A Space of One’s Own

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Today I am waiting to have a desk delivered to the house. I know what you’re thinking: “What? You don’t already have one?” I do indeed have a desk, but this what it looked like earlier today, and I need the extra space for my novel. I am expecting to get my manuscript back from Antonia Fusco, my editor at Algonquin, this week, and I want to have the space for it, without the piles of books waiting to be read, the files, the papers, the laptop, etc. I want to lay out my chapters, my time line, my character bios, my maps, and everything else. I felt a little silly ordering a whole desk just so I can have some extra space for my novel until I remembered an old, old interview with Joan Didion I’d read in the Paris Review. Here’s the excerpt I’m thinking of:

INTERVIEWER

Do you have any writing rituals?

DIDION

The most important is that I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I’ve done that day. I can’t do it late in the afternoon because I’m too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. . . . Another thing I need to do, when I’m near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That’s one reason I go home to Sacramento to finish things. Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it. In Sacramento nobody cares if I appear or not. I can just get up and start typing.

One ought to do whatever works-sleep with the manuscript if one needs to, even. This is the last stretch for me, so I might as well give my novel all the space it needs.

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