Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Where I write

Every Saturday morning I stroll round to the local shop and buy my copy of the Guardian. After shaking my head wearily at the front page news, the next thing I tend to look at is the Writer's Room piece in the Review section, showing a photo of a particular writer's study with a few words by the writer themselves. They are always fascinating, but spookily tidy. Rooms in these Guardian articles are almost always utterly devoid of clutter with a laptop placed dead centre on a huge, empty desk. Mine is not like that. . .

I write in the front bedroom of a Victorian terraced house in Cambridge. Around my keyboard - in no particular order - as I type this, are the following: a small Moleskine notebook, my son's digital camera, a mug of green tea, a variety of pens and pencils, a copy of R. Crumb's Kafka, a calculator, a telephone, a USB cable for my iPod, a USB cable for my son's iPod, a vehicle licence application, an entry form for the Eastern Open exhibition in King's Lynn, a pack of photo quality paper, a few cds, a couple of blank DVDs, two printers, speakers, an invitation to a private view at Tate Britain for the Camden Town Group show, a pair of glasses I never wear, a leaflet about the Society of Authors Children's Writers and Illustrators conference in the summer, a pair of scissors, an Edward Gorey book and a few receipts.

Actually that makes my life sound much more interesting than it is. I think that is because this layer is hiding layers of unseen dull stuff. And the rest of the room is no better. It is small and made smaller by the clutter. There are a couple of chairs (beside the one I am sitting in). They are covered in piles of stuff. There are more such piles at various points across the carpet and under the desk. There is a box with some hardback editions of The White Rider and a small perspex bookcase full of books. There are more shelves behind me, mainly full of non-fiction books and I have a tall A3 plan chest full of bits and pieces from newspapers and magazines that I use as reference in my illustration work and to focus my mind on characters and settings when I am writing. There is a horned sheep's skull hanging on the wall.

I wish I could say that this untidieness was vital to the way I work - that this chaos is creative - but it actually just gets in the way. I waste so much time searching for things. I carry on until I can not get to my desk or can no longer see the keyboard when I get there. Then I tidy.

And I love it when it is tidy. If only it stayed that way for more than a day. I definitely have a tidy person trapped inside me, trying to get out. If they could just get past all that rubbish and open the door . . .

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