I’m one of the writers fortunate enough to have “a room of one’s own.” I call this 9×9-foot space my “studiola,” a term stolen from Renaissance artists. Each morning when I walk into it I have an “aha!” moment of feeling this is my space – and my time – for writing.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t always cooperate.

I’m writing these sentences having just survived the painting of my apartment. As anyone who’s endured this knows it can be disruptive and time-consuming. I did have the foresight to keep my studiola off- limits . (Better gray walls than intrusion?) What I didn’t realize was that my coveted space would have to be the storage area – disappearing under mounds of books, glasses, pictures, lamps, knickknacks – everything that demanded safety from the painters. No way to get to my computer.

I could have endured this more or less graciously if it had been just a few days. I didn’t imagine that the two- man team would be so incompetent, disappearing for hours at a time and eventually quitting without notice with the job only half done. A second team had to redo and complete those slapdash efforts. The combined teams used up two weeks, prefaced by a week of my moving furniture and every movable object out of their careless way – followed by ongoing days of scraping paint and plaster off the floors. This all added up to a month lost from writing.

Much as we yearn for protected time and space, the inescapable reality is that we can’t escape. “Stuff happens,” to quote Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous phrase. If it isn’t painting, it’s unavoidable dates and phone calls, medical appointments (increasingly as we age), the demands of loved (and unloved) people, overnight guests (shudder), etc. I heard that Edith Wharton wrote in the privacy of her bed, dropping pages on the floor for her maid to collate!  Proust, of course, had his ultra-private soundproof room.  But other than hiding in a cave or cocoon, we lesser mortals have to  cope with ordinary conflicts. I often long for a cabin in the woods, “far from the madding (maddening) crowd,” but life deems otherwise. Besides, would we really want to be cut off from everyone and everything? Where would inspiration come from? I do know one woman who mostly lives this sort of sealed-off life, but is it coincidental that she writes about creatures from outer space?

So we have to devise ways to keep creatively afloat amid all the endless distractions. Exiled from my sanctuary, I carried a notebook around as if it were a life preserver, trying to jot down any odd flashes of inspiration – a word, a thought – that might keep my writing tuned. But my mood increasingly became – no other word for it – bitchy, my usual state when I can’t write.

This morning I sit in my almost clear studiola once again, greeting my computer like a long lost lover. But I’m finding it find it hard to get back into any creative rhythm. I know that I will, given some time. But it reinforces my conviction that come hell or high water (or painters), it’s essential to develop a way to write even one paragraph every possible day. As the poet Carolyn Forche advised: “Be at your desk at the same time every day, so your Muse will know where to find you.”

Unless she has the painters, too.


I’m used to labeling myself a writer, but “blogger” still feels strange. Sort of like swallowing a mouthful of consonants.

I confess that a few years ago I didn’t know what a blog was. I’m fascinated by where words come from, so for those who share my curiosity I went to Wikipedia and discovered that this modern phenomenon began in the United States in 1997 as “weblog” – thanks to Jorn Barger. He was the editor of Robot Wisdom, one of the earliest weblogs, and used the word to describe his web links. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of this verbal christening, Barger posted tips for successful blogs. I like the one that advises: “Being truly yourself is always hipper.” Now there’s a word!

In 1999, Peter Merholz. the founder of the consulting firm Adaptive Path,
playfully turned weblog into WE BLOG – and a new word was born. (How do dictionaries ever manage to keep up?) It’s easier with encyclopedias, for Merholz will forever be cited as the coiner of the omnipresent word, blog.

For grammar purists, the question became: noun or verb? At Pyra Labs, which was developing a blogging product, Evan Williams solved the grammatical side of the problem by adroitly using “blog” as both noun and verb. From there it was a natural step to dub those of us who use either form as “bloggers.”

None of this knowledge, of course, makes weekly blogs (or blogging) any easier for writers (oops, bloggers). Nor does it solve a question that continually pokes at me: is the time spent in thinking up and writing these pieces better or worse than using these valuable minutes to: A) finish my novel; B) do the necessary pursuit of agents, publishers, et al; C) get back to querying magazine editors; or, D) tackle that growing pile of laundry?

However, writers are constantly advised that being active in the social media is the 11th Commandment. So having embarked on this sideline , which is threatening to turn into a mainline , I confess I’m now proud to be part of the – my newest word! – blogosphere!