The Other Genius of Stephen King

This afternoon I am doing a thing. I have been building up to it lately, though I might have been building up to it for years. There is a part of me, for the last several months, that has thought, “May, 2022. It’ll come soon enough.” Turns out it’s not soon enough.

So this afternoon I am going to movie my writing and art supplies into the schoolroom desk and move the schoolroom stuff to storage bins that will be kept round and about until May 2022.

As an adult writer I have kept this little corner of myself sacred to the image of Stephen King getting home from his work and wading through kids and wife back to his work desk and sitting down to write the evening and night away. This desk does not even fit in the closet (which, in my mind, is at the end of a ranch hallway, leaving him sitting in the hall with his face in the coats). I have written about this one, particular, wheedling image a few times on the blog. I have complained about it, I have honored it, I have said it was something impossible for a mother, I have said you should read the book and do exactly as King says. Recently, I have been doing art work to keep up with the assignments I gave my co-op students. I have also gotten a number of art supplies for Christmas. Once again, I have discovered that having no place to put these things (except packed up and in the closet or under the bed) is not feasible for sustainability or productivity. Then I said to someone, “You know, like Stephen King and his little closet,” and I realized that this image—this gem that King painted and I dutifully embedded in my writerly soul—has more than one facet to it. While I had always heard it as make time to write and maybe isolate as much as possible, I had failed to see the get yourself a space, gosh darnit. And we can see from the image that I carry that King didn’t really have a space, he made one for himself. It was his, and I doubt he cleaned it off every night so that his wife could use it to store the galoshes. That would have defeated its purpose.

But I’m still writing and doing art on the dining room table and my bed and sometimes the family room couch. Which means I can never leave anything out, whether I am done with a work or a thought or not. With writing, you don’t usually have to have many things to accomplish writing (unless there is a lot of research or illustrations involved) and yet many authors have written about the importance of habits of all sorts. A work space—no matter how humble—creates a place for these tools (which can be more than you initially think) and habits and, more importantly, allows them to hang in the wind until the next time you return. And besides practicality and ceremony, a space—again, no matter how humble—would create a sense of legitimacy in the same way that driving to an office creates that for someone working in an office.

I don’t think it can be a bag or your laptop. These are “spaces” in some sense and can help the roving writing to work. That’s what I have been doing for years and years, since I had kid number two and handed over my home office. I have a rolling bag for residencies and whatnot, I have a basket on the floor next to my bed where the laptop and writing notes and magazines and whatsuch live on a daily basis. But being a visual artist as well as a writer (even if it is often just to get the creative juices flowing), I simply can’t contain my projects to a rolly-cart and a basket. Partly because my art bins are legion, but also because this doesn’t give me a sense of stepping away from a thing and then being able to step back to it, just like that. So much works goes into the physical, mental, and emotional work of gathering and then cleaning, that I am going to steal my son’s homeschool desk early. I was published two weeks ago. If I want to step up my pace of writing and submitting so that I can build momentum here, NOT having my own space is going to work against me. Hard.

I will be something like Stephen King. My workspace is going to land in the family room because I don’t have any extra places. (The family room stays very quiet and lonesome for most of the day, so.) Being ADHD, there is no way I could sit down at a desk every time (or even half the time) and work there like a little drone. I will be dragging my projects to the family room floor, up to my bedroom, and—if a large surface is needed—even the dining room table, though I am going to try to avoid the last one because this is an eating-family place. But there will still be a place where all my things are together and accessible, there will still be a place to anchor me in the house, a place to leave one project lying open and half-done, and a place to say, “Yes, this should be two more guest chairs and a magazine-ready bay window, but that’s not more important to us than Devon working and writing.”

I won’t be moving the desk and the rest of the schoolroom (disassembled) into the family room yet, which is what will happen in that fabled May 2022, but I will be changing some things today. Thanks, Stephen King, for being so memorable that I can still learn from what you’ve offered me even when I am years away from your book.

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