Where I write

            Roald Dahl famously had his writing hut at Great Missenden where he could weave his stories of phantasmagorical characters and situations.  Sitting there, he could forget the outside world and concentrate fully on writing. He referred fondly to it as “my little nest, my womb”.   J.K. Rowling’s inspired Harry Potter and Hogwarts stories arose while scribbling at the ‘The Elephant House’ café’ in Edinburgh.  This was also a source of inspiration for Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith.  I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for those authors who could write their masterpieces in cafés.  I have tried to, but somehow the noise and hubbub are too distracting for me.

            Writing has been integral to my work as a scientist.  My job required me to write articles, documents, scientific papers and material for undergraduates.  I was fortunate to have my own office in the university which, theoretically, could be free of distraction.  In practice, that ‘freedom’ was invariably short-lived.  The hours of the day would not progress much before a colleague/student/cleaner/friend would pop in for ‘just 5 minutes’.  Somehow, I managed to cope with these distractions and, after a few minutes reflection, could then return to writing. 

            When other authors write about their writing places they seem to follow two themes.  Firstly, that they dream of an ‘ideal’ place to write, and secondly that their writing place is often a small space crammed in around the busy-ness of life.  Not for many the luxury of Dahl’s writing hut.  Many writers bemoan that their writing domains are corners in bedrooms or kitchens or dining rooms.  Some actually have a writing space sufficiently large to merit the soubriquet ‘office’, but they are rare.

            I have two writing locations at home.  That may sound avaricious, but it reflects the seasons of the year.  My best writing space is the loft with its boarded floor, a small desk and plenty of shelf space.  I am most productive when working here.  It is a quiet peaceful spot where I can work undisturbed. I can immerse myself in my work.  The light through the skylight embraces my desk imbuing that sense of a nest.  This is my writing space from late spring through to early autumn, times of the year when I am at my best. As days shorten, and light and heat become more of a luxury I desert my lofty nest and move down to a more challenging writing space in the living room.  This is more difficult because it’s a public space which, at certain times, can be full of distractions.  I can – and am – still productive, but it’s not easy when others are in the house.

Photo: www.littlevintagephotography.co.uk

               I love the natural world so it is not surprising that I also love writing outside.  To some extent this is, in part, because my writing often focuses on nature.  Parklands, coastal locations and nature reserves often provide me with the right environment for reflection and activity.  Being surrounded by a chorus of birdsong or magnificent landscapes do much for instilling inspiration.

             Writing is a ‘job’, but others view it as a hobby with only ephemeral periods of activity.  That is not how I see it.  So, I continue to dream about my ideal writing space, but in the meantime I value those locations where I can put pen to paper in relative comfort and where ideas have the capacity to germinate and grow.

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