If you know me at all, you know why this author’s guest post spoke to me. Both THE GLASS WIVES and THE GOOD NEIGHBOR feature single mom main characters who, amidst unique and universal struggles, have heart and moxie. Just like the very real author, Tracey Scott-Townsend.
If you think you can’t find the time or space to write, read Tracey’s guest post again. Then stop kvetching and get back to work.
A Room of My Own
by Tracey Scott-Townsend
When I became a single parent my sons were aged nine, seven, and four. My daughter was one. My youngest son was having difficulties and I felt guilty that the marriage breakdown might have made them worse. After an initial surge of euphoria I succumbed to depression, feeling a failure for allowing my marriage to break down and maybe damaging my children. I’d never intended to be a single parent.
Swallowing my pride, I went to the doctor. Within weeks I felt better. Spring came and my kids were brilliant, we pulled together as a team. Their father visited every weekend at first, until he moved too far away, and we often still did things together as a family.
We got used to being on our own more and I was stronger than I thought. But I lived in a crowded house with my children and it curbed my creativity. For a couple of years I had to manage making artwork (I was a visual artist prior to 2010), alongside my toddler daughter, (making sure she didn’t eat too much paint!). I kept my writerly creativity going by making up stories on a nightly basis to my two youngest as I tried to get them to sleep. I also spent hours reading stories and poems to them all when things started to get out of control. It stopped us all shouting.
We moved house and I slept in a tiny room which I had to take the door off due to lack of space. There was only a curtain to hide behind. And nowhere I could leave out work or have any thinking space.
What gave me the idea to get a shed? I don’t really know, but I remember going to view a variety of them at the shed-yard. The smell of sun-warmed wood, the soft silence within the enclosed space as I closed the door. The out-letting of relaxed breath. My own little space. I can breathe now.
My shed arrived in our garden, a superb 8ft by 14ft model with three windows along one side. Somewhere to work. When my daughter was at nursery and the boys at school I constructed and planned and produced. It was hard breaking off at 3 o’clock. I collected them from school, prepared their food, helped with homework, read with them and put them to bed. Sometimes I’d go out to the shed again in the night, a magical alone-ness. It helped me think.
I had to sell the large shed and get a smaller one for the garden of the house we moved to next. 6ft by 8ft, it was barely big enough to make art in but had enough space for a desk and a lamp and a bookshelf. Electricity was run out to the shed via an insulated wire. I had an electric radiator although the shed wasn’t insulated. But I could work out there with a blanket around my shoulders and another over my knees. The kids were slightly older, I could leave them alone in the house for longer; I now had some time to really think.
Because this is the thing: so much about being a writer is to do with thinking, and you can’t do that with a bunch of kids shouting around, fighting and bickering or having noisy fun. I just needed to get out there and insulate myself from the chaos. I started to write seriously because I’d learned by now it was all about setting targets and sticking to them, within constrained time limits.
My latest shed is my forever-shed. When I move house it will go with me. The same size as the previous one; it has an apex roof and a solid front door. I laid lino tiles on the floor and covered them with a rug. It’s insulated and I have Japanese screens and hangings on the walls, and a clock, and a radio. I have a heater and two lamps, and photos of my children, three of them now grown and left. And I do all my writing in there; I set myself deadlines and meet them. It’s a proper workplace that I take as seriously as any that I’d commute to on a train or a bus.
If you have no space in your home for a room of your own, I urge you to consider a shed, it doesn’t matter how tiny, even to get in there an hour a day will really make a difference.
Tracey Scott-Townsend spends her writing time in her much-loved shed. It’s a world of her own making, like her stories. She says that stepping inside and closing the door behind her induces a feeling like the hushed atmosphere of a church.
She is the mother of four children, three of whom have now left home: one of them particularly far away. Still, she’s sure that Australia will provide as much inspiration for her writing as Iceland has done, (another place she was introduced to by her son). She’s really hoping to witness a full show of the Northern Lights next time she is there.
Closer to home, Tracey enjoys travelling in the bus-with-a-woodstove with her husband and their Labrador, Riley. They are always on the lookout for a scenic layby in which to sleep. Last year they spent time all over the British Isles, including the Outer Hebrides, which will be the setting for a future novel. In a few years they plan to set off on the road (by way of the sea) for an extended period of time: after all, writing can be done anywhere.
3 thoughts on “Guest Post: How One Single Mom Claimed Her Own Writing Space”
A great post! I completely agree that so much of writing is thinking and that’s often hard to do when you have children to care for. Case in point – we’re off to toddler swimming right now (just have to hope inspiration strikes on the way to the pool!) 🙂
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Tracy, this is a fabulously inspiring piece. I used to write in a shed–a converted sheep shed! Now we have a barn behind our house, and I created an office in one corner of that, with glass doors that open onto a small screened porch where I can write when it’s warm enough. I agree that it’s important not only to get away from your children when you write, but to be in a space that is solely your own. And it helps a great deal if that space is NOT within sight of laundry, dishes, or unmade beds!
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I’m so glad you both enjoyed the post. Now my children are grown – two of my sons are now in Australia, recounting to me their fantastic and varied (and poverty-stricken many times, as we often were when they were small) lives, and my other son is too happy to need to get in touch that often (that’s a good thing, right?) My daughter is just about to don a prom-dress and go off to the end-of-school ball. I miss my babies. I miss those four round-cheeked children in the photograph, and how I managed to cope at the time. So any of you who are still mired in nappies and tantrums and tired arms clinging around your necks at bedtimes, cherish it. It will be over soon and you’ll wonder where it’s gone. But on the other hand I’m not spending my time mourning those years. Trying not to, anyway. To have the time to devote to creativity now is a gift. And the special space of my shed is a gift. (i love the idea of writing in a sheep-shed, Holly!). Motherhood was a huge inspiration for my writing and it features heavily in my two books that are already published and the two that will be published next year and the year after, and the one I’m currently writing. It stays in your heart and mind all the time. The ideas will keep playing in your head, Claire, and they’ll still be waiting when you get a moment to access them!