Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

In an essay published recently in The Guardian, award winning author of Homegoing Yaa Gyasi talks about her “writing space.”

The essay opens with a story about her ordering a desk that never arrived. After a number of frustrating customer service calls and an hour of tears and trying to figure out why the absence of the desk bothered her so much, she came to the realization that a big part of being a writer is having what might appear to some as an irrational connection to certain objects, spaces, or habits. Every writer’s life is defined by certain “irrational bargaining and ritualizing,” as she calls, that inspire creativity. For her, it’s all about her “writing space” and the things, such as the desk, that make this space a sanctuary. 

It is a beautiful essay, written with a lot of heart and honesty. It has lots teachable moments for the aspiring writing, some of which we have compiled for you. 

Enjoy!

1. The irrational bargaining of a writer. Gyasi describes a very relatable dilemma for every writer:

“I write a sentence. I read it aloud. I delete the sentence. I look at the clock and wonder if it’s too early to think about lunch. I tell myself that, if I can make it to 300 words, I can break for lunch. I write another sentence. This one I might like. If I’m lucky it leads to a second sentence. I think: “What’s the point of this? Is anyone truly happy?”

We’ve all been there! Picking apart your sentences, rewarding yourself for getting to a marker you’ve made for yourself, then inevitably starting from scratch. She even included the mini existential spiral that comes with this innate writer’s perfectionism.

2. Balancing the work that comes with writing/being a writer. As many ‘how-to’s’ there might be on how to balance work, life, and sifting through a plethora of emails on the daily, it will never feel manageable or convenient to do so. Ever.

3. Secret superstitions. It may seem minor from the outside looking in, but all the books Gyasi sits on her desk are important contributors to the energy of her successful writing. You cross your fingers during airplane take offs, some keep books on their desks for good luck. Don’t judge.

4. The sanctuary that is your “writer’s space”. Gyasi defensively mentions her “writer’s space” and how vital it is in her creative process. Some, fortunately enough, don’t need a physical writer’s space and just need to be in the headspace to write. This is why some writers just aren’t always able to write in hotel rooms or airplanes, (as Gyasi bemoans). Sometimes your writer’s space is a special dungeon.

5. The Writing Well.

“So much of my writing day feels like well-digging. Sometimes I dig 200ft down before coming back up, dry. Every day I search for water.”

This was just as comforting to read as it was true. Many times, even for the award winning writers, you will come back up dry while digging for the perfect words. But we must still search, persistently.

Read the full essay here.

 

*********

Post image by John Midgley via bookcritic.org

Tags: , ,

3 Responses to “5 Take-aways from Yaa Gyasi’s Essay on Writing and Space” Subscribe

  1. Williams December 4, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    This article was amazing! Very inspiring not only for creative writers but for those who are in school constantly writing essays (psy majors included!) very well written!

  2. Joanne March 25, 2018 at 11:53 pm #

    Bookmarking the Gyaasi article to read. The excerpts are very relatable… though over the years I’ve been able to write anywhere (so not so much with the sacred space).

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What’s on Your Nightstand: December 2017 | Zezee with Books - December 30, 2017

    […] 5 Take-Aways from Yaa Gyasi’s Essay on Writing and Space (brittlepaper.com) […]

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

For Working Class Writers & Refugees, Sulaiman Addonia Is Giving Out 40 Free Tickets to the Asmara Addis Festival

Asmara Addis Literray Festival in Exile (13)

When writing is described as an elitist profession, critics mean that opportunities in the field are determined by access, which […]

Modern Sudanese Poetry | New Anthology Spans Six Decades of Sudanese History & Cultural Intersections

Modern Sudanese Poetry - graph

Modern Sudanese Poetry: An Anthology, translated and edited by the Sudanese poet Adil Babikir, was published in paperback in September […]

Chuma Nwokolo Compensated in Plagiarism Lawsuit Against High Definition Film Studio, Shares More Stories of Plagiarism of His Work

chuma nwokolo by Yusuf Dahir

In November 2019, the Nigerian author Chuma Nwokolo called out Nollywood filmmaker Bright Wonder Obasi for using sections of his […]

Apply to the African Writers Trust Publishing Fellowship Programme

African writers trust

African Writers Trust (AWT) is a non-profit collective that seeks to promote the sharing of skills and resources, and to […]

Dr Stella Nyanzi Receives Oxfam Novib/PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression

stella nyanzi - graph - kampala dispatch

The Ugandan academic and gender and queer rights advocate Dr Stella Nyanzi has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International […]

The 2000s-10s Generation of Nigerian Writers Has Failed Politically | Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera

nigeria map graph

1. At the Ake Arts and Books Festival in Lagos last October, the novelist Helon Habila said something about identifying […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.