A turret and some (alone) time

I’m sitting in my new Writer’s Turret, as I am calling it. It’s actually just a small room we recently created by putting up a dividing wall in our son’s large bedroom. It is a north-facing room and I was concerned that I would feel the lack of light. But with my desk directly next to the window, looking out over the porch roof onto our residential street, the result is unexpectedly and pleasantly, well, turret-y. I don’t know why I have always fancied myself writing in a turret, it seems very Jane Austen (that’s probably the wrong author – I am embarrassingly unversed in English Lit) or Shakespeare-ish, I guess. I imagined I could be both artistically tortured and prolific in a turret. And alone.

For me, the image of a turret conquers up feelings – glorious feelings – of solitude. Creative solitude. I dream daily of being alone, just me and my words. Emotions, sensations, experiences – intangibles – forming themselves into words and sentences that I might grasp them, hold them, and understand them as best I can. Of course, I don’t need a turret for this, just a writing implement. But solitude? Now that’s an essential.

In one essay I wrote: “In my early twenties the vision of my future life included only the patter of fingers on the keyboard, not that of tiny feet. My imaginary writer’s turret didn’t come equipped with a safety gate.” In one recent workshop which I facilitated, one woman lamented that mothers cannot be fully creative, not because our brains have atrophied, but because of all the demands placed on us. Sadly, unless we can afford, or would be willing to commit to, full-time child-care and/or house-keeping, a mother does not have the luxury to create at her fullest potential. Even with my children out of the home to their respective educational institutions either 3 or 6 hours a day, I find my ability to write (or study for grad school) hampered. I have tried rising extremely early (4AM) and I loved the mental acuity of that time of day. But by Wednesday evening after all the housework, sibling-refereeing, taxiing, errands, etc. etc. etc., I wasn’t fit to be anyone’s mother or companion, let alone write.

I’m not good at grabbing moments. I’m a slow writer. I ponder each word and then go back and ponder it again. This analyzing (self-criticism?) can make a short blog post last the entire length of a Pre-K session. Suddenly I am having to abandon my treasure-trunk of words, ripping myself away mid-sentence to fly out the door to become Mom again. And take today: I have the flu (or something else icky but not bed-riddening). I am home with no demands for the day because after Pre-K my mother (bless her) is taking my son. But Hubby asked that we use this opportunity to do some important paperwork. So I delayed my writing, but then the phone rang and I sat for almost an hour waiting for him to get off the phone. (You know that infuriating situation when you’re meeting someone who’s late and you don’t know whether to leave because they might come right now… or maybe now…? Waiting for him to get off the phone any moment was like that.)

And so goes my life, it seems. I want to write, I love to write, I need to write, but I don’t write (much). I have responsibilities and always the question: should I be doing this or that? what is more important – the clothes or the blog post? And it is this constant questioning – deciding – that is part of the mental exhaustion (links to a NYT article). I love writing so much that I want to dedicate myself to it fully, not some half-hearted minute or two here and there, and so I don’t commit, because I can’t.

But I must. Because by not writing I am forsaking my own soul. My vision of a writer’s turret was just a symbol of my highest need: To be alone with “pen” in hand, scratching away, whittling words – the only tools I have – to make sense of my self and this world.

My turret is finally here. And today is “I Love to Write Day” and I do. So I am. And I will. Will you?

(And as I finish writing this I see this post on FB from Julia Cameron: “Time is what we all need more of–or do we? Time can be chiseled out of the busiest life by replacing our worrying with doing.” Ah, Synchronicity.)

Prompt: If we believe our visions and imaginings are symbols of deep (or higher) yearnings – from our authentic self – what is your “turret”?

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12 thoughts on “A turret and some (alone) time

  1. Great article, Joanna! Speaking of “synchronicity”: My 4th novel has been half written for the past 2 years and I haven’t had the inspiration to get back to it. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been getting nudged in that direction. Your article was an unmistakable push!

    Okay, okay, I’ll get back to writing my story and will stop forsaking my soul. Thank you!

  2. Just as in life, on a public blog we celebrate our accomplishments and empathize with one another’s difficulties. To do otherwise is to live a fettered with bitterness. Congratulations, Joanna!

  3. Really! Maybe some people who are desperate to tell the world about their private lives have more problems then the average person. It’s one thing to celebrate your accomplishments, it’s another to boast about them.

  4. If you are so bothered, why spend your time reading it? Seems like your issues are much larger than the author’s blog. Either way, hateful comments are not constructive.

  5. This is one of the things about writing: vulnerability. One has to be willing to be misinterpreted, even distorted and stay in the process of birthing one’s own voice. I’m sure it doesn’t throw you, Joanna.

  6. Hmmmm. I always liked the description of Jo’s writing place from Little Women – it sounds sort of turret-like to me. The thought of being all cozy and wrapped in a writing place sounds like heaven (though I would use it more for reading, I imagine). Congratulations on getting your writing space!

    You know, it always strikes me as odd for someone to complain about reading about someone else’s life while reading his/her blog. If you don’t like it, don’t read it – hardly a revolutionary concept. One of the wonderful things about the internet is the ability to click the little “x” in the uppermost right corner.

  7. LOVE IT J! My turret is yoga.. as with writing, being a working mom makes for a challenge in carving out 60-90min to practice. I have accepted this for now and am happy when i can grasp 20 min or even 45 some days!
    keep up the good work!
    I admire your willingness to share the bad and the good. THe beauty of a blog is if someone doesn’t like what you are saying, they don’t have to keep reading!

  8. I think you have a fabulous support system and the creative drive and initiative that allows you do do what you do (in your turret or otherwise!) and feel satisfied and happy about doing it. Personally I think this is worth celebrating and even bragging about – although I would hardly call this entry a boast. Enjoy your Austen-esque turret!

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