Friday, May 1, 2020

Oh for a place to call my own...

Show us where you work! Please share a photo of your work/writing space, and tell us why it looks the way it does!

From Abir

I have to be honest, when I saw this week’s topic, I was actually filled with a slight amount of panic. When you think of an author, you picture them working away feverishly in a rustic garret or some beautiful, book-lined study. It’s a wonderful image, reinforced these days by pictures posted on Pinterest or Zoom videos straight from the author’s attic. For me, the perfect writer’s room is sunlit and soft-furnished, at the top of a house, with walls covered in bookcases and awards. It is something I aspire to, but it’s something I’ve never had.

I realised that my sense of panic, was actually due to embarrassment. I don’t have a study or a dedicated writing corner, though I’ve always wanted one. The truth is, we just don’t have the space. My wife and I and our two boys live in a lovely but modest little house, with just enough rooms to make things cosy but not cramped. It means I write in the bedroom, sitting on the bed – like this:

Forgive the red socks (mine, not the baseball team)

It’s not the writer’s life I’d imagined, but it’s not bad. It’s on the top floor, the light is good and the view outside is peaceful. We have a basement and in theory that would have been a better place to write, but I tried it and it just didn’t work for me. The lack of light down there was quite depressing.

So this is where I work – sitting, feet up on the bed - and while it’s not perfect, it’s still a privilege, especially in these Lockdown days. It’s a step up, too. In the old days, when we lived in London and I, like Dolly Parton, used to work 9 to 5 at the day job, I’d spend the weekends at the local library furiously writing away. There was rudimentary wifi, but no phone signal and no emails and I got more writing done there than I ever have at home.

I remember reading that Steven King wrote his first few books in the laundry room (or maybe I just dreamt that – I have trouble telling fact from fiction these days) and he’s ended up doing alright for himself.

But being in the bedroom means I’m limited in terms of space and what mess I can make. I can’t have a murder board (the wife got upset when I put post-its, flashcards, red string and pictures of murder victims all over the wardrobes) so I need to manage my clutter. 

So the tools of my trade are normally restricted to these:

The lap-top – As you’d expect, this is the most important tool for me. I use it for anywhere between six and ten hours a day, so it’s vital that it’s fast and comfortable. I bought my first Apple lap top just over a decade ago. It was damn expensive, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Since then, I’ve never looked back. I tend to upgrade my lap-top every three years. 
As for software, I use Scrivener, a package designed for writing. What I find incredibly useful is being able to work on different chapters in different documents, but which are all still part of one master document – something that doesn't seem straightforward in Word. 

-       An A4 pad – This is where I’ll write passages of dialogue or ideas that come to me. It’s where I’ll also make notes from my research. I generally fill twenty or thirty pages of this book before starting the novel on the lap-top, and I’ll go back to it and sketch out ideas whenever I get stuck.

-       An A5 pad – This is my replacement for a murder board - I use this less frequently -and mainly in the early stages of planning a novel - to draw out the plot arcs and sketch the characters. A bigger canvas, I find, helps with bigger ideas.

-       Headphones – The house is noisy, my kids are out of control and the only way to block out the din sometimes is with a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. They also channel music, apparently.

-       A cup of tea – lastly, and most importantly – it’s vital that I have a cup of tea to hand. It’s generally stone cold by the time I get round to drinking it, but it’s a comfort just knowing it’s there.

One day, if enough wonderful readers buy enough of my scribblings, maybe we’ll be able to move to a house where I can have a room all for writing. That’s the dream, and that’s what I’m striving for, but in the meantime, and while I'm certainly casting envious glances at some of my fellow bloggers' rooms, I'm happy with my bed.

Cheers and stay safe.


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