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Averyt: Shared Space

It wasn't exactly the Brady Bunch, but I grew up in a house with four brothers and sisters, two parents, a cat and one bathroom - shared living before it had a name. It was the late-1950s and sharing was a way of life. We shared toys and bedrooms, you took your turn on the phone and lined up in the morning for the bathroom.
 

Time to yourself was a precious commodity. Households weren't yet automated, food was cooked from scratch and carryout pizza hadn't been invented. There wasn't much time for daydreaming or a quiet space to write, at least for this young teenager who longed to be a writer. Maybe that was why I yearned for what Virginia Woolf called a "room of one's own", to have the resources and freedom to write.

In fact a writing room of my own was a long time coming. The first was in the basement when I moved with my own young family to Vermont. Later my space expanded to an entire unshared condo. I've lived alone for 16 years now and though there are empty rooms, I write in an alcove of my living room. It is bathed in the extravagant warmth and light of the southern sun flooding through French doors - which is probably the closest I'll get to sitting and writing in a Left Bank cafe.

Ironically though, after years of writing alone, I've discovered one can have too much of a "room of one's own". That while space, physical and psychological, are essential to the creative process, just as important are connection and exchange, dialogue and support. Poets and writers have gathered since Chaucer's time in public houses, cafes and empty rooms to discuss their work. Hemingway in Paris didn't just write alone, he was part of a literary community that included Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. In Key West , Hemingway labored in his writing studio but he also held court at Sloppy Joe's, his favorite local watering hole.

Although it may not be Paris of the twenties or Key West , Vermont is a writers mecca. North to south, writers gather in neighborhood libraries and bookstores, in cafes and meetup groups to share their work and spur inspiration.

My own home town of Burlington is a burgeoning writers community. Every week I can choose to join a poetry group or attend a memoir or creative non-fiction discussion. I'm able to interact with fellow writers as we thoughtfully critique each other's work, encourage each other's aspirations, talk about our craft and our vision. We share as peers and as mentors; in the process we become friends.

The hard work of creation must still be done alone, but thanks to the Burlington writing community, my room has expanded. I no long feel so solitary, and because they are shared, my work and my life are richer.