Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

A Writing Space of One’s Own

| 5 Comments

My writing space in the car

The editor of a book I contributed to asked all of us contributors to send photos of our writing spaces. I usually write on my phone. I write my syllabi, my blog, entire book chapters and articles on my phone. Reports for work. I create slides for my classes and for presentations on my phone. All of it and more.

When I took the pictures, I realized how they represent my semi-privilege. First, the privilege of having a personal driver. This allows me to write during my commute, which is about 1 hour in the morning and 1.5 hours afternoon most days. I took the photos from his phone, actually, of my hand holding my own phone. Egyptians of various social classes have smartphones. I used bluetooth to transfer the photos from his phone to mine so as not to use up his internet minutes. Also, my privilege that I have the ability to focus in and use my phone while on the go – some people get headaches or nausea from reading in a moving vehicle and I am so lucky not to be one of them. Reading and writing in a car or bus or train are essential for my time management and honestly my wellbeing.

I was recently reading Elif Shafak’s Black Milk and there was a part about Virgina Woolf and how she didn’t *just* have a room of her own, but also a chef of her own, a maid of her own, etc. Now, I actually *don’t * have a room of my own in our apartment. I share a bedroom with my husband and my daughter had her own bedroom. None of these has a desk, and I actually have done an entire job interview from my daughter’s bedroom, believe it or not, sitting on her bed, while my husband and daughter were watching TV in the living room, and my kid later came into her room and started playing while I continued to do the job interview in which I actually did really well. The colorful curtain people see on many vconnecting sessions is from our living room where I have a light mobile desk which sort of… has two legs not four and fits under a sofa so I can sit comfortably. I don’t sit there unless I really need a laptop. I prefer typing on my phone sittinng pretty much anywhere. Sometimes I sit outside on our dining table, which is part of the open area outside the rooms… we call the spaces there salon (most formal space to have guests) and entrée (entrance right in front of the apartment door) and the dining room (really just a big table and chairs) is in that open space.

But back to Virginia Woolf. I am able to write on my phone because I have a driver of my own. I don’t actually own the car, he does, but sometimes I also use a taxi or ride sharing and a long time ago I used to use the university bus. I can read or write on any of these, but on a bus I may need to socialize with people (not something I have a problem with, I enjoy it, but it interrupts my flow if I want to write or read). On the other hand, writing on a phone means I can do it while surrounded by people without them realizing I am doing intellectual work.. unlike a laptop or iPad which gives that impression more explicitly. Using ride sharing or taxi is slightly different because occasionally I have to give the driver directions. On buses or trains that are public transportation (which I am privileged not to use in Egypt but I use when traveling) I would need to stay alert to know when to get off.

I have my own office at work, but I am often interrupted. This is OK. I expect that.

There is also some unprivilege (wait, this isn’t a word?) in all of this. But the lack of privilege comes from the difficulty of finding time to write at home because I’m a mom of a young child and… OK I like to be flexible and be able to move around and be with her while also writing. You may think I should separate family time from work time. You would be write. Oops. You would be RIGHT. But writing for me is not an extension of work time. It is sometimes like breathing. If I want to write something, I am sort of needing to write it and compelled to write it down before I forget. Wherever I am. I write while i am cooking and while I am walking and, yes, in the middle of family gatherings and work meetings and sometimes class!!

It’s not all entire articles like I write on my commute to work (like this one) but notes here and there that help build up to other things.

So yeah. All of that because someone asked for a picture of my writing space.

5 Comments

  1. I can’t write or read in a car! I do almost all my work (and Twitter) on my morning commute to London. Great post, really resonated with me.


  2. Morning commute via trains:)


  3. love this post Maha – ” . .. writing for me is not an extension of work time. It is sometimes like breathing.” impressed that you can write on a phone in a car – I suffer from motion sickness so that’s never going to happen for me.

  4. I’m better on a train – particularly one with a table but some trains are better than others


  5. Thank you Maha for sharing your unprivileged writing process. To often the reality seems to go unrecognised. I too sneak moments to jot down points. It would be nice to fit in time for ‘deep work‘, but it isn’t always possible.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: