Finding your perfect writing place.
Virginia Woolf’s famous essay about women needing a room (and money) of their own in order to write strikes a chord with every writer who’s ever typed in a dark corner of a messy kitchen or who’s scribbled their latest chapter on a note pad in their parked car.
I’m lucky enough to have a room where I can write, a room that is just mine and the occasional guest who might sleep over in the bunk beds across from my desk. In this room, I have a view over a back garden which is pretty enough to be pleasing but not too pretty that I can’t stop staring at it; two dog beds because Dottie and Pippa consider writing to be an activity we always do as a group; photographs of my children, my partner and the other beautiful dogs I’ve written with over the years; several plants including an amazing but particularly unfriendly cactus that has been banished to this space because there’s negligible risk of its spines inflicting damage when there’s so little traffic; and a supply of sweeties. It’s my space and I am really quite good at sitting there and getting my work done.
Except when I’m not. Because I do like to move around and switch things up. Sometimes this just means a change of scenery, like moving to the living room which is brighter and closer to the fridge with snacks, or to my bedroom which is much more comfortable. Or sitting in the garden once the sun has gone down, writing under a lilac tree or in the space where my shed used to be. (I once wasted a whole week setting up an ‘office’ in said shed not realising until I finally sat down to write that it was dark, dank, incredibly hot and, most crucially, entirely unappealing to my writing team who would saunter in, sniff their dog beds and quickly leave). Or often, somewhere where there’s no Wi-Fi so I can just stop googling. Mostly, though, when I carry my laptop down the stairs and elsewhere it’s because I’m looking for life, for people. I don’t mind how noisy it is, I just want to be in the thick of things. Because writing is so very solitary and I really really like people.
Fortunately, I started writing professionally in a busy newspaper room in Tokyo. Copy had to be written to short deadlines whilst conversations zipped back and forth, phones rang constantly and the radio played non-stop. All of which meant I had to learn very quickly to zone out background noise.
When I worked as a freelance journalist in Malta, although I aimed to interview people during the day and write articles once my children went to bed, life didn’t always work that way, and if I had a particularly pressing deadline I wrote whilst my children were playing with their friends, the TV was on or someone was playing Rollercoaster Tycoon on the computer.
These days, I can write through Netflix gunfire and explosions, football and cricket matches, Dottie barking at delivery men, Pippa snoring, the washing machine doing what always seems like its final death rattle and endless builders putting up scaffolding and delivering skips up and down the street. And if I’m very lucky, my children are home, wanting to know what’s for dinner, showing me a funny video of dogs or simply chatting nearby as I type.
I can always escape to my room for some peace and quiet but having life going on noisily around me is often my favourite place to write.