For Want of a Better Word, It’s a Room

By Brandon Layng

Where do you go when you write? At one point in time I went to coffee shops and pubs alternately but that was before my health situation stepped in and permanently fixed my alcoholism issues at the same time it said coffee would be a thing of my past. I wrote over half of my unpublished novel “Sin in Skin” in those places. It was begun for NaNoWriMo (if you’re a writer who doesn’t know what NaNoWriMo is, you need to get educated on it before November 1st) and I completed my required 50K in a 9K burst over two days, headphones on and coffee or Strongbow cider in hand. I’ve added 40K of words since then but that was my last coffee shop/pub book.

I moved on back home with my writing. My mom became very sick with cancer (miss her dearly, bless her wonderful soul) and I needed to be close since my wife and I were taking care of her with the help of a few caring family members and two amazing nurses. I took my laptop to the basement when the kids were awake and causing a fuss. I put headphones on or watched a movie with my wife while I wrote on my clunky out-dated PC.

My mom passed and finances required my family to move from the home we lived in for four years together. We’re in a little white house, closer to the countryside, which is where I’ve always wanted to be. Here I write in the basement. It’s probably the least temperature controlled area of the house. I’m surrounded by shelves, but mostly boxes, of books.

Those books are waiting for something.

The rooms we write in in the real world are far different from the ones in our heads. The imaginary ones can be more physical to us while writing.

I can sit in a park and so long as I can find a way to escape through the door of the room in my head I can write anything almost anywhere. It’s harder to find the door when I have screaming kids and even screaming adults running amok in my vicinity, which means there’s many times I end up with a migraine just trying to find the key that fits in the wrought-iron keyhole fitted absurdly in the wall between seams in the wallpaper. The door to my room, in the house in my mind would ideally be invisible to everyone but me. On the other side exists a sound-proofed room, a library, wall-to-wall shelves filled to over-flowing with books of all shapes, sizes and ages. I need those books, it’s where everything I ever learned is stored along with all the things I hope to learn. Sometimes my room has a window. Sometimes it does not. The desk reminds of the old wooden teacher’s desks that sat at the front of the class when I was a wee small kid. Four drawers; two small up top and two bigger ones beneath, two to a side. There is a banker’s lamp with rounded shade on top, with a yellow-white bulb (not one of these weird looking too-bright energy-saver wads of dung). There are two chairs, great cushy winged-back chairs, not leather but soft suede and dark brown like the ottomans in front of them, their wooden legs cherry-stained nearly black and table between them. The chairs face a fieldstone fireplace – a real one, not gas – with warm hearth fire burning. The room, my room, smells of paper and wood smoke. Next to the scent of a woman is there any two greater smells in the world?

You need a room to go to. You probably already have one. I’m always curious about the rooms other writers runaway to when they’re getting the words out. You head to the gym to work out your anger. You slink off to the bathroom to push the poop out. You disappear into the room in your head to write the story out.

While you’re in there, your spouse has walked into the room your body physically occupies and begins talking to you. It could be that they are asking what kind of cookies you think they should whip up for the kid’s school bake sale. Or they could be asking you to take a look at the pimple on their butt to find out if you think it looks cancerous. Maybe it’s one of those kids you remember having, the ones in the picture on your desk who won’t be able to make their next braces adjustment appointment if you don’t hurry up and sell something so you can afford the outrageous fees. The kid is probably asking if they can borrow the car and you automatically say “yes” because your body is running on auto-pilot while your mind plays in its room. An hour later, you recall that your kid is twelve and doesn’t even have a learner’s permit. Thank God your spouse caught that one as the car backed down the driveway.

My point is this:

While my books and I can’t wait to move into the real version of the room in my head, I have to remind myself that right now it’s still a part of my imagination. I can make it a reality one day, but I don’t want to arrive at that point in my life to discover the rest of the house is empty.

You don’t want to spend all of your time hiding away – alone – creating your magnificent art to step out one day and find you’re still alone in reality.

I get caught up in so many great ideas, they won’t stop, and I feel myself swept away by them on their surging waves while my family waves and calls to me from the shore. They’ve been knocking on the door trying to catch my attention.

Take time to remind yourself there is a life outside the place you go to in your head, because after all it’s just a room.


2 Responses to “A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 15”

  1. That was an entertaining, thought-provoking and nicely written piece.
    I enjoyed it immensely Brandon.

    Stay Alive

  2. Thank you Neil. It’s one of those things we often forget while the siren call of writing draws us in. We just have to be careful our relationships don’t crash upon the rocks.

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