Writing Room

My writing room is also my art room. At nine by ten feet it’s too small to use the term studio. I say that, not with regret, simply as a fact. The truth is that I like writing in restrained quarters. Some of my best writing was done in tiny hotel rooms. In my short story, “Sightseeing,” I describe the room where I wrote the first draft of that story:

“The Cambie International Hostel is located in downtown Vancouver at the corner of Seymour and Pender, above Malone’s Bar and Grill. I ask for a quiet room; I notice they sell earplugs. Jabs of happy-hour laughter follow me five fights up. A blend of Javex and fumigation attack my nostrils. Room 203. About the size of a phone booth. Orange walls offset turquoise bunk beds. The noise level from the street is phenomenal.”

The narrator comes back at night:

“In room 203 the air is stagnant. I hear the humming and clicking of trolley antennas skidding across cables. In spite of my cringe at the first sight of this room, I like it here now. I abandon myself to my laptop. This is a perfect place to write. It is so small there is nowhere to go except onto the page. Words flow like the beer from the pitchers at Malone’s downstairs.”


In that hole of a room I was able to put myself into the skin of a young drug addict. I doubt I would have come up with the same material had I been staying at a Best Western for example. What happens to me in that type of hotel room is that I end up transfixed to the television, making up for the fact that I never, and I mean never, watch it at home.

A few years ago, in a state of fury, I transformed our guestroom into my art slash writing space. It was right after a trip to Mexico. My head was dancing with images of Mayan ruins and I wanted to create! I emptied the room, painted it white, bought a gigantic piece of compressed wood with melamine finish, mounted it onto folding metal legs, and pushed it against the wall. This is where I make art. I write on a small pine table, perpetually covered with a Provençale tablecloth. When my father first saw it he asked, “What do you do here, serve meals?” That hasn’t happened yet but the olive pattern is food for thought and I like the warmth of the cotton beneath my forearms as I type.


The walls are covered with a series of collages from my last solo show. I also have a corner with mementoes from the trip to Mexico, perhaps in homage to the energy that pushed me into creating a room of my own.


There is a wonderful web article in the Guardian’s book section, entitled “Writers’ Rooms.” Adam Philips says, “The room is the view.” My window overlooks the two spruce trees I planted when my husband and I moved into our home thirteen years ago. Now these trees loom over the house and are a constant testament to the passing of time. Perhaps these conifers prod me on, reminding me not to waste precious seconds, as they grow yet another inch before my procrastinating eyes.


I had fun looking at the writers’ rooms, 67 in all, and choosing the ones I would most want to work in. The locomotive shape of Margaret Forster’s room embodies that quasi-claustrophobic feeling that suits me so well.

I can’t imagine writing on Michael Rosen’s desk. It overlooks the emptiness of the stairwell. I do like what he wrote about the too-small shoes, however, at the end of his room description.

Judith Kerr’s room would be good for me; there are even drawers where I could store my artwork. My favorite room though belongs to Seamus Heany, an attic with a low skylight from which he watches the shipping action in the Dublin port.


Barbara Trapido’s room includes a bed, where she can “bed down” two nights a week, and rise at 3 or 4 am, a concept that doesn’t particularly appeal to me. I did a stint of waking up at 5:00 every morning. My body floated out of bed, but my head stayed on the pillow, which was fine for writing my “morning pages” but nothing beyond that.

Siri Hustvedt says, “A room to write isn’t like any other room because most of the time the person in it doesn’t see it.” Perhaps there is something lacking in my writing technique because I can see my room very well, thank you.

I laughed when I read that Martin Amis thinks he should get the Booker Prize for retyping, but I laughed even harder when I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s room description. He used to write in the Rose Reading Room of the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library. Now he writes at the Grand Army Plaza Branch, in Brooklyn. Describing the differences in what is considered acceptable behavior in each library, Foer writes:

“In Brooklyn, people regularly carry on cellphone conversations at their desks, regularly sing along to the music they are listening to through their earphones (why wear earphones at all?), regularly have conversations (which are regularly about illicit things)…”

I not only wrote the final draft of my first blog entry, “Etch A Sketch of Childhood,” at the Magog Municipal Library, I figured out how to put it online. When I clicked the “Publish” button and saw my illustrated article on the web I was ecstatic, felt like jumping, screaming, giving the librarian a high-five, but I couldn’t, after all I was in Magog, not Brooklyn. So, with a lilt in my stride, I walked to my itty-bitty B & B room, squeezed in between the bed and dresser, sat at the miniscule table tucked under the sloping ceiling, and went to my favorite spot in the room, onto the page.

Talleen Hacikyan

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