Monday, 29 May 2017

A place to write - Hilary Hawkes

Something I’ve had cause to ponder recently is how important, for authors, is having a designated place to write?

Sir Walter Scott wrote Marmion, his best seller epic poem, whilst on horseback. D H Lawrence often wrote beneath the shade of a tree. Virginia Wolf and husband started a publishing business in their basement – and, apparently, she wrote down there in a storage room sitting in an armchair.

Agatha Christie plotted some of her novels whilst in the bath, eating apples.

L H Anderson, the US YA author, wrote in closets, on bleaches, in the car and at airports. Then she married a carpenter and he built her a  hand built cottage 
  “All writers should marry carpenters” she declared.

Too late. I never heard that piece of advice. It took me a while, probably decades, before I had a proper space for writing. I never learnt to ride so horseback was out and lingering to plot in the bath would have annoyed the rest of the family I’m sure. So for me places to write progressed from kitchen worktops, dining room tables, to  a desk squeezed into what the estate agent called the Dressing Room (actually a kind of cupboard with a window off of a bedroom). 

Then when my eldest son moved out into a place of his own I excitedly transformed his old small downstairs bedroom into my very own office and ‘writing room’.  This does sometimes have to transform back into a bedroom, but otherwise it’s pretty undisturbed, all mine and perfect.  

During the summer months, or even a warm spring and autumn, I carry everything I need out into our small conservatory so I can work and feel part of the outdoors at the same time.  Due to it being on the shady side of the house it never gets too hot and the light is wonderful.
I’m sure having your own undisturbed space makes a difference. 

But I wonder how much of a difference and whether other things matter more – like noise levels, distractions, mess or tidiness.  Are windows with views inspiring or just distracting? If I really had to get something written perhaps I could just write it anywhere – as long as I could plug in the laptop and there was wi fi too.

What about you? Where do you write and how important is having a designated space or room? And have you ever written in some unusual places?

Hilary Hawkes, writer and children's author. Website 


Susan Price said...

Like you, Hilary, when I was younger, I had to write anywhere I could. I've never shaken off the habit. I do, now, have what I laughingly call 'an office' where my desktop is parked and also submerged in mess. I write as often on the laptop, on the sofa, with half an eye and ear on the TV.

I've also written on various ferries, on various beaches, inside the ruined walls of a stone-age house on a Shetland moor, on tops of Scottish mountains and beside lochs - and very, very often in cafes and pubs. I find that noise and chatter going on around me somehow helps me to concentrate. Perhaps it goes back to earlier years when I had nowhere quiet to write: I don't really know.

Hilary Hawkes said...

I love the sound of writing on mountain tops, Susan.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Laptops have freed us all up but before them, there was the very real pleasure of writing with a pencil and on paper and I still turn to this esp with picture books. Different places bring heightened awareness I think. You try to shut out external distraction but in an odd way you also tune into the different slant of the light or the sound of conversation or noise.

Hilary Hawkes said...

Very true, Dianne.