Guest Blog Post, Patricia Clark: The Writing Hut: A Dedicated Space

There is a primal urge in our muscles, housed in ligaments, tendons, cells. For a wrapper around us: the shell of an egg, nest, hut. To sit reading by a fire in a house with sturdy walls: one remembers the pleasure.Patricia Clark

I want to advocate for a dedicated space—for each of you, each of us, as writers—and if possible a writing space separate from your living space. As I write the sentence I lament that it took me years to know I needed such a space and then years to have the means to build one. Mine is small enough a white pine hides it from view, and yet it’s ample. How much does a writer need?

A desk, a chair, a lamp, heat, a ceiling fan for when it’s too hot. A shelf for books. A notebook, a writing implement. Windows, with some that open wide.

What shall it be called? I reject shack, but wish that the word studio had fewer syllables. I prefer the word hut. A friend recommended a longer title, suggesting cursive words burned into a plaque I nail up: “Pavilion for the Gathering of Harmonious Intent.” I resisted that, too. I refuse a sign, a name. I have a knocker in the shape of a trowel next to the door. “Please don’t knock unless it’s an emergency.” This is what I’ve told my husband.

I step outside, hiking up on my shoulder a bookbag with notebook and binoculars; in my other hand a thermos of coffee, a cup. Once I step into my writing hut, I breathe new air. I look out on a ravine behind our house, a creek, deciduous trees. All is forgotten: teaching schedule, chores, dinner menu, dentist appointment. I am riding the crest of a wave, alone. It’s thrilling. It’s where I need to be.

Trees by Patricia Clark Writing hut

Depending on your writing methods, you can leave technology behind—though wireless does extend out this far. I write longhand in a notebook, ones I buy in bulk quantities. I buy the same ones: lined, thick paper, with a colorful front and back and an elastic closure. I write with a pen. Eventually I will put the poem on my computer (in the house), print it out, work on revision (on paper), and repeat the process. But I love writing by hand. It slows the words down for me; there is time to think, reflect, stop and start again. Recursive, reflective, slow. It is “slow food,” this writing. Here’s a pat of butter sliding across the page, or a piece of ice melting, moving. Mixed metaphors. I think of Robert Frost’s words, “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove a poem must ride on its own melting.”

One also leaves behind the whole writing profession, its worries, publishing, frets, envies, niggling doubts. Here one is up against writing itself, by itself. One grapples, struggles. The opponent? Oneself. There is no other here. Get it right; tell the truth, give the right, specific detail.

I like it quiet, like it with the windows open to birdsong, and I like it with music. Either way, find your space. Have it reflect the unique self that is you, and relish it.

Writing as practice, the hand caressing the page, the wet ink lapping at the dry paper. Each poem is a walk, a journey, and the mind wants to rove. Let us go a’maying, let us venture out.

Patricia Clark

Patricia Clark is Poet-in-Residence and Professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University. Author of five volumes of poetry, Patricia’s latest book is The Canopy. Recent poems appear in Prairie Schooner, Michigan Quarterly Review, Superstition Review, Salamander, and The Feminist Wire. She has also published two chapbooks of poetry: Wreath for the Red Admiral and Given the Trees. She was a finalist for the Walt Whitman Award and the National Poetry Series; she won the Mississippi Review Poetry Prize and 2nd prize in the Pablo Neruda Prize from Nimrod in 2005, and she's been awarded residencies at The MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragdale, and Ireland's Tyrone Guthrie Center. Finally, she was poet laureate of Grand Rapids from 2005-2007.

2 thoughts on “Guest Blog Post, Patricia Clark: The Writing Hut: A Dedicated Space

  • March 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm
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    I propose that we have reading huts as well! Or, allow our writing huts to be a place where we read too. I have always dreamed of having a room in my future home that has bookshelves lining the walls, an overstuffed lounge chair, and a desk where I can work. Maybe a fish tank, too. If the writing/reading hut was separated from the house as Patricia Clark suggests, that would be even better. We can often produce our best work and achieve clarity in solitude.

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  • March 11, 2013 at 4:56 am
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    Rikki: I love the idea of reading huts! I think we’d read more deeply and more slowly.
    We need a little solitude. Yes!

    Reply

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