Monday, February 28, 2011

Building A Room Of One's Own
Though I have never read A Room Of One's Own, something in the very words strikes me as deeply profound. In order for creativity to thrive, there must be time and space for it to grow. Many enter "creative" professions--writers, designers, and illustrators, for instance--with the expectation that their creativity will grow and flourish in others' rooms. It's not so.

Writers and designers in the communications and advertising industries--where I work--expend enormous amounts of creativity every day. And we should. We are paid to be creative. The hitch is, we are creating to serve someone else's dream--we are writing in someone else's room, so to speak, and they get to set the house rules. Often, those rules don't make a lot of sense to outsiders. Successful writers (and designers) have to learn how to offer up their best work and most informed opinions--and then smile and make the client's often less-informed--and even ill-advised--revisions. It can be hard.

The solution? Keep a room of your own. Make time and space to pursue your own writing, design, and artistic dreams independent of your client work. Think you don't have the time? You don't have the time not to. Having projects that allow your creativity the opportunity to experiment, explore, and learn will allow you to keep offering your best work to your clients--and smiling pleasantly and implementing their revisions, even when you don't agree with them. If you have your own projects, it's possible to remember when it's not your own project, let go, and honor your client's vision--no matter what you may think of it privately. After all, it's not your piece, right?

Without that "room of your own," that space where you are free to exercise your creativity in the ways that seem best to you, chances are good that you'll burn out, or turn into a hack, cranking out the same old tired designs time after time after time. The creative work you do on your own will fuel and inspire the creativity you offer your clients. My college writing professor once likened editing to "having your baby's legs cut off to make it fit into the cradle." Having your own writing and art makes it possible to say, "Hey, I don't like it, but it's not my baby," and make the revisions, send the bill, and cash the check.

We owe our clients our best efforts, our creativity, our marketing knowledge--if it applies--and our courtesy. We do not owe them our souls. Keep yours safe by building it a room of its own.
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Sherry Wachter has been designing and illustrating all sorts of things--including books--for nearly fifteen years. She has written, designed, illustrated, and self-published two novels--one of which won the 2009 Best of the Best E-books Award--and several picture books. To learn more about book design or to see her work visit her online at Magic Dog Press.


  1. When we moved, I grabbed one of the bedroom as MINE and loved setting it up from scratch.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  2. I did the same--I snatched up a little room up half a flight of stairs. It's sole purpose seems to have been to sit on top of the cellar. The funny thing is that once I had that room, I found I felt lonely writing in it, like the party was happening somewhere else. I hated feeling like I was closing myself off from my son. So I moved my computer down to my grandmother's round oak table, which lives in my kitchen. I can now see into every room in the house. People walk past me regularly. My son sits and does his homework on the kitchen table and we talk about his day, and mine. I feel like I've expanded my "room" to my "house."

  3. Sometimes people can't have a room of one's own, but you can certainly try to make a space of your own! I have an office, but my husband shares it with me. We each have our own areas, but sometimes I need to write alone without distractions. So when he's in the office, I have my own little space in our living room. It's a small secretary desk with a bookshelf beside it. Only the essentials are there, but it's all I need.

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  5. My space is the spare bedroom. It's mine until someone comes to stay, then I move to a folding table upstairs in my bedroom. When that happens, I miss my space.

  6. I am just about to move for the umpteenth time in my life and, joy oh joy, for the first time I shall have A Room of My Own with space enough to house Virginia et al around the walls too. Bliss and creativity will commence! :)

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  8. Again, apologies for the confusion! Myrtle House is my new e-publishing blog; my main blog Words From A Room is at

  9. My room is the small dining room table in my RV. From it I have a great view of Mother Nature's ever-changing magic through large windows to my right and left. Straight ahead is my over-the-cab bed -- with Maggie snoozing or giving me one of her I-want-a-walk looks. Best writing room of my own I've ever had.
    Pat Bean

  10. Sherry: Is that pic of your writing space? I love those built-ins!

    At first I wrote from a corner of the guest bedroom, but my copying machine was in another room and my reference books were on another floor. No surprise I often had trouble pulling my thoughts together.

    Since then I've been blessed with two large, unique spaces. One was a carpeted half-basement with exposed stone walls, where on my commute down the stairs I envisioned "going down deep" for my material. In my new home I have a large loft with more natural light, and my commute is now one of reaching for enlightenment. Both worked for me, but from a practical standpoint, the added light is a plus!

  11. No, sorry, that's not my space. Mine is now in the kitchen (but it's got scads of built-in's too). My previous space has become a meditation room, and it's just lovely and quiet. What's funny is that when I wrote this post, I was thinking more of having projects in which one got to be freely creative, rather than a space in which to create, but there you go--maybe both things are necessary!

  12. The photo is from the article link, Many of the rooms are famous or deceased writers. I love the Rudyard Kipling writing room. Covet, covet!

  13. I actually have my desk and other writing equipment in what ordinarily would be a dining room. I don't like being hidden away. I enjoy listening to the radio while I write, even TV, depending on the show.

    Morgan Mandel

  14. I'm working on this now. I have plenty of space but have been reluctant to personalize a room like I want. Fear that I'll just have to paint over it all if and when I put my house on the market has been keeping me back. Why the heck have I been delaying? Thanks for the nudge!


  15. I think in the end it's about validating our creative selves--whether that means giving them time to come out and play unfettered by client restrictions, or by creating a writing space for ourselves. Both things are really the same when you get right down to it--they are honoring our souls enough to make time and space for them.

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