Writer's room

06 April 2009

by Anna Richards

I have to admit to a slight obsession with the Writer's Rooms feature in the Saturday Guardian. The aspiring writer grabs at any information about the craft to use as a blueprint and from this series of photographs I have deduced a North London attic with a churchyard view is as vital as ink. (More so, if you write exclusively on a laptop.)

If they ever asked me to contribute, I would have to rent one just to feature in the picture. Or perhaps I'll just rent the picture. Could be a lucrative trade in the recession, selling photographs of appropriately writerly rooms to scribes whose own abodes lack the necessary space or, shall we say, ambience. Well, when I say lucrative, you might make enough for a coffee and a biscuit, thereby putting you on an earning par with most writers anyway.

What I have at the moment is not a very writerly room. None of my furniture has a story attached. There are no busts of literary immortals (there's enough pressure as it is). There's no art on the walls and the view isn't up too much. I can see a tree. The tree has a carrier bag in it (sounds like the beginning of a picture book for already jaded children). And I don't like writing in it. It's cold. I mostly write in bed. The laptop sits on the duvet in the winter, atop bejeaned legs in summer. Never bare legs, I don't want to get cancer. Perhaps I put too much faith in the shielding power of denim/a high tog rating and should invest in a lead apron, such as the one I read A. L. Kennedy uses. But it sounds heavy. Thanks to various articles I also know that A. L. Kennedy has a special chair for her back and does t'ai chi, apparently in her hallway. Is it because the act of writing is so hard to pin down that it's easier to communicate that A. L. Kennedy has a special chair than how she manages to do what she does so well? Well, it stuck with me anyway. The chair looked particularly impressive. I have a chair that functions, but doesn't impress.

So, I'm on the look out for a Writer's Room, should the need arise to publish a photograph of it. I'm in no real hurry, this being an entirely imaginary need located at some point in an imaginary future. But it never hurts to plan ahead. I quite like the idea of a shed, too. George Bernard Shaw had one that revolved. I don't know if it was worked from within by a pedal, or required external pushing. If it was pushed, I wonder if anyone ever got carried away and pushed too hard, sending GBS rolling around the garden in what had essentially become a furnished tumble drier. If I had a revolving shed, it would be a constant temptation to do just that. I once sat in the middle of one of those giant cotton-reel things that cables are wound around while my dad pushed it up and down a field. It's a giddy joy that has to be experienced. Perhaps a stationary room,then, if any work is to be done.

My ideal Writer's Room would contain a fire (it would exist in a state of perpetual autumn, sun-warmed days winding down into crisp nights), a really good reading chair, a computer that magically did not induce RSI, tendonitis, crick neck, knee fatigue, boggle-eye or other medically recognized ailments, bookshelves, one of those ladders that slide along bookshelves, snoozing pets and a footstool. I realize that I'm just a smoking jacket away from being the narrator of a Gothic horror B-movie, one of those 'Welcome, traveller. Sit by the fire' deals, but I can't help it, I like fires. None of this is essential to writing, of course, or even conducive. I don't actually need anything to write. I prefer home to coffee shops because you don't have to take your laptop into the loo with you and the cake is cheaper, but there are no special requirements beyond that. Any computer, any notebook, any pen is fine by me. Any time of day is fine, too, though I seem to work better in the afternoon after my brain has warmed up a bit. Actually, my ideal Writer's Room would contain great gobs of time as that's the only thing I need more of.

But I can have a fantasy Writer's Room, or even better a fantasy Reader's Room. And if the Guardian ever did come calling, I'd hand them a sketch of it because no photograph could really capture it. So, what would be in yours?

Anna Richards is the author of Little Gods

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