“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
A few weeks ago a friend sent me an email that included this thought:
"I have been thinking how much easier it would be to take writing seriously as a career if I had to go to an office and “work.” As it is, I always seem to put it behind other things that need to be done, like taxes, or painting the bathroom. I was thinking it would be really cool to have a writer’s co-op where we have an office, preferably in a beautiful setting, that a group of writers could share and draw inspiration from each other. Probably what we should do is just switch houses when we go to work. :-)"
I know my friend is not alone in her quandary, because I have experienced the very same issue, as have a number of other writers I know. How do we take the leap from writing as hobby to writing as profession? A lot of it has to do with “going to work.”
Writers Room DC
A few years ago my friend Christine Koubek—a travel writer and essayist with a novel in the works—invited me to join her at Writers Room DC for a day. At the time she worked there regularly because her son was going to school nearby. She would drive him to school from their home in Gaithersburg, then settle herself in at the Writers Room until she needed to pick him up.
As you can see from the image above (taken from their website), there is nothing elaborate about the Writers Room—a bare bones office space with cubicles and a break room with coffee, a printer, and lockers—but I instantly fell in love. Each cubicle had a desk lamp, an office chair, and a place to plug in; more important, at least half of the cubicles were filled with writers! It was library quiet, the only sounds the rustling of pages, the occasional creak of a chair, or the clicking of keys. These people were working.
I was giddy as I sat down to work amongst them. I looked around. No one looked up. No one demanded to know how many books or articles I had published. We were all sojourners on the path of creativity, following where the Muse dictated we go.
I was able to stay only a few hours that day, and I knew that a regular commute from my home in Leesburg was simply not possible. I asked co-owner Charles Karelis if he had any plans to expand. He told me that they were thinking of expanding into Northern Virginia, but nothing has yet happened on that front (as far as I know).
So I am left with a wonderful memory. My friend’s email reminded me that I have often toyed with the idea of starting a similar venture in my area, but since I want to spend more time on my own writing, I am concerned about how much time it would take to manage. There is also the reality of a dearth of affordable office space in Northern Virginia. Still, the idea lingers.
Other Options for Writing Space
In the meantime, I have discovered the delights of my local library. The Rust Library in Leesburg has large, sturdy tables with outlets in a light-filled room with floor-to-ceiling windows. It is quiet, and many other people are scattered around the room, hunkered down at their computers. Some of them may be writers! The chairs are not comfortable, which makes me think of investing in a good seat cushion. And I have to pack up my computer if I need a pit stop. But aside from that, it’s free and it’s conducive to working. Try checking out the library closest to you. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much you get done!
Some people like writing in cafes or coffee shops, but I often find the noise distracting, and I am reluctant to take up space for hours at a time—even though I will buy a coffee or two—as it potentially infringes on their business. I do make an exception for places that aren’t usually crowded.
Another, more expensive, option is to look into coworking spaces. For example, Make Offices has a number of locations in DC and Northern Virginia, starting at $250 to $300 per month for a desk (versus $135 per month at the Writers Room). You also would be working with a diverse group of businesspeople, which may or may not be to your liking. To find other coworking spaces, you can Google it. You'll find a bunch.
What I know about myself as a writer is that it is important for me to get out of the house, even though I have a great home office. If I want to really write (as opposed to revising, marketing, planning workshops, etc.) I must leave. It is just too tempting to throw in a load of laundry or make a quick phone call or answer a few emails or have a chat with someone in my household. And then the day, and my thread of artistic inspiration, has evaporated like mist on the water.
Do you have a favorite place to write? Where is it and why does it work so well for you? Please share in the comments section below.