A guest post from Orca author Patricia McCowan, whose first novel, Honeycomb, part of the Limelights series, will be released this September 2014.
A Space Apart
There’s a certain magic to the spaces where performing artists work. Not just on stage, where bright lights, an audience and performers’ adrenalin combine to charge the atmosphere. When I was an actor, I loved being in rehearsal halls and backstage spaces almost as much as being on the stage.
While writing Honeycomb, I loved researching and then imagining myself in the creative spaces where my protagonist, Nat, and her fellow Honeycomb members work on their music. The sound-proofed, windowless basement studio where she, Jess and Harper record their demo CD for the Tall Grass Festival contest. The sunny, instrument-filled attic belonging to Harper’s musician grandma, where the trio argues about which songs to sing. The rehearsal room in the old brick building where an intimidating mentor puts the girls through their vocal paces. In these spaces, talent and hard work combine to create magic.
But what about a writer’s creative space? In theory, all a writer really needs is a computer (or pencil and paper) and a chair. We don’t need acoustically perfect rooms, or a specially sprung floor and wall-to-wall mirrors to make our creation. Writers are supposed to be able to write anywhere. And many do. (If you’re reading this in a coffee shop, look up. You’re probably surrounded by writers. Don’t be scared. They’re friendly enough, if you don’t interrupt them mid-sentence.) But sometimes it can be nice to have a dedicated space, just for writing, like Virginia Woolf’s famous “room of one’s own.” I have a small house where the bedrooms are used as bedrooms, and the basement is a tiny TV room, so there isn’t space for an office. I’ve written on the living room couch, on the dining room table and on the front porch.
Then, last year, a wonderful thing happened. Our old backyard shed needed replacing. Mulling over plans for a new one, my husband casually asked me if I’d like “some sort of writer’s shed.”
“Yes!” I said, not so casually. “Yes, I would!” So he and our neighbor Matt, a carpenter, teacher and avid reader, designed a rustic structure that combined storage for bikes, a lawn mower and gardening stuff with a separate space for me to write in. Matt built simple bookshelves into the framing, and cleverly repurposed some leaded-glass windows we had saved from a demolished back stoop. My oldest daughter whitewashed the interior walls and painted the blue trim. I assembled the Ikea desk and office chair and added some carefully chosen books and objects to the shelves.
And then, the best part–I moved in and wrote! This is where most of Honeycomb was written and edited. I could walk away from my house with my laptop and tea, shut the door and open the (leaded-glass) window. It was the perfect creative space for my first novel. And for the novel I’m writing now. I no longer need bright lights or an audience in order to feel a creative rush. Readers, however, are always welcome.
To learn more about Patricia McCowan, visit her website or follow her on twitter @PatriciaMcCowan.
For more information on Honeycomb or the Orca Limelights series, visit http://orcabook.com/limelights/