25th November

The spaces we make

As most of you will already know, we creative types / workers from home, quite often have to make do with what we have, don’t we?  We carve our own spaces in our home environment, working around the rest of the family members in some cases, working out the things we most need, taking into account warmth, lighting, comfort, room to spread out and, the most important thing of all – space for a cuppa!  Some lovely fellow tweeters were kind enough to indulge me and divulge a bit more about there spaces… but first, here’s mine.

My working space

I work in our living room and have worn quite a squidge into my lovely Ikea chair.  The house is south facing so the sun pours in through the big bay window to the left, so even in winter it’s warm.  The coffee table houses the stuff I’m currently working on, but there are also folders behind this full of other projects – I have a folder for my poems, one for current picture book stories, and anything longer has a folder of its own.  There’s a space below the window which is our greyhound’s day bed (as we call it) so she is always close by.  There’s always a pen and notepad on the table, and, of course, my laptop is always at hand.  I always have a glass of water  on the go, and a spare coaster ready for my daily cuppa!  There’s a spare room upstairs that I could work in, but I don’t like to feel shut away from people.  I like the to-ing and fro-ing, the view out of the window, and to have my hound at my feet.

Emma Pass’s work space

Emma's Pass's working space

Emma Pass is author of the forthcoming YA novel, ACID, due to be published in 2013.
http://emmapass.blogspot.com/ You can find her on twitter at http://twitter.com/EmmaPass

Emma Pass

When we moved house four years ago, I promised myself I’d turn our spare room into a proper office and sit at a desk to write, because that’s what real writers do, isn’t it? Work at desks? In offices?  But I hadn’t figured on the backache I’d get from sitting upright in a chair for hours, or having perpetually cold hands (our spare room faces north and has two outside walls).

After a few months, unable to take it any longer, I decamped to the sofa in our cosy living room.  Here, I write on my laptop, a pillow behind
my back and piles of books and paper beside me, which have to be hurriedly
tidied away whenever we have visitors. I have a sheepskin rug and fluffy
slippers to keep my toes warm, The Hound stretched out on his bed to keep me
company, and it’s only a few steps to the kitchen to turn the kettle on. It’s the
perfect writing space!

Elizabeth Jackson’s work space

Elizabeth is the author of the novel, Language of Thieves. www.elizabethjacksonauthor.blogspot.com/ You can find her on twitter at http://twitter.com/ejacksonauthor

Liz Jackson

Believe me when I tell you my writing space is not a place to be envied. It is a habitation of disarray and controlled disorder where nobody is allowed to touch a thing. Oh, hub’s permitted the TV remote… well, for some of the time.

We no longer have a dining room as such, or a study as we once chose to call it. It is now known as the little sitting room, where we watch TV and where I write.

I write while hub reads the newspapers or watches TV. I don’t mind the sound in the background; in fact, I find it relatively soothing as I sit at the dining table that’s cluttered with: books, notepads, laptop, toilet roll, cold mug of tea with skin on; and a silver candelabra that was once upon a time admired by dinner party guests, and that my granddaughters

Liz's writing space

now believe to be gold, because it needs cleaning. On the wall opposite me hangs a large mirror through which I can view the TV – now; how good is that, eh? Well, not much good at all really; especially when Countdown’s on; unless, of course you can mirror-read, which I can’t. Although, I can mirror-write; a skill I learned at school – during maths. I can’t imagine sitting quietly, undisturbed, writing in isolation. When writing, I’ll throw words at hub instead of using a thesaurus, he’ll come back with an alternative which I usually ignore, then think of substitute. And by some miracle, in the midst all this, Language of Thieves emerged, with another novel underway.

Clare Kirkpatrick’s work space

Clare is a writer and editor.  She blogs at http://clarekirkpatrick.wordpress.com and has a parenting blog at http://freeyourparenting.com. You can find her on twitter at http://twitter.com/clarekirkp.

Clare Kirkpatrick

I’m a writer, editor of a growing parenting website and also home educating mum to my four girls. Yes, I’m busy, and yes, our three-bed house is busy.

When I first started writing seriously, I had a tiny laptop table in the corner of our tiny bedroom. We had countless improbable ideas about how we could create some work space for me to write in, but none of them came to anything. Then I realised that our under-stairs cupboard could maybe work. After decluttering it, I installed my laptop table and dining room chair and made grand plans for it. Then I got a small £12.50 desk from Ikea and a new office chair.

A couple of weeks later I painted it the same relaxing colour as we have in our bedroom,

Clare's writing space

and had another Ikea trip to buy a wall light. And last week I put the finishing touches to it – a shelf ; a notice board, which I made myself with some Freecycled fabric; a new desk lamp; and a lovely new big desk. My mum bought me the pen pot from an antiques centre – it was made inCornwallin the 1950s and the colours are perfect.

I love this space. Opening onto our living room, it means that when I’m on my own with the children and they’re playing, I can write and be kind of apart from them but still with them. It’s surprisingly spacious, and very restful, despite the chaos going on behind me. I hope many books will be written in here over the years!

Garen Ewing’s work space

Garen Ewing

Garen is the author and artist of The Adventures of Julius Chancer: The Rainbow Orchid (Egmont). He also works as a commercial illustrator with many book covers, magazine illustrations, CD covers and even a Royal Mail stamp to his name.

He lives and works at home in West Sussex with his wife, a magazine editor, his daughter, a baby, and his cat, a retired secret agent.  He has a website at www.rainboworchid.co.uk and is on twitter at http://twitter.com/garenewing

Being a comic creator means I have two main work spaces – the writing one and the

Garen's writing space

drawing one. Actually, the first draft of my script is generally written away from my work area, on the dining table or on a train journey, if it happens to coincide. It’s always hand-written and accompanied by scribbled sketches – comics are words and pictures together, not two separate disciplines.

I’m lucky to have a room to myself for work and it’s probably where I spend a good 75% of my time! I have a small desk with a Mac Pro for typing up my scripts, and it’s also where I come back to at the end of the process for colouring and lettering.

Garen's drawing space

The drawing bit is done at a big art table I inherited from an office that closed down, and it has plenty of room to spread out all the bits and pieces I need (script, tools, inks, reference, etc.). The remainder of the room is mostly bookshelves (though not enough, small piles of books have started to occupy the floorspace too). Having my books at hand is very important, not only for reference and research but also inspiration, when required!

I have really enjoyed putting this post together – more than any other I’ve done so far, so a HUGE thank you to Emma, Liz, Clare and Garen for taking part and showing off their spaces.

How about you – do you have a special place to work and does it have everything you need?

About Abi Burlingham

I write children's books and paint pictures inspired by nature, animals, trees etc, mostly in acrylics. I am a crisp addict.
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23 Responses to 25th November

  1. Martin Day says:

    I like your blog, Abi, and I like to join in when I can. But this one is something of a fail for me. I have a laptop, that’s all and I roam around the house trying to find somewhere private. We have a conservatory which is perfect when the conditions are perfect. We try not to heat it becasue of the cost and when it is sunny it’s often too bright for the screen. It’s amazing how much time the rest of the family is rumbling around and how much they seem to want my attention. I am envious that most of your contributors can write with everything going on around them; I can’t. I guess it’s that male single-tasking thing. Add to that the other jobs I have, a goodly dose of procrastination, a smattering of dyslexia (that make any writing feel slow and laboured) and I have a recipe for a low work-rate. So I find that the most productive environment for me is in the car waiting for football training to finish. It’s a good job I don’t rely on writing for an income, isn’t it?

  2. Ah! Thanks Martin. It is like you say and I can’t always concentrate when the family’s at home. Luckily, I only teach part-time which means that I do get time to write. But this was a conscious decision on my part (I’ve written a future blog post on this). I do the writing in the car thing too! When I’m waiting to pick son up from school, I take my laptop and can get a good half an hour in the quiet – there’s something really appealing about car-writing isn’t there? You see – you DID take part 😉

  3. What an interesting post! I always love seeing where other people write, and I absolutely love Clare Kirkpatrick’s space under the stairs – it looks so inviting and cosy, and not too shut away from the family. I tend to write in various places. I’m lucky enough to have a study, but I tend to do everything here – prepare my teaching, read students’ work, write reports, household admin AND writing. Often, writing suffers because the other stuff is so pressing, so I sometimes take the laptop to a little desk in the bedroom, facing the window – sun comes in so its warm, and if I get stuck, I can watch the behaviour of the neighbourhood cats. Downside: our house is on the end of a row and faces the length of another road, so I’m visible and very obvious to anyone walking down that road, and I’m told I look weird sitting in the window. I’m also visible to the Mad Cat Lady and sometimes have to hide. I sometimes work in the living room (also sunny), and it’s definitely more productive to be away from email and Twitter! Wherever I work, his Henryship (big black lab/springer) will be at my feet.

    • So lovely to hear about your writing space (or spaces) Sue – am intrigued to hear about the Mad Cat Lady. Nicknames for our neighbours could be a whole new blogpost couldn’t it? I love that you have his Henryship (more nicknames!) at your feet too. I’m the same. Molly is always close by, and our old springer used to lie at my feet too – more often than not, ON, my feet… no need for slippers in the winter!

  4. Jo Carroll says:

    I live alone now – so have plenty of space to choose from. And i use it – according to the seasons, and the weather. If the sun is shining, I’m on the dining room table, facing the garden. Am I distracted by the birds? And chatter from next door? Of course. But I still love looking out at green.
    If it’s cold and wet, I light my woodburner, and work on a sofa in the sitting room, my laptop on my knee.
    Reading – can be anywhere. Often the same sofa. Or in bed. Or the kitchen. Or in cafes, buses, train stations . . .
    The result – papers are scattered everywhere. When grandchildren visit it’s all swept to a higher level and the floor covered with toys. I keep telling myself to take this opportunity to organise all the books and papers, or at least gather them in one place. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.

  5. Hi Jo. Your writing spaces sound perfect. Looking out on the garden while you’re wrting must be quite a motivator too in some ways. I often look out of the window when I have one of those sticky moments where I’m struggling a bit – inevitably, something pops in. Your woodburner sounds heavenly! And we really do need PAs don’t we? Maybe when the grandchildren are older…?

  6. I love seeing where other writers write — it gives me lots of ideas and also a peek into my Twitter/blogger friends lives! It’s also a challenge to carve those spaces out and not get bored, I’ve found, writing at home. When everyone’s home I tend to shuffle from space to space although I do have a desk, I do most of my writing at the kitchen or dining room tables. I’m pretty envious of Clare’s cupboard space under the stairs and love your comfy Ikea chair, Abi! I’m a fan of cozy writing spaces close to where everyone else is.

  7. Hi Julia! My goodness, you get extra Brownie Points for finding the time to read and comment on this the day after Thanksgiving! Yes, comfort’s definitely a priority for me. I like that you use the space of a dining room table – much like Liz Jackson. You can spread out and ‘mean business’, which I like. But I’m like you too, I like to be close to the hound and the family. Thanks again for commenting.

  8. Emma Pass says:

    Thank you for featuring my space on your blog, Abi! It’s great to see and read about everyone else’s spaces, and interesting that so few of us (so far!) work at a desk. I LOVE – and am very envious of – Garen’s office, though. And the ‘squidge’ in your Ikea chair sounds exactly like the one in my sofa!

  9. Thanks Em! Yes, Garen’s working space is fascinating isn’t it? So crammed full of all the things he needs, and I love that he has one space for the writing, colouring part, and one for the drawing part. Yes, we all need a ‘squidge’ don’t we? 😀

  10. Hi Abi, really liked that blog and the photos, it’s so interesting to see how people work and the spaces that they create for themselves… a laptop and a cup of coffee looks good, serving you well so far – Maura

  11. Fascinating post, Abi. It’s really interesting to see where other people work, and some are folks I know on Twitter. I’m going to check out the blogs of them all now and hopefully learn a little more about them!

    It’s good to know others work and write in chaos because my office is completely manic!

    CJ xx

    • Hi Maura, glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, this has been so interesting that I’m going to do another one of these in the new year… watch out! 😀

      Thanks CJ, it’s such an interesting subject isn’t it? It’s made me feel, even more, that we are part of a community, all of us finding our way in a similar way. That’s great that you’re going to check out the other’s blogs too!

  12. Being a closet nosy-parker, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to have a look at where some fellow writers work. We converted our garage into a large study for me 18 months ago, but it’s north facing and cold and I don’t spend much time there unless it’s a warm, sunny day. You can usually find me in my armchair in the living room but I’m just not as productive here as I am sitting at my desk.
    Great post.

    • Nettie, I’m the same. I love to see people’s houses, gardens, animals… the list goes on! Our dining room’s like your study space – big table and doors opening on to the garden, but north-facing so really chilly, which is why I don’t tend to use it. I think when you sit at a desk you know you’re there to write don’t you?… um, that’s if we can keep off twitter!

  13. What a great post. I love seeing where other writers work. I love your space, that chair looks sooo comfortable. I also love how you’ve managed to gather a collection of fellow writers spaces. It’s lovely to see.

    Earlier this year I managed to turn my spare room into an office space and have a lovely new desk and chair in there. The laptop is in dire need of an upgrade, but it’s my space. I can get peace and quiet in there and I love it.

  14. Ah, thanks Rebecca. Yes, it’s fascinating stuff isn’t it? I’ve really enjoyed putting this post together – so much so that I plan a follow up in the new year. My space IS comfortable (a little too comfortable at times… yawn!) Your space sounds great too! Must feel lovely to have a space of your own. Thanks again.

  15. Nicki Cawood says:

    What a brilliant post! I can’t claim to be anywhere near as creative as you lovely lot – my work is more technical than fictional but I too once had an office which became the second nursery and my working space now involves a laptop, a sofa and a warm fire.

    I keep saying I will one day have a “proper” space again, but I may need to wait to until the boys move out first.

  16. Great post Abi – it is intriguing to see how and where others work. I particularly like the aspect of these spaces being ‘made’ to suit the purpose. Kinda tickles me too how little space a writer needs – so long as it’s comfortable and reasonably lit, that’s all that seems to matter. Nearly all other art forms tend to benefit from lots of space and specialist equipment and lighting etc. I’ve always been jealous of artists that have a proper studio space – I’ve always had to make do with whatever space I’m living in to work in too, which as a painter and a sculptor can be a real challenge.

    Again, lovely to see all these folks places :o)

    • Thank you Dean. You are so right about writers being able to fit into almost any space and make it work – I hadn’t really thought about that before. I think a lot of us write in bed, in cars, in cafes – we take our writing with us and therefore it is often quite spontaneous. As a painter and sculptor you must need so much more equipment and forethought about when and where you’re going to work and, as you say, that must be a challenge. Having seen some of your work though, you clearly make it work, despite the limited space. Thanks again 🙂

  17. wendylyth says:

    Another great and uber-interesting post, young lady. Fascinating stuff. I’m mostly a laptop on knee on comfy sofa legs-crossed kinda gal – snuggly cosy. If we had the space I would definitely have a writing room which would be cosy and not formal and sunny sunny sunny (like yours). I’m a little cat at heart and like my sunspots. I love that I can now visualise my fellow Twitterettes in their working space.

  18. Hi Wendy, thank you! I loved doing this post, so much in fact that I’m planning another one in the New Year… I may get back to you on this!

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