Excuse the holes in Ernest’s head. He’s been on my pin-board since 2002 when a writer friend sent me this postcard from the Hemingway home/museum in Key West, Florida. I keep it in front of my computer as a reminder not to be too precious about how and where I write.
Evidently Ernest preferred cats to goats and dogs. I’m with the dogs.
E B White, the author of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ had something similar to say: ‘A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.’
I used to think I could write in only one place, at only one time (nine am to one pm) and if I was ten minutes late getting started then Everything was Ruined and it was probably Not Worth Starting! What a control freak! Then I did a Freefall Writing workshop with Barbara Turner-Vesselago and learned to let go. Now I know I can write anywhere at anytime. Here are a few of my favourite places.
In bed! It’s like being in a cocoon where my imagination seems to bloom more easily than anywhere else. (Don’t read too closely, it’s a first draft!) I like to wake up early, the earlier the better, usually about five am. I love that time of day, everything is deliciously quiet and it feels as if I’m the only person awake on the planet. At the same time, my head is full of words and sentences and I can’t wait to get them down before I forget them. After a couple of hours, I have breakfast and walk the dog, then I return to my desk for the rest of the morning. Bliss!
A different kind of writing bliss. In the Yacht Club library/lounge when it’s wild and woolly outside, tea and coffee on hand, and I’m the only one there. (If I need inspiration, I go to Olive Kitteridge…how did Strout do it…?)
At my desk. I’m in love with my Surface tablet. Ernest is hiding on the pin-board behind the screen. My spoilt rotten boys are on the bed behind…and my gallery of family rogues watch on.
And my most favourite place of all time…
When I was editing ‘The Lost Child’, I holidayed with my husband’s family at Lajs in northern Poland, close to the Russian and Lithuanian borders. The little cottage with the sloping roof sits on the edge of a beautiful lake surrounded by forest. Every morning, I sat up in bed and wrote before having a late breakfast. It helped having a family of great cooks who refused to let me lift a finger to help. It also helped being far away from the setting of the ‘The Lost Child’: distance really did work its magic and allowed me to see more clearly. My writing fantasy is to spend time here in the middle of winter, preferably snowed in with the family cooks close by!
And just when I was feeling reasonably happy about my writing practice, I came across this quote from Haruki Murakami, one of my favourite authors.
“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometres or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine pm.
I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.
To hold to such repetition for so long–six months to a year–requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”
I suspect he has a very supportive wife!