I’ve found that as much of an advocate as I am for a place to go and do and think, in reality, sometimes you have to get creative in order to make the time to create. – Tami Mohamed Brown
I sit in front of my computer in the corner of my bedroom, trying to get some writing done. The door is closed (it doesn’t lock) and from outside I hear my daughter and my husband beginning a familiar conversation, one that holds the possibility of escalating into tears. The voices start out steadily enough, and I ignore. It’s difficult to do; it’s bedtime and Nora wants her mom to put her to bed, her mom to read to her until she falls asleep. The hesitant knocks on the door turn needy, but I am resolved to type on. Finally, it’s too much. “PLEASE!” I say, hoping one word will resolve the situation, that my presence will not be required. But with that one word, I have said too much, have given permission for interruption.
The writing is put on hold, the work is stopped, and I fall asleep next to my much loved daughter, my child whose wants and needs often run parallel to mine. I wonder, as I often do, if it is possible to satisfy both of us.
When Virginia Woolf wrote “A Room of One’s Own” in the late 1920s, she addressed a problem for many creative women-not enough money and not enough time. As she put it, not enough locked rooms in which to work. Not enough time in which to contemplate.
As a working mother who happens to write, I find myself alone with time to myself-truly a gift!-to contemplate the same problem, find myself addressing the same issues in my own 21st-century existence. Working in order to support my family is a necessity, time is at a premium. I have become adept at compartmentalizing: There is work time, there is family time and there is not a lot in between. Nearly a century later, Woolf’s words still resonate with me as I face the same issues.
A woman I know recently found out that I write.
“I write too,” she told me, almost confessional.
“Really?” I asked, hopeful to have found another kindred spirit who might have advice for me on balancing motherhood and working with writing.
“Well, no,” she admitted. “But I think about it a lot. It’s my dream to have a little cabin in the woods to get away from the kids, and just write. Instead of waiting, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do it?”
I thought very carefully about how to answer her. I agreed, certainly an ideal situation-the opportunity to have a place to go, to get away from it all. But do you need a room-a space of your own-to write? Do you need it to create any kind of art?
Yes, it would be a good thing. A wonderful thing, even, to have the time and place to simply recharge, every once in a while, to think.
“Sometimes, though, you can’t wait. You just have to do it,” I answered.
I don’t think she liked it. I don’t even know if I like it-just do it. Very Nike ad, I know, but, I’ve come up with no better way to say it.
And in my answer, I’ve found that as much of an advocate as I am for a place to go and do and think, in reality, sometimes you have to get creative in order to make the time to create.
I’ve learned to identify those nonliteral places where I can write around the edges of my life, scribbling in searched-for downtime that is easy to predict. And I’m still learning how to do this. I bank on my commute to work on the bus, where I can space out, read a book, scratch down ideas on my notepad. I turn antisocial during the office lunch hour, not because I don’t enjoy my co-workers, but because it’s a FULL HOUR I can claim as my own. These are foreseeable slots of time that I can access daily, my current version of the locked room.
Coming to terms with this was the permission slip I needed. If I was waiting, I realized, I wasn’t going to get any writing done, period. Waiting, in essence, meant the resignation of expression. It meant the end of hashing it out with words on paper to figure out what I really thought about things. And while it’s not, perhaps, the kind of time that Woolf advocated for, it’s what I can manage now. And right now, I’ll take it.
Tami Mohamed Brown lives in Bloomington with her family.