It’s the weekend. Those two blissful days each week when we are not bound by routine. When we can do the things we want to do in the working week but never have the time for: lie ins, long baths, writing, spending time with loved ones, and nothing. Oh, the bliss of doing nothing. Like millions of others at this exact moment, I have chosen to sit on our sofa in our living room. It’s a fabric sofa on dark angular feet with cream and taupe stripes. You wouldn’t know about the stripes though because the sofa is covered with a blanket borrowed from an airline, back in the days when we were students and it seemed a good idea to take a worn blanket with a dubious history rather than pay five quid for a new one. It’s covered because of our children: a four year old who, like her mum, is inherently clumsy and a naughty one year old, inclined to launch his milk bottle across the room like a grenade. I’m wearing weekend clothes, unstructured and comfortable, and a pair of old pink socks. My feet are stretched out in front of me, pressing against my husband, stealing his body warmth. The walls are hung with an occasional painting and family photographs, and the mantelpiece is littered with postcards and children’s drawings. We inherited silk curtains the colour of moss from the previous owners of our house. She had a textiles business and he was a motorcycle-driving enigma, who didn’t get involved with the sale of the house. They were separating. We still have their children’s height markings on the doorframe of our bathroom. I digress. I was describing our living room to you. There is a gas fire, which only my husband seems to be able to light, and rug that I sometimes think about replacing, but never do because the ones I like are too expensive. The two plants in here we inherited from good friends when they moved out of London. I am relieved that they still look healthy. The children are in bed and it’s the time of night when we used to have the lights dimmed but for some reason we’ve kept them bright for weeks, possibly a physical rejection of the approaching winter. Outside, the wind is gathering speed, as we wait for the worst storm in years to hit British shores, just in time for the morning rush hour.
I get some of my best writing ideas in our living room. Right here on this sofa. Progress is slow, as the children distract me often here, but as long as I jot down my thoughts before they disappear, all is okay with the world. For really focused writing, the best place to write is in bed in those quiet hours just before bedtime, when time slows and reality fades into the background. Our bedroom walls are clay in colour with accents in blue and green. On the floor are two of my favourite prints, bought from the NaNoWriMo shop, framed but waiting to be hung. My bedside table spills over with half-read books and favourite novels until I can bear to part with them. With the curtains drawn, the duvet wrapped close with just my night-light on, the world-building can begin and my characters start speaking.
There is an outbuilding nestled toward the back of our garden beside the rail track, an eco-structure the last owners built, with power but no heat, made out of wood and huge expanses of glass. It was supposed to be our office, but in fact, I’ve made it into my dream writing studio. It’s filled with inherited furniture: my father’s heavy oak desk with its crumbling varnished surface, worn burnt leather sofas my parents still love but decided to replace, an out of tune piano friends no longer wanted. In the corner there is a barely-used treadmill I bought my husband for his last birthday. My daughter’s paintings are blue-tacked to the walls and I have hung up some of my favourite photographs on canvas there. There’s one of Zadie Smith holding a copy of On Beauty, and another of Vivienne Westwood. Strong, creative women to surround myself with. I dream of writing in that environment when the kids are older, more independent. I picture them running around in the garden together happily, playing on the swing or chasing the cats, while I hurtle through the next draft of the novel I am working on.
Right now, the kids need me close, and those snatches of time on the sofa are as good as it is likely to get in their waking hours. And you know what? In some ways, being a mum has made me more disciplined. I take advantage of every moment I have to write. I have realised that there are optimal conditions to write, but no perfect ones. As long as I get some writing done, I don’t mind which tool I use, or what my environment is like. How about you? What is your writing environment like?
This post was inspired Jessica Schmeidler’s October blog challenge on The Write Shadow. Bloggers were asked to follow prompts for daily posts throughout October and schedule them to go live in November, increasing writing stamina and freeing up writing time before NaNoWriMo. I didn’t feel able to commit to blogging daily but was tempted to try one her prompts. The prompt for today’s post was: describe where you’re at (atmosphere challenge).
Next week NaNoWriMo will be underway. I’ll be here with a short blog post using another one of Jessica’s other prompts – ‘chickens’. Yes, you read correctly. NaNoWriMo mayhem means I may be tired, I may be incoherent. But hopefully you’ll come back anyway. Because there’ll be chickens.