For me writing is all about routine. It’s about having a suitable environment to allow everything else to get out of the way. It’s about being comfortable and warm with minimal distractions.
For many years, I didn’t write. There were lots of reasons for that. Chiefly though, they were the usual ones of needing to make a living and having children to bring up. I am a fairly risk averse sort of person so the thought of abandoning my life to chance and becoming a Bohemian wordsmith didn’t sit well. However, having a space to write, for my brain to associate with the process was also important.
Living in a three bedroomed house, with two children, meant that there was no consistent writing space. I managed with a laptop, an iPad, a chair here, a sofa there. Or rather, I didn’t manage at all.
…until Emma went to Coventry University.
Apart from the obvious seedings of my ideas for Killing by the Book, it also meant that a bedroom became empty. However, it was left tantalisingly empty until she finished. When she decided she was going to live away even after university, Laura moved into Emma’s old room and the box room became my office. I remove the fairy pink and princesses and decorated in a utilitarian, non-distracting beige and brown.
The room itself is six-by-six with some cupboards over the stair cap. For some years I had been requesting store vouchers for birthdays, Christmas, father’s day, so I carpeted and decorated, bought a set of desks and cupboards and moved in. With my late father’s desk nameplate on the door, it is the comfortable space I wanted. Later I added shelf space to the two walls around the desk (do not check the carpentry too closely). Now I have my scattered possessions in one place. With a window facing South-east, it get sunlight during the day, so the computer is set back into a shadow. At night with the blind down and a small overhead light, it is as if I am the only person in the world.
The office also serves as a space for my business. There is not much paperwork but the trick is to keep the room tidy and sparse. Unlike some writers, I am not all Post-its and scraps of paper. I use OneNote as a filing system. Each to his own but I tend to straighten coaster on tables so Post-its fire my OCD nerve. The mouse and keyboard are wireless, as leads always beg to be tidied. The iMac occupies my immediate eye line. I have photos but they are either on the wall behind or above on the shelves. As part of a cable contract, I was given a bluetooth speaker so that is permanently connected. The desk is wired so that I can turn off any paraphernalia that will interrupt me. Mickey Mouse (from our 2001 trip to Orlando) sits above pointing to me and to the screen, reminding me what I am in here for.
An important factor for me is the isolation. I am there to commune with the characters in my head, so I tend to kill the phone and at times, pull out the network connector which will fire up Facebook and an Internet of distractions. Off-grid, just me, the computer and the words.
Of course, I am not always at home but again routine and lack of distractions is important. I find writing very difficult if I am away in a hotel; the strangeness upsets my flow (what a Divo!). I have chosen a meeting room at work and occupy that until 8:30, then at 4:30 back up to the same room, headphones and Classic FM. I have a MacBook set up exactly like the iMac and iCloud sorts out the files. The room is plain and quiet… except for the cleaners.
For me having a space, has helped me focus, a threshold beyond which I put on a different face. Killing by the Book and The Farm were both written in here and No Going Back is well underway. I am sure this would not have happened without this space.
I would really like to hear about your writing spaces, about the struggles you may have to get a place to yourself and of how it has influenced the work you have produced.