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A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN
A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN
“A Woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” said Virginia Woolf.
I have never managed an independent income but I have usually had a room of my own - but, alas, no more; I am thrown back on managing like everyone else and writing as and where I can. Luckily I am not one of those people who require absolute silence to be able to write so my venues have been many and varied, and I write my first draft in longhand which makes life simple with regard to equipment.
As a child I wrote in my bedroom – poetry, which actually got published in the local paper on the children’s page! I wrote extra scenes for characters I liked in books – I am still in love with Alan Breck Stewart from Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. Recently I went on holiday with my editor and her other half, and it was quite a pilgrimage as we visited sites connected with Alan; the old bridge at Stirling, the crossing at Queensferry (although he and David used a boat, not a bridge) and, best of all, the site where James of the Glens died – I had tried for more than thirty years ago to find the site but the people I was with then were not as accommodating as my editor and her other half, bless them.
Later, my bedroom also saw me writing scenes for characters from various television series: The Avengers (before the girls arrived to divert Steed’s attention from his doctor partner), Wagon Train, and best of all Z Cars … my friend and I wrote this in her bedroom as well, when I went to stay the night.
As well as my own scenes I also, in this time before VHS, wrote out whole episodes of programmes like The Big Valley and Star Trek, which was fantastic practice for capturing dialogue. I was married by this time and my 21st birthday present had been a typewriter.
In my twenties I was definitely an owl. My husband worked nights and I would stay up until two in the morning to write and re-write – try doing that now!
With husband at work during the day and children in school I could write at a more civilised hour, and that lasted for a long time. As they do, the children grew up and left home - but then I had my mother to look after, and the writing got squeezed. It got squeezed even more when my husband retired; however he was very good at entertaining himself, so I would go out to write. I would arrive at our local ASDA store very early, fortify myself with coffee and toast, and settle down to work for an hour or so before my daughter arrived and we had breakfast together before doing the shopping. I liked working in ASDA; the background of other people talking and the loudspeaker announcements did not bother me at all.
I also used to write in the library – not so unusual, but the café there had closed so I used to take coffee and sandwiches. Oddly, it was more distracting than ASDA; because it was generally quiet, any noise stood out - like the woman and her daughter watching YouTube, which was obviously hilarious from the noise they were making. One-on-one teaching also took place there, and the conversations were audible several yards away.
Visiting Yorkshire, with a deadline for a Christmas present, I abandoned my hostess for an hour every day and wrote in the complete silence of her sitting room – but I also like music when I write, and I find that certain composers or singers attach themselves to a piece of work and that is all I listen to; while on a writing holiday at a farmhouse in Wales it was Elgar, and at other times it has been the Moody Blues - you just never know what it’s going to be.
Things have changed again recently; my husband has been ill and we've moved in with my daughter, her husband, and two children (aged 5 and 10). There is no problem with the dynamics of the family - she didn't leave home until she was thirty-five, and as a child we lived with my grandmother, so the extended family was nothing new. However, because my husband needs constant care and monitoring I can no longer go to ASDA or the library to work, and finding a suitable time has been difficult because there have been so many other things to do.
Now life has settled down into more of a routine, and I am finding where the gaps are when I can settle down and write - but I can see that the school holidays will definitely not be suitable! One unexpected place is the Cottage Hospital where we go for neuro physio – while my other half is having treatment I take myself off to the coffee shop and write there for just under an hour.
I vividly remember an occasion when I had just been made redundant from my office job. (My boss was becoming a partner in another firm of solicitors and could not take me with him; the other secretary had been there longer than me and she went with him.) This was also the time when a friend and I were absolutely besotted with the film Black Rain - Michael Douglas was the star, but we were fascinated by the characters portrayed by Ken Takakura and Andy Garcia. Being out of work I was free to go away for the weekend to a friend in Sunderland – and that was where inspiration struck; I wrote solidly that weekend whenever I had a free moment. I also wrote on the train going home – I had a job interview at Tesco so I went there straight from the train – and wrote while I was waiting for my appointment. I was so engrossed that, having unsuccessfully called my name, one of the supervisors had to come and get me … but nevertheless I did get the job!
It would be nice to have Virginia Woolf’s private room and independent income, but it is not absolutely necessary - at least not for me!