I live in Taunton in the West Country of England, in a Victorian Terrace with views of other houses closely opposite and a garden so small that my when a visiting toddler started to run in it he was brought up with a start and stared in amazement at the size.
I am fortunate that I have a study at the back of the house. It looks out upon a brick wall with plants struggling to survive in the acid soil but determinedly climbing up the wall nonetheless. The study has everything I need for writing. A small desk with space for lap-top; a sturdy book-case containing books on writing, historical tomes, atlases and dictionaries; a printer; jars crammed with pens and pencils; boxes holding drafts of short-stories and completed novels; a litter of note-books going back to the 80’s with entries leaping across the years like a time-machine; little gifts and presents including a kingly Toad who holds upon his tray my favourite propelling pencil, given by my wife in lieu of an engagement ring.
What the study does not have within it is me.
It is too untidy, too cluttered, too lacking in natural light. So, instead, I sit in the dining-room, a conservatory with the grey, unseasonal light doing its best to look cheerful but not, in truth, succeeding.
I have a sense of space here and can play out my scenes against the backdrop of the walls of my garden. I often sit chin in hand and visualise my characters’ thoughts and conversations. If I struggle to see their actions I can spring up and act them out, gesturing again and again until I get the movement right. I can spread out my maps and reference books upon the table, strew it with a more confined agglomeration of papers, refuse to be disheartened by the study accusing me that I am untidy. I shall try to take on the good advice and endeavour to organise my study. Honest.
And with my cup of tea beside me I can imagine that I am in one of my other favourite writing-places, a café somewhere, preferably with a lovely view and loud-voiced customers. In cafes I get my best ideas and here, if it is my favourite café, I can sit and think and imagine ancient Greek triremes sailing along the Mediterranean coast.
I have moved since this post was first written. Tomorrow I will talk about my new writing space.