Thursday 26 May 2016

On Writing: Where and When

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf (1929), describes not just the physical, but the figurative space that a writer needs to write, whether it is the little room of the mind and time which we create to write in the cafe or the physical space in the shed at the bottom of the garden.

There are so many barriers to writing or to doing anything we want to do and although we can overcome these barriers  (see Barriers to Getting Stuff Done and How to Berlin Wall Them) they still make the process more difficult for some.

Here is how some writers write:
  1. Haruki Murikami likes something akin to a training routine for his writing (Paris Review, 2004)
  2. Maya Angelou writes in a hotel room in her hometown (The Daily Beast, 2013)
  3. Ernest Hemingway wrote in the morning (The Paris Review, 1968)
  4. Stephen King writes at the same time & place with the same routine (Open Culture, 2015 
  5. Kurt Vonnegut works from 530 to 8am (Thought Catalogue, 2015)
  6. Agatha Christie wrote in a bath (AnOther, 2015)
I thought about how I like to write. Where I write best. What I like to write on and when. And all the other little things about writing which are part of my life as a writer.

What I write on (when technology was/is not available):
  • I used to have exercise books and notebooks full of ideas, stuffed with bits of paper with scribbles, all bound by an elastic band. (I still do, I just haven't looked at them in years for fear I won't be able to read a word of it).
  • I have used typewriters, my dad had two, a big grey industrial one and a little black antique one I loved. I think it was a 1920s Corona.
  • I used to wear a little rainbow striped pouch around my neck with a little notebook and pencil in it, to be able to catch ideas as they came.
  • When I have an idea and tech is not available any surface I can write on is what I write on (see below.
What I have written on or with, when nothing else is available:
  • receipts
  • envelope backs
  • my hand
  • the wall
  • books
  • food wrappers
  • tickets
  • bills
  • beer mats
  • napkins
  • postcards
  • money
  • using an eye pencil
  • using lipstick
  • using repetition to commit something to memory when I can't write something down
  • I once wrote the punishment lines I was given at school on a roll of toilet paper because I had no lined paper and the teacher had said I had no excuse, that I had to write on any paper I could find. Luckily he found the funny side of it.
What I like to write with and on:
  •  A laptop with QWERTY keyboard that has a perceptible click as you type (maybe a reminder of that 1920s Corona typewriter).
  • I learned to touch type many years ago so I can look at the screen (or other paperwork) and write without looking at the keyboard and as fast as I can think.
  • I like a light laptop so I can carry it everywhere so I can write wherever I like.
  • I like a laptop with a long battery life so I can write wherever and whenever I like (battery life on my laptop at present is 11 hours).
  • I like WiFi connection so I can research as I go and sync my work to online files.
  • When I don't have my laptop I write on my phone in notes and sync online. This was especially useful traveling in places like Cuba where WiFi was rare and the heat meant we didn't carry laptops everywhere.
Where I like to write:
  • Cafes - any, as long as they have good coffee, comfortable seating, non-aggressive air-con and non-intrusive music. Everyone and everything mushes into the background then as I write unless I am writing about the place or people I see or the conversation that I am overhearing.
  • Home - it used to be on the desk top but now the laptop sees more action either on the sofa or at the dining table with books all around me for research.
  • On the train or plane or any long journey or waiting area where people are. These are empty spaces of time that can be filled with ideas and tapping on the keyboard.
  • On holiday - having lots of new experiences and stimulus sparks loads of ideas and having more time to read and write also helps.
  • With my partner - sitting across me or beside me at the cafe table or on the sofa at home or on holiday. We can be in our writing bubbles and peek out and connect or ask questions or read each others work or discuss ideas or problems.
What I like to write:
  • Essays on Youth and Community Work
  • Young Adult Fiction 
  • Short Stories
  • Poetry
  • Blog posts (with illustrations)
 What I like to read: 
  • Young Adult Fiction - for research and because it is some of the most innovative fiction
  • Book Group Books - usually two a month, the library one is usually literary and the other varies from different tastes in the book group
  • Books on writing to improve my craft, Stephen King'w (2000) On Writing:Memoir of the Craft being my favourite at present.
  • Books recommended to be by my partner, family and friends
  • Books in hard copy, e-books and audio books (The library has all three for free).
  • Audio books I can read when walking or travelling or when I'm doing chores and the speed of the recording can be increased for a better pace.
  • Books I find in charity shops, markets and book shops where I can spend hours.
  • Children's books - I used to read to my daughter and now read to the children I work with.
  • Other writer's work such as my partner's, my daughter's, the writing of the children I work with, the writing of other students in the practice of youth work or writing 
  • Short stories, poetry, blog posts, articles on youth work practice, online news-feeds.
  • Other books I've liked are in my Goodreads list which has the reading I have noted so far. 
  • Some of my blog posts have some more on what kind of reading & books I like and why.
Like Stephen King  (2000, p.145) says:
'[I]f you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot' 

King, S. (2000) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Scribner, New York
Woolf,V. (1929) A Room of One's Own, Penguin Books

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