FORGET ABOUT A quiet place in the woods. The place where I write is far less idyllic. I wrote my memoir in a place that was, perhaps, astonishing. Imagine, if you will, a flat in London.
This flat was an 8×13-foot studio, where my writing desk was a chair and my lap. I could reach out my arms and, in any one direction, touch my murphy bed and my husband’s hairy legs, the kitchen sink, the bathroom door, the front door, and my dresser. Oh, and the laundry line of socks and shirts getting moist and warm rather than dry behind my head. I should note we are from Canada, in particular the Prairies, where dogs have two-storey homes and where you can drive for days (at least hours) without seeing a soul.
There, in this ‘flat’, I woke at about six o’clock every morning and wrote in the dark until about 10 o’clock, when my husband woke up. He worked nights at a pub and slept somehow amidst the clacking of keys. My bum would be numb and my eyes sore from the bleating whiteness of my screen. But I had written. I wrote the entire first draft of my memoir (How to Meet a Nice Man from Medicine Hat [said husband]) this way, in a flat near Camden, and then in another only slightly bigger but much mouldier flat in North Finchley.
For obvious reasons, it wasn’t ideal. My husband and I were on the verge of returning to Canada with different last names by the end of it, but my marriage and my memoir survived.
I guess what I’m getting at is that to write you need only the will to do it, and perhaps a quiet French press as well as a patient husband. Those ‘lightning moments’ of being struck with a beautiful sentence don’t happen only in rooms reserved for writing, air thick with the scent of books; those moments happen when a writer sits down and writes.
For some reason (perhaps the sorry state of my abode/office), I never took my own photos of where I wrote that year in London. There is, however, a perfect shot of my North London studio taken sometime in the ’70s, and it hasn’t changed, at all, except for said mould.
My writing space now is somehow less fixed or organized. I have a baby, so sometimes I write on the bathroom floor in the morning before he wakes up (he comes from a long line of light sleepers, and our floor is very, very creaky; my mind is also slightly more competent early in the day). I write on the sofa or the kitchen table or at a coffee shop run by the Salvation Army in Vernon called The Talkin Donkey. I almost never write at a desk.
So, if you think in order to write you need to be at that perfect spot, with the back pillow just so and the sun’s rays lilting on your knuckles and the bathroom in view perfectly clean and three books under your feet, maybe you’re procrastinating. Or maybe you’re right.
Thinking about where I write got me curious about where other writers write. What does your space look like? Send a few words or even a shot.