begin lugging out dolls of all shapes in various states of disrepair from their resting places and the many accompanying accessories from various bins strewn about in her playroom.
While she happily, clambered about, chatting away, I would find my place on the carpet and patiently wait for her to direct me in the scene she was composing in her head. Eventually, I would be handed a doll, an outfit, and a prop that came with a set of directions. Despite the fact I obediently followed the directions of the producer, she was often disappointed in the results, so would recast the scene with new characters and props.
This would go on for some time without ever really beginning or ending a scene. I always found it interesting that our “playing dolls” was all about the set-up; the dolls’ stories never being told. Playing dolls was about spending time together, sitting on the floor volleying ideas around without caring whether a scene came to fruition or not.
Hannah’s type of play is something akin to my writing process in which the majority of my time is spent setting up and volleying ideas around without ever really creating a complete act.
My “playroom” for writing is the sitting room on the quiet, lower level of our home. In it resides a comfortable, frayed couch, the right side embossed with my impressions. The wall opposite the couch is framed by sliding glass doors overlooking our back garden – home to a variety of flora and fauna. The antics of yellow orioles, zebra doves and the occasional kingfisher as they flit about the bougainvillea and red bamboo provide a perfect backdrop for reflective thinking. If I am lucky, the langur monkeys might also pay a visit providing some relief from my intense thinking – reminding me to play with my ideas, my words.
The table to my right is home to a cup of tea (English Breakfast with splash of milk and a teaspoon of sugar), a pile of books, and the occasional snack. The large ottoman coffee table in front of me is a mirror image of my thought processes – a plethora of books, journals, pens and pencils strewn about my bare feet.
To have reached this point in the scene of my writing, much effort and energy was expended in the set up. Tea had to be made, a snack carefully chosen, and then there was the hunt for the accessories, the books – this taking up the most time. The gathering requires a scouring of the house, no bookshelf, cupboard or table surface is safe from inspection. The perfect idea is held within the contents of one of the books scattered throughout the house – I simply have to find it.
At this stage, it is not unusual to find me sitting on the floor, lost in thought with small piles of books surrounding me. After 28 years of marriage, my husband knows not to ask me what I am looking for. He understands I won’t know until I happen across it while leafing through the pages. Armed with the chosen ones, I head to my play room and further set up spreading the books around me and picking up my journal.
As I scribe my thoughts, I wonder if there might be a better way to begin…I begin to recast my scene, changing up the characters and props. Looking out the window, I lose my thoughts in the flora and fauna, volleying ideas for a new story before wrapping up the old.