Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March Reading List - Defining Your Space

While February’s reading list was about finding one’s direction, March’s reading list is about defining one’s space.  This selection of topic was inspired by my inability to knuckle down and work on my manuscript.  My energy was stagnant from constantly reworking my story in my head.  To get the energy moving again, I looked thoughtfully toward my home office, which is my creative space.

Here is a picture of my home office, and what I perceive to be wrong with it.  (I’m a bit of an amateur Feng Shui enthusiast, and I applied principles of this art to the space.)
The primary problem was that the office was in the bedroom in the first place.  Although my bedroom is large enough to easily accommodate my desk, it is not the ideal place for it.  Every morning when I wake up, the desk taunts me, telling me to get to work (not always a bad thing).  Every night when I put my head to the pillow, I worry that my word counts weren’t enough to get me through twenty more chapters by summer.  The pressure just shut me down completely.  It is no longer an inviting place to sit and create.

I began looking with a critical eye at other rooms in my house.  There were a couple of trouble spots, but perhaps the most troubling was this:
Yes, the dreaded junk room.  Most homes have one (or at least a junk drawer).  It’s that nowhere-land where random items with limited utility find a home.  No one uses this space, and the clutter builds and builds, sort of like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter, except none of my stuff is magical or remotely what I require.  But like the Room of Requirement, it is invisible to the members of my household, until someone is certain they need an in-home dump for items that have no business anywhere else.

Well, I said to myself, I have a requirement.  I have need of a place to read, write, think, percolate ideas, daydream.  I thought about it and thought about it, and declared to The Hub that this junk room would be my very own.  Surprisingly, The Hub was enthusiastic about this idea – so enthusiastic, he cleared the room, built some shelves, and painted it himself.  I can only guess he was tired of getting pelted with crumpled up paper balls each time he entered our bedroom during a frustrating writing session.

Now, wonder of all wonders, I discovered that the second Tuesday of March is Organize Your Home Office Day.  What better day to kick off my “Define Your Space” Reading List than today?  My Pick of the Month, around which all my other reading selections will revolve, is – can you guess? – Room by Emma Donoghue.  This novel is told from the point of view of five-year old Jack, whose mother was kidnapped seven years earlier.  The only place Jack has ever known is Room, the prison where his mother’s captor keeps them.  This is not my usual fare, as I try to avoid too much that is deeply disturbing (I am sensitive, and don’t like to funk up my cosmic energy).  Nevertheless, the concept is fresh, and I want in on the buzz I’ve heard about this one.  I’ve decided to chance the funkiness, and hope my newly feng-shuied reading room can deflect any negativity.

So, here it is – the complete list:
·         New Release: Room, by Emma Donoghue; Little, Brown & Co., September 2010.  For Jack, Room is a haven; for his mother, it is a prison.
·         Classic: The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  Again, the room is a prison, where the protagonist is kept “for her own good”.  I read this one in college, and wonder how it will resonate now that I am a wife and mother of two.  An alternative classic (in case my list is a bit feminista) might be Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, another one I’ve read and loved. 
·         Nonfiction: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, Harcourt First Harvest Edition, 1989.  This one is also a “classic”.  Woolf spotlights the disadvantage of women writers, who, she argues, need adequate income and space to create.  For her, room is a haven, while the domestic sphere is a prison.
·         Juvenile: The Birthday Room, by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow Books, 1999.  Yes, this is a chapter book by the man who wrote such delights as Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse and Owen.  The protagonist, twelve-year old Ben, receives a room from his parents for his birthday.  It is intended as a space dedicated for his art, but Ben is ambivalent about this gift. 
·         Inspiration:  American Writers at Home by J. D. McClatchy and Erica Lennard, Library of America, October 14, 2004.  An illustrated book on the writing environments of some of America’s greatest writers.

I’ll keep you posted about the progress of my room.  In the meantime, enjoy the reading and the upcoming reviews, and feel free to make suggestions of your own about books that fit the list.  Happy Organize Your Home Office Day!

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