Recently the writer Amy Plum (author of the excellent young adult novel, ‘Die for Me’) posted photos on her blog of her working space. Basically, she has my dream office. It’s a small, old outbuilding on the farm in France where she lives with her family. Stone walls, a wood burning stove for heat, a desk and a day bed. Perfect.
It made me look around my working space and think about whether I’m working in the right environment. In Stephen King’s excellent book for writers, ‘On Writing’, he advises writers to have a space of their own, however humble, where they can shut out the world and write. His first writing space was in the laundry room of a mobile home.
As a former journalist, I’ve always boasted that I can write anywhere. I’ve written articles sitting on an icy cold pavement outside a prison and then dictated them into a mobile phone. I’ve written sitting on a pew-like bench in a court room on a sweltering day. I’ve written many times sitting on the bonnet of my car. Once you’ve had to pound out three articles a day, five days a week, in a busy, noisy newsroom where the desks are in rows like a typing pool in the 1940s? You can write anywhere.
But when I started writing novels I found I did need a bit of space in which to think. Half all fiction writing is imagining. And it’s hard to dream when you’re crowded. I wrote Night School on weekends and evenings after work, sitting on the living room chair with my laptop on the arm. But you can’t sit there nine hours a day. You’d do your back in.
We have a spare room I could convert into an office — sunny and cosy. But it didn’t feel right to me. Too sunny. Too cosy. And where would guests sleep? There was a draughty but lovely space at the foot of the stairs with an exposed brick wall. But I mean really draughty. So… not doable. I’d catch very picturesque pneumonia.
Finally, I settled on the dining room. Unused most days unless we have guests, and surrounded by bookshelves, with a fireplace and french doors covered in muddy paw prints courtesy of the overgrown puppy, it seemed kind of ideal. I bought a comfortable office chair, spent £5 on a stand for the laptop and voila! A perfect foldaway office. On cold afternoons I light a fire, make a pot of coffee, and work surrounded by fluffy housemates.
It’s not as humble as Stephen King’s laundry room, or as historic as Amy’s converted store room, but it works perfectly for me.
Where do you write?