We did it. We moved house. Moved out of the Airbnb madness of central Edinburgh into a quieter, leafier location. Which meant I got to rethink my writing space…again.
Over the years I’ve had a few different set-ups. The first study was in a low ceilinged loft accessed by ladder, and with only a velux window for light, but it was away from kids and dog and it felt like an escape. It was shared with hubby though, and when we moved to Inverness, he said he wanted his own space as I was “too noisy”. Rustling paper, sighing, I’m not sure what it was, but anyway, I ended up in a converted corner of the garage which doubled as spare room, with my desk in front of a massive window looking down the Great Glen towards Loch Ness, watching the weather approaching. I loved staring into the distance when my brain needed a bit of down time.
(It wasn’t always as snowy as this!)
We then moved into town to a much smaller house and now my desk was squashed between the dining table and the window; this time looking onto the red brick prison wall. And the only place for my books was up the staircase. But having that table in the communal space made me productive; I could only work during school hours and school terms, and those restrictions helped me focus. I used to enjoy hitting ‘save’ at 3.30pm, leaving the fantasy world behind to come back to every day life, thinking about cooking dinner and taking the dog out again.
Moving to Edinburgh and having the kids leave home meant I could now have my own writing space, designed exactly as I wanted. The Georgians built their New Town flats with dressing rooms off their bedrooms, and I chose one of these at the front of the flat as my study. This time I decided to put the desk facing the wall.
I could still stare into space by turning sideways (and it was an awesome view of the Mansfield Traquair centre) but now I was able to have a ‘writing wall.’ Special paint covered the wall in front of the desk on which I could write with marker pen, washing it off when finished.
And the tiny room meant books were crammed everywhere, with shelves right up to the top of the three meter ceiling, but it was cosy and my own space, and once I was in there with the door closed (or half closed – the cats would never tolerate a shut door) I could immerse myself completely.
It was a wrench to leave that behind, but we’ve done it. So once again I get to reinvent my space.
What lessons have I learnt over the years?
Firstly wherever you work, it’s important that you can leave it lying there and come back to it the next day. In the tiny Inverness house, where my desk was in the living space, it was fine because I could sit down everyday in the same space and pick up where I had left off.
Secondly, I need something to look at now and then. I don’t find a view distracting. It allows my brain some much needed down time which is easy to let go of.
Thirdly, having some wall space to write on is very very useful.
Fourthly, never try to shut cats out; you’ll get no peace.
So this time I have my desk sideways so that I can see out of the window when I want (and the view is lovely). I have invested in a roll of magic whiteboard which can be stuck up all around me.
And I am still surrounded by bookcases. Maybe I’m going to have to stop accumulating books…. You didn’t hear that, honestly.
I feel very privileged compared to Virginia Woolf, the author of A Room of One’s Own. “A woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction.” She reckoned £120 per year would do it. (That isn’t all she said by the way; it’s a great book if you haven’t read it)