Sunday, 4 March 2012

Rainy Sunday, staying inside

Let's explore our writing space. Our thinking space. Our inner sanctum.

So where do you write?

Where do I write?

Hemingway at his writing desk

James Dickey called it his Cave of Knowing.

Wiliam Faulkner called it his office. Not his study. He said he didn't study in there - he conducted business.

Willa Cather's writing space was a simple table facing a blank wall, with a plain chair. It faced a third-story window with sheer curtains. The most undecorated room - the less distraction for Cather, the better.

Stephen King's was a child's desk balanced on his knees, on his front porch.

For some it might be a wobbly card table in a bedroom.

For me: I have taken over a little room in my house - in England they call it the box bedroom - that is my place to think. (It is my favorite room in the house except for the sun-yellow kitchen.) I can put my hands out to either side and just come short of touching both walls.This bedroom is on the upper story of my house, and I have my desk facing a window that looks out over my back garden (back yard in American) below, a fluffy green hedgerow that delineates our property from our neighbours, and a row of Dickensian terraced houses. Those houses have been there since the late 1860s or so, or at least a couple of them say as much on chiseled stones above their front doors (e.g. Bentley Rise, 1866). Of course, I can't see the front doors from here. I can only see the backs of the houses, which I think makes for a much more interesting view. The back yard (ahem, garden in British) is where all the action takes place: domestic squabbles, campfires, first love, barbeques, kids playing on summer days, adults reliving their childhood as they watch kids playing on summer days. That's the reason I'm in this room when I write. Life unfolds before me and all I have to do is look down.

There's also a little bit of nature. I like birds and trees and things. I think that's because I grew up in a house with its own generous stretch of woods, and I pretty much lived in the woods. If there is no nature around me, I'm afraid I wilt like a sunless flower. For this reason I truly believe I can't live for very long in a big city.

And the walls of my little Thinking Cave: covered with my very own growing wallpaper splashed with words. And pictures. There are quotes (Oscar Wilde, Eleanor Roosevelt, Stephen King), pencilled sketches of horses (my own), a card from my sister so sweet it made me cry once, particularly lovely rejection letters, comics about the writing life, and poetry and snapshots from my past: all things that make me who I am. Things given to me by my closest friends and my family, things I've found, little things that stretch across the years. Prophetic things (a yellowed 1980s page from TIME Magazine featuring an innovative, roller-skating physician at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, that I kept as a child before ever meeting the man to whom I am now afianced, who is from Doncaster, and was born at DRI).

These things sparked some nameless something in me and so they go on the wall. I look at them sometimes: they say, "listen," and they're like silent music always there in the background, at the periphery of my vision, when I sit at my computer and duplicate those chords through words, weaving a story as stirring as this wall.

Have a good Sunday, all!

(Time to get some writing done!)

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