The gift of an empty room

Had a weird experience yesterday when I ran a writing workshop and only one person turned up – and she was 40 minutes late!  I’m quite accomplished at promoting my own writing events and I usually manage to drum up enough interest to make my workshops viable but, in this instance, I wasn’t responsible for marketing the workshop, and, for whatever reason, there was minimum take-up.

I’d done a lot of preparation (I do tend to over-plan for these sort of things), selecting and photocopying suitable poems and short fictions for the workshop and planning writing exercises. The floors of several rooms in my house were carpeted with sheets of A4 paper.


But I tamed the paperwork, packed my bag, boarded a train, arrived at the venue and set up my table.


Then I waited for someone to appear.  Waited and waited.  Looked out of the window..


noticed a man feeding some ducks and swans..

…went in search of a cup of tea. Someone is on their way, they said, but she’s running late.  OK.  Back to the empty room..


… waited.  What to do in a quiet, warm, empty, comfortable (if basic) room, furnished with little more than a small pile of books?  nothing to worry about, my fee was arranged in advance, regardless of how many people turned up – inevitably I might have to jig things around a little, with only one participant, but nothing too onerous to work out.  So what could I do?

I read, of course, and it was wonderful.  How could I have let myself forget how much I love reading?  I’ve been so busy lately, planning and running writing workshops, marketing them, attending workshops as a participant myself, re-drafting and typing up poems for submissions,  researching and subscribing to magazines, reading reviews and buying poetry books, as well as the usual stuff you have to do as a mother of a 13 and 12 year old, and wife of a 40something year old, and on top of that, the distractions that I allow myself to be drawn into, the comment threads on Facebook I’ve taken time to read, the “fascinating” articles chirping all over my twitter timeline.  In all this busyness, I’d forgotten how much I need emptiness – an empty room, a distraction-free space, time alone to be with books, of poems in particular because poems are what I’m craving at the moment, to read and to write.

So that’s my plan for the next few weeks.  I have three more workshops to deliver (apparently there are already bookings – hurray!) and, inbetween, whenever possible, I’m going to make time to find an empty room, sit quietly and read.  I’ll try to write about it all here.  But don’t expect anything too pacey!  I’m going to take my time.

And, by the way, someone, an interesting and intelligent woman called Pam,  did come to my workshop and she was lovely.  What an enjoyable couple of hours we had, getting to know one another, reading through the poems and short fictions I’d selected for the workshop, talking about the writers’ techniques, sharing each other’s work, chatting about our lives and experiences.  Luckily, Pam is mainly interested in writing poetry too, so we compared notes about work we did or didn’t enjoy, not always agreeing but we shared many of the same ideas.  I would never have had the chance to get to know her if it had been a crowded workshop and I think we’ll stay in touch.  So yesterday started off feeling quite weird, but ended on a cheerful note.

And now, off to search for an empty room….

13 thoughts on “The gift of an empty room”

    1. I LOVE the idea of a quiet garden! Better weather needed, definitely, on this particular day it felt like minus 20 with the windchill factor! and Katharine, it’s easy to work out where this was by reading an earlier blog! Thank you both for reading and commenting 🙂


  1. One day I’d love to go to one of your workshops. Every time you write about them they sound so interesting! This one seems to have been hugely beneficial to you – you’re absolutely right. I crave solitude a lot of the time, and seldom achieve it.


    1. What a kind comment, Isabel! I think a workshop is only as good as its participants and even though only one person turned up for this one, she was superb, especially with her attitude to having a go. I have only recently properly understood the importance and the restorative powers of solitude and I am getting better at scheduling it in to my week!


  2. Great post Josephine and it struck a chord with me. I had a few hours to kill in a town far from home this week between work commitments and I ended up in a quiet cafe in a hidden corner. I read quietly in complete peace but If I’d been at home, I would’ve found something to fill the time and missed out on the simple pleasure of stepping off the treadmill and enjoying a good book. P.S. I love your stripey rug!


    1. Thanks Helen. It’s important to acknowledge that some of us need “time out” more than others and that it can, in the long run, make us more productive and happier! (Glad you like our rug – over ten years old and from Ikea!)


  3. It’s great that you managed to switch the situation around to something positive. Many people would have struggled, but you not only turned it around, you fell in love with reading again and realised how important it is to you. Fabulous.


  4. I hate to lower the tone by talking about something materialistic, but the fact that I was still paid helped the situation! I wouldn’t have been so positive if I’d incurred a financial loss. It has certainly reminded me of the importance of reading and also of how much I need solitude and “emptiness” to feel well. Thanks so much for commenting!


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