Location, Light and Longhand
I am very much affected by my environment. The atmosphere affects my mood even if I push through and work anyway.
I don’t need a pristine, empty, clean and tidy desk or room in which to work, but if it’s really messy and dirty productivity is a challenge.
More than cleanliness, the light affects me. Our flat in Christchurch had great light. I painted in that house. I wrote a novel in that house. Louis lived the first year of his life there and Elena, the first few months of gestation… Thirty people applied for the place when we moved out. Sure, that was partly because of the rental shortage, post-earthquakes, with all those people forced out of their damaged/destroyed homes. Nice place though.
Many writers have a special place where they can hide away from the world to write. Joanne Harris has a shed, set up with all the things she needs for a good day’s work. Stephen King recommends a place where you can close the door and focus for at least a couple of hours, uninterrupted.
I have two small, reliant children. Closing the door? I sometimes do that when I go to the loo. Working uninterrupted? If my writing depends on the promise of no interruptions I’d never get anything done.
I write on a laptop computer, set up with a proper keyboard, at a desk in the corner of our living room. This corner used to be so dull, and then recently we had the shutters fixed – now they open! – and the light is so much better. I didn’t realise how bad it was, and now it’s fantastic.
Now it has a view of the street, trees, sky, apartments and houses, people and dogs… and natural light!
But that’s not the only place I write. I can un-dock the laptop and take it across to the couch. Having pillows around me and my feet up makes writing feel less like hard-work.
I can also relocate myself (and laptop) to the deck, lounging on one of our great ikea chairs, positioning myself carefully so as to avoid sun on the screen and not on my legs… I’m all for multitasking, so if I can sunbathe and write a novel at the same time then fab!
I have a fantasy of taking the laptop with me down to a cafe and setting up shop there for a couple of hours and several coffees. It hasn’t happened yet.
Sometimes I don’t write on the laptop. Sometimes I write the old fashioned way, and I’m not talking about a typewriter. (I did buy one once, for my brother, who was into all things retro.)
Writing longhand is said to access the subconscious. I write longhand for my journal. I don’t know if I’m accessing my subconscious but I suspect I’m a little less crazy than I would be if I didn’t write a journal.
Recently I’ve been writing bits of my novel by hand. I can throw my journal into the pushchair or into my purse and take it along to the park, to the shops… it’s there if I happen to have the time/space/opportunity/headspace/inclination to write some novel. It’s also a lot faster than writing into a memo on my phone.
At home I write bits of my novel in my journal when someone else is using the computer.
I’m all about removing obstacles. One of those obstacles is that I forget exactly where I’m up to. If I want to write in my journal, because I don’t have access to the computer, then I find it best to just jump to the next scene in my outline/plan. Today, for instance, I wanted to do some writing while Luuk was on the computer. I grabbed an exercise book (because I’m running out of room in my journal) and then couldn’t put a word down for a few minutes. I’m half way through a scene with the main characters and their friends. They’re all in the pub, half way through a conversation… and I can’t continue the scene without reading the last couple of lines.
But I can remember that the next scene in the plan is set at the school. My two main characters are going to have a conversation about their friends’ relationship. They’re going to have a bit more chemistry and nothing is going to happen, hopefully riling up my readers who are, at this point, keen as beens for something to happen between them.
Well, I don’t know about my readers yet, but I’m keen as beans for something to happen between them, so I might get on with writing it.