I used to be impressed by those colour supplement features called ‘A Room of My Own’ and positively lapped up those pictures of best-selling authors ‘working’ at mahogany desks, wearing checked shirts or velvet pashminas. But since I’ve progressed from someone who’s thinking about writing to someone who actually does it, I’ve lost interest in the fashion accessory aspects of my trade, knowing that the when and how is more important than the where, and that what works for me might not work for someone else.
All of this is to explain why a month after receiving the latest Leaf Magazine through my door, I have only just got around to looking through the wining entries in the ‘Where I Write’ feature. I mean, do I actually care? Not that the place is unimportant, and I know I am luckier than most in, since following departure of Eldest Son, I actually do have a room to call my own, but I’m under no illusion that the colour of the curtains or the photo on the wall makes little difference to my productivity. I’m either going to get my head down or I’m not.
I’m glad to say that the Leaf writers mostly take a similar view, and although we have a few sunlit rooms and significant knick-knacks, most emphasize the process rather than the surroundings. Those that interest me most are those who recommend writing on a train. This immediately rings a bell, if not in terms of production, at least in terms of inspiration. Nowadays I rarely make a train journey of any length, but when I do I nearly always come back with the beginnings of something, a short story, a poem, or even a novel. Brain Drain, a flash fiction that’s entirely untypical of my usual writing began in this way, and A New History of Love was conceived on a cross-channel ferry and begun in a notebook that same day. Come to think of it, the second scene puts the heroine on a train where she thinks about …. (Go on, you can read it for yourself.)
Even leaving aside the material provided by fellow passengers or passing scenery, there’s something about being in transit that frees up the mind, releasing us from our usual pre-occupations and allowing us to make new connections. Car journeys, and I’ve made some long ones, don’t have this effect. Perhaps even as passengers we’re too involved in the process of getting from A to B, or perhaps the car is too much part of our every-day lives. To be inspired we need some degree of dissociation, the opportunity to give ourselves permission to cut loose and dare to be different.
So much for creativity. The rest is just hard work. You may imagine me doing it in any way you wish.
Belated thanks too to Sheila Hamilton and Angela Sherlock, the Leaf writers who put this particular train of thought into motion.