Readers, I have a confession: Every time I step into a home décor store, I get a little nauseous.
Naturally, this is a bit of a problem when you’re still trying to furnish a home you moved into last July. But every time I enter these stores, I become overwhelmed at the sheer amount of words plastered on every mug, rug, or pillow shanty. “IT’S FALL, Y’ALL!” scream the decorative cheese plates. “LIVE EVERY DAY LIKE A NEW ADVENTURE!” admonishes the wall art. “I LOVE TO COOK WITH WINE,” confesses the cutting board. “SOMETIMES I EVEN PUT IT IN THE FOOD.”
I hate it. I hate it so much it makes me dizzy. And for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why. It doesn’t bother me a bit when others fill their homes with meaningful quotes or clever sayings. Words are my life’s work, my most loyal obsession. Why didn’t I want to paper my walls with them?
Eventually, I realized my nausea had nothing to do with taste; it was about my needs as a writer. I craved a home full of images that tell their own stories. I wanted a house full of metaphors, not similes. And most importantly, I needed to make room to write my own words. I couldn’t have my private space cluttered up with someone else’s.
That’s not to say we mustn’t seek out the words of others; we must read, widely and often, to become better writers (and humans). But these words have their place: between covers of books, magazines, journals. Then it’s time to close them and tell our own stories.
Please, please do not underestimate the need for a safe space from which to call forth your own magic. Tear the clichés from the walls. Rip down the weighty words of others and give yourself permission to tell your own. This is your home, your cocoon, your well. Make room for it.
Perhaps “room” means a literal room of one’s own. Maybe it’s time apart from kids, chores, work obligations. Or perhaps it just means you muster up the will to write unfettered by self-editing or self-doubt. Whatever your own room is, please promise you’ll find it.
Chin up, chest out; seize it with both hands.
That’s the easy part, dear readers.
Now you must work – every day – to never, ever let it go.
—Nicki Porter served as the editor of The Writer from 2016 to 2022; she previously served as its associate editor. Before helming The Writer, she worked as a food editor for Madavor Media and America’s Test Kitchen. She’s also written for a number of publications and spoken at writing conferences across the country. Learn more at nickiporter.com.Originally Published