Bliss of the closed door

by M.J. Hearle

I bought a house.

It’s not something I thought I’d be able to afford for many years but thanks to the generosity of my parents, a particularly tenacious girlfriend who made sure I stuck to my savings plan, and a slightly depressed real estate market, I can now call myself a homeowner. It feels good and not the slightest bit terrifying. Nope, it’s not scary at all thinking about all the money we owe the bank. All those zeroes…excuse me a moment.

(goes to bathroom to splash cold water on face)

There, that’s better. I lost my happy thoughts for a moment. So, I own a house and have spent the past week moving boxes, unpacking boxes, hooking up the utilities, arguing about sofas and doing all the fun stuff that moving into a new property entails. I’ve learnt you can spend literally hours talking about whether or not floating floorboards are a sensible purchase or the benefits of a modular couch over a two and three seater option. In fact, I suspect months at a time could be eaten away by home improvement discussions which is why I’ve had to relinquish most of the decisions to my better half. I can’t afford the time or energy with the second draft deadline for Winter’s Light looming next week.

Writing is never easy for me. The concentration it takes to get into the creative zone is difficult to muster at the best of times, let alone when I have a brain bursting with comparison reports and utility budgets. What’s made the process slightly easier is now I have a door I can close.

You see, along with my new house, I have a new office. Or study. Or – more accurately – place I go to when I want to write but end up watching True Blood episodes. This is the first time I’ve had my own space to work in, since, well…forever.  I wrote the last couple of drafts of Winter’s Shadow and the first draft of Winter’s Light in my mother-in-law’s house in a bedroom I shared with my girlfriend. It was cozy but not an ideal writing space. Being surrounded by loved ones is a blessing unless you’re trying to get some work done. Then, it is…less so. As shameful as it is to admit, occasionally I found myself pining for a sanctuary. A place where I could work in solitude. Somewhere with a door I could close on the rest of the world.

There is a lot to be said about the positive effect of adversity on creativity. Would Harry Potter be as magnificent if J.K. Rowling hadn’t been forced to furiously scribble sentences down in between working double shifts as a waitress and juggling the responsibilities of a single parent? Without all that hardship, the book might never have been written at all. Writing is an escape from the real world and if your real world is perfectly wonderful than you might be less driven to escape from it.

Of course, you don’t need to be unhappy to create good work – there’s lots of happy creative types out there who are very successful – but I don’t think a little stress hurts. It might even be the grit that forms the pearl. While it’s true, having a a quiet place to write means the external chaos in my life can now be shut out, but this doesn’t mean I’m grit free. On the contrary, all I need to do is contemplate our mortgage and suddenly I’ve got enough angst to fuel a dozen novels.

Time to close the door and escape.

M. J.