Someone messaged me on Facebook—one of those mass messages sent by a stranger to a bunch of other strangers—asking if I’d contribute to her blog about “Sacred Writing Spaces.” Well, I had to go be overcharged for a pre-peeled orange at Whole Foods and get my Chakras aligned (I’d had a blowout earlier on the highway and had to have one of them replaced) before I could answer. Maybe Mercury was in retrograde, but I wasn’t feeling it. I wrote her back and said I didn’t really think I had anything to say she’d want to hear, in the politest way possible, though I thanked her for asking. The truth is, after publishing a dozen books with a couple more on the way, I don’t have a Sacred Writing Space. I used to, back when I didn’t actually write or have a life. But I’m a single dad, working three jobs, living in a cramped apartment I can barely afford. I write when I can, where I can, and with whatever time I can scrounge.
The idea of a Sacred Writing Space reminds me of those people who drive three blocks to the gym to run on a treadmill, the kind of people who buy special pans to cook eggs. It stinks of bourgeois privilege and spiritual laziness. But wait, says you, how is a Sacred Writing Space spiritually lazy? It’s a spiritual space; it’s got the word “sacred” in it! Well I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but no, it’s not. In the same way that one doesn’t need to go to church to be religious, that church can actually get in the way of spirituality sometimes, one doesn’t need a sacred writing space to be a writer. The idea that it’s essential—she didn’t ask if I had one, she assumed it. All real writers must have one, right?—is damaging because it’s setting up a situation in which this space becomes a crutch. If I can’t get away from the world and focus on my Art, well, I can’t be a writer. It’s more of a status symbol than a tool.
Now, I’m not saying the opposite is true, that a person who has an SWS isn’t a “real,” OG writer, though I may be implying that I can beat them at arm wrestling. But you know what? People who do, they’re doing fine in life. They’ve had some breaks. They don’t need to be coddled, so let’s set them aside. Maybe they worked hard for it, and that’s great. Go sit in it and enjoy. Have a scone. I’m talking about the implication that it’s necessary, that a person can’t write or do any kind of art as part of their normal, let’s be honest, working class, lives. I reject this idea, not just because of philosophical differences, but because I’ve had to. I don’t have time to sit for five hours while the morning light makes up its mind to flutter in through my hand-made curtains (ordered from Etsy) in my Writing Nook, as I sip coffee whose beans have passed through the digestive system of Venezuelan monkeys and been sifted out by workers paid a fair wage—though really, what would be a fair wage for that, one wonders? I write in the living room when my daughter has finally gone to sleep, while my own eyes droop, and I know I’m going to pay for it tomorrow. It means I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, go to movies, ever, or just relax. I write on my lunchbreak, a sandwich in one hand, typing with the other, ruining the keyboard, I’m sure, with the crumbs. I jot down ideas longhand in the parking lot while I wait for my shift to start and passersby look at me strangely. Sometimes I don't write because I don't have time. There’s an implied bias in the idea of an SWS, that I’m not a real writer because of this, that I’m somehow lesser. And I’m not just talking about me. I’m doing okay. I’m having a scone, as we speak. I’m talking about women throughout history who weren’t born rich, who were expected to dedicate their lives to others. The idea of an SWS might seem like a reaction to that—now, they have time and can focus on their own pursuits--but you know what? There are still plenty of women, and men, and non-gender identifying people, who haven’t achieved that kind of luxury. How many of them might be encouraged to steal some time to write if they only thought it was legitimate? I have known them. I have met them. I have loved them. I have been them, people who thought you have to go to college to be a writer, you have to have been born in a certain place, you have to have time, because those are the prevailing myths. They’re the ones I care about, and their stories, I think, are a hell of a lot more interesting than some time-travelling lycanthropy romance or Great American Novel written in a Sacred Writing Space by someone who didn’t have to fight for every second it took to write it.
I could really go for a pre-peeled orange right now, though.