At the moment the question that is most exercising me about my writing is not what to write, but where to write. This has been prompted by a small but significant leap, having done some writing recently that could be added into my project on living in the bush and starting out married life far from home. I am keen to continue, having got going again, and want to inject a certain amount of discipline into the exercise of daily writing. So, the question has arisen, where is the best place in my house to do this writing, so that I can take it seriously and enjoy it, too. It is not so much the quest for some peace and quiet (or what Amelia, as a little girl would call ‘a piece of quiet’): I have that most days, the boys having flown the coop and Ben not yet retired, but the search for the place that I can go to and get thinking and writing without distraction, yet one that does not induce boredom at being alone.
Up to now I have just sat at the kitchen table and spread myself out a bit, the things I need gathered about my laptop and, while it is homely and, perhaps more importantly, warm, it is not ideal. That is really down to me: flitting from writing to surfing the net, indulging in all the displacement activities that a kitchen can and does offer, to pull me from the business of writing. So, what’s the alternative? I don’t have a shed like Roald Dahl, say, nor does the attic at the top of the house seem suitable. Not so for Will Self, who I heard on radio 4 not long ago, talking about his own writing place, an eyrie at the top of his house that has not been cleaned in his 18 years of using it as his study, as far as I remember him saying. Perhaps it could be the dining-room, rarely used these days or the sitting-room, where I already have a pretty desk, inherited from my mother-in-law.
No-one seems to sit at desks these days, not like in the old days when my grandmother used to sit at hers every morning and do her correspondence and deal with bills and where she wrote the letter she sent me on my 17th birthday, which has featured on this blog. I could write in bed. I remember a wonderful novel called A Woman’s Age by Rachel Billington, published in the early 80s, that she swore she wrote every word of longhand and in bed every morning. I do write in bed every day, my morning pages, such as they are, but I could not envisage writing a whole book up there. At the end of his very long life, my grandfather sometimes spent a day in bed and in one letter I got from him, while I was living in Izmir in the late 70s, he said he had been writing with a pen and inkwell on a tray in bed and the ink had dripped onto the eiderdown, so he continued with what he called a ‘byro’.
So, the search for the ideal writing place is on and maybe I shall try out every room until I find ‘the one’. Virginia Woolf was right when she wrote that we women need a room of our own: maybe I need a whole new place, not in this house at all, more than just a change of room.