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Famous last words: "I’ll write my novel when…"

Posted on September 22, 2011

I was watching Grand Designs the other night when, unusually, I found myself shouting at the television. I have been known to shout at the television in the past, but not generally when genteel Kevin is doing his thing. The reason for my vociferous response?

A nice man was building a nice house in France. Part of his reason for creating said house was to install a writing room. Said room was at the top of the house with a wall of windows showcasing a view of rolling French countryside. It would be, he said, the perfect place in which to write His Novel. I remembered a conversation I once had with Australian novelist Allison Rushby about a similar man with a similar dream on that other genteel show Escape To The Country.

“It doesn’t matter what’s out the window,” she said. “You’re either going to write it or you’re not.”

Which is pretty much what I found myself shouting at the television the other night. I then went on to expand on the topic while The Builder watched me, slightly bemused. When I ran out of steam, we resumed polite watching.

At the end of the show, Kevin returned to the house, seven years after it had been built. The man’s writing room was now comfortably furnished with not only his desk, but an exercise bike, some boxes, several piles of newspapers, bookshelves, a keyboard, a pile of bags… oh wait, half of that is what’s in my office. He had written a book. A guide to buying houses in the French countryside.

I am not disparaging the nice man’s dream, nor his efforts. But every time I hear someone say “I’ll write my book when…” it makes me wonder if they’ll ever actually get round to putting the words on paper.

When I dream of my perfect writing life, it involves a little weatherboard studio, open and spacious, with big French doors opening onto a little verandah. There are big, blowsy, old-fashioned David Austin roses involved. The room is always free of clutter, clean, white, fresh. Small boys are conspicuous by their absence.

If I waited until this place materialised, I would never write anything. So I sit in my cluttered (all my own fault, I know) office, in my Fibro, with my family happily rumbling around me. The view is of my struggling vege patch. On hot, still nights, I can hear my neighbour snoring (true story – the first time I heard it, I thought there was a large, dark beast outside my window and was totally freaked out).

Author Fiona Palmer has been sharing pictures of the writing spaces of some fab Australian novelists. I love having a look. Some of them have beautiful views. Others work at the dining table. Some are out in a paddock. Others in offices that would not look out of place in an accountancy practice. For the most part, they involve a desk and a chair and a wall.

To me, it’s not the place that makes the writing special. It’s the writing that makes the place special.

What do you think? 


[image: Flickr.com]

58 Comments

  1. all.things.fadra

    I so needed to read this especially after having come back from BlogHer Writers. What an inspirational post.

  2. Latoya @ The Scott's Crib

    You make a very valid argument of why I should stop procrastinating and actually just put the words down. My mind would probably be a lot less cluttered if I would take the time to just expel some of it’s memory;)

  3. The Lucky Wife

    There are certain things that come along with motherhood that no one ever warned you about… and this is one of them… the someday syndrome. You’ll reach that goal/dream of becoming a novelist, I’m sure. One step at a time….!

    A little late for your SITS day but I do hope it was wonderful! 🙂

  4. B

    I completely agree.

    There will always be reasons to put off living life…but those who are happy AND successful make things happen in the moment and aren’t waiting for everything to align perfectly.

    Nice post and Happy SITS Day! 🙂

  5. Cam | Bibs and Baubles

    true. if you’re going to write, just write! I write everywhere. At the hair salon, at the coffee house, everywhere. Just put pen to paper and make it happen.

  6. The Dolls Are Alright

    Beautifully said. I find that it isn’t as much what is outside my window or even what is sitting on my desk, it’s what’s in my heart and head … those words that just need to come spilling out when I give myself the acceptance and okay. Wishing you the very best ~ Patricia

  7. confidenceiseverything

    Well said… I’ve set up my writing space in several different places. It doesn’t matter where because your story comes alive in a variety of places. At least that’s what I’ve see as I’ve been trying to flesh out the details of my novel. I’ve written in bookstores (something that inspires me… maybe it’s the the books, or the people. Who knows), coffee shops (sometimes too distracting for me), with a friend (it’s great to talk out the details with another writer and sometimes my best ideas come from talking it through, at home (lots of distractions in the home). It all depends on the passion of the story you’re writing, and it comes alive wherever you may be.

  8. Mollie Busby

    I love how clean and intriguing your writing is, Allison. You remind me of a blogger friend of mine who’s an equally eloquent writer at http://eaterprovocateur.com. You may enjoy her musings as well 🙂

    Happy SITS day!

  9. Zeemaid

    Perfectly said! All you need is pen and paper or these days a computer.

    Happy SITS day!

  10. LBDDiaries

    Well ouch. That was a profound post and I will now apply what I learned. I will write, no longer talk about “finishing up.” I love that line, “It doesn’t matter what’s out the window. You’re either going to write it or you’re not.” Amen and thank you (and Happy SITS Day).

  11. MJ

    I think you have a lovely voice. Please dont wait until you have the perfect space start writing soon.

  12. Aly ~ Cooking in Stilettos

    There is no time like the present to get crackin’ on the home office/study. This post really gave the proverbial kick in the pants to this Philly gal 🙂 Thank you!

  13. criticalcrass

    i am so NOT surprised to know that the “writing” room with its incredibly awesome view became a veritable dumping ground.

    as for me … i go to pappadeaux’s. and when i tire of it, i will go to some other dark and busy restaurant and cop a squat at its bar. a writing room? really? bah! why would you wanna be stuck in a room by yourself, doing something so solitary? that’s just silly. at least at a bar you’ve got company while you’re crafting.

  14. Sela Toki

    What a wonderful writer you are. I’m following your blog. Have a super duper SITS day.

  15. misssrobin

    I agree; you’ll either write it or you won’t. Some of my best writing came wherever and whenever I was at the moment. If you need staging to write, it’s seems like it’s going to be pretty difficult to get it done.

  16. Joanne

    Oh, I love this! It is so true. I also love the way you write. I hope you are already working on your novel. Happy SITS day!

  17. Morgan

    yes … writing has to happen in the midst of being a mom to four little people. If I waited, all my words would make my head explode! Of course, I do dream of where I might sit and write someday … and it won’t be this cluttered corner here!

    Enjoy your SITS day!

  18. Sheila

    Hi I’ve come through SITS – yelling at the television is all part of the viewing, is it not? I think writing is a gift and therefore agree with you that it’s not the place that makes the writing special. Good luck with your novel x

  19. Louise Ducote

    Visiting from SITS; fabulous post. Waiting for the perfect spot in which to write is like waiting to get a new bike before going for a ride; you can still feel the wind in your hair on that old clunker, so go!

  20. Priscilla

    Well technically he wrote a book but…not exactly a novel.

    🙂

  21. Kimberly at Rubber Chicken Madness

    While I would LOVE to have a dedicated space just for writing, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my words will have to spill forth whether that space exists or not. But I can dream about that space!

  22. peach

    This is my first visit to your Fibro. It will not be my last. Thank you!

  23. Heather

    Absolutely agree. In the same way you can have a beautiful house and not have a home.

  24. Broot

    That’s funny. Hubby & I saw that episode and thought the exact same thing. And then (cuz we’re contrary) on another episode, we yelled at another guy for NOT putting a window in so he could see outside while he was writing. Heh. Guess we can’t make up our minds.

  25. ghostwritermummy

    I think that is so right! I always remember a tutor telling me about Faye Weldon hiding under the kitchen table to write, as it was the only place she could get some peace from a busy family life. I know how she feels. Sometimes I write in the bathroom, sometimes in the garden. The important thing is to write!
    xXx

  26. Patricia Iles

    I agree that you can’t wait for everything to line up perfectly so that you can write. That said, there’s something oh-so-nice about writing in a place that DOES inspire you. Where ever that may be. My own back porch is such a place.

    I’m also very glad to hear that I am not the only one out here who yells at the TV and it’s not even showing a ball game. 🙂

    Trish

    http://contemplatinghappiness.blogspot.com/2008/08/grandmas-are-forever.html

  27. Kristy

    I have been known to do some good writing on my couch and in my bed and (shh!) at work. But, when I need to really think and work hard at it, I go to my special table in our basement and sit there. It feels quite official. And there aren’t distractions.

  28. songbyrd on the mountain

    Visiting from Weekend Link Up. Your post resonates with the writer in me…. I got off my duff a couple winters ago and participated in –and FINISHED– NaNoWriMo– write a novel in 30 days. whoot!whoot! (now I just need to DO something with it!!!)
    I have a room with a desk and a view for writing but I seem to like my lazy-boy best, with my cherry laptop and my velvet black cat vying for room. It’s cozy, but it works!

  29. Sarah

    This is my first visit and your blog is beautiful, a very nice space to be creative in.

    Aren’t there two things at work here- yes- procrastination, the voice of doubt, the excuses, the death of dreams.

    The other – want of refuge- a space, whether a studio, nook, special pad, chair, shrine, swing, corner of our imagination where we yearn for, where we believe we can be free for ourselves, listen, and just maybe hear the muse?

  30. Kathleen Basi

    Hear, hear! I write wherever and whenever I can…and I have to plan around kids who need the computer and need mommy and dinner that needs making and house that needs cleaning–just like everyone else. I dream of a gazebo I can open up in nice weather, connected to my house by a wooden walkway and situated in the middle of absolutely nowhere, where I won’t hear a speck of human-made noise.

    If I ever get it, that will be Heaven. In the meantime, I have to keep writing between wiping my toddler’s nose and hearing him narrate what he’s drawing. And making sure he doesn’t draw on something he shouldn’t.

  31. Anastasia

    I agree. But it would be great to have a little writing nook!

  32. 1978rebecca

    Fantastic post – I agree completely – if the views too nice you’ll just stare at it all day. My problem is I’ve started blogging to get into the writing habit and am now so addicted I don’t have time to write a novel. Not the plan at all.

    By the way, just following from Blow Your own Bloghorn hop.

  33. Jacq

    Good point!I don’t know what I’m waiting for but I should just get on, and do it, shouldn’t I?

  34. Barb

    Well said!!!! I can’t imagine having a specific “writing spot.” I love the mobility of my laptop and of course my old school legal pad and pen. I write everywhere, from my car waiting to pick kid up at practice to the coffee shop to multiple places in our home. My computer, my brain and my creativity are all portable!

  35. Cath

    Does blogging count? If so, I have the perfect writing room, although, as it’s after dark, I’m not currently in it. Yes, the weatherboard studio out the back is mine at last – looking out at the garden (that needs weeding), the veggie patch up the hill (that needs planting) and the forest out the back (which needs someone to kick the DSE up the butt!) But I love having the sun stream through the window as I work – sometimes blogging, sometimes making pretty paper things, sometimes procrati-tweeting.
    Yes, the dining table was functional, and I did get plenty of work done there, but having such a lovely workspace DOES make all the difference to me – mostly by being just MINE!

  36. bigwords is...

    So very true. What I dream of is the unlimited, uninterrupted TIME to write. I couldn’t care less where it was – just TIME I tell you. Good luck with your writing xx

  37. Rhonda

    i think you are correct and especially if you are writing fiction…the words should carry you to the place they are set and you will not even recognize that you are in your own space.

  38. Diminishing Lucy

    I was shouting at the TV too, at that episode. I was also slightly aquiver at Kevin speaking French…

  39. thepowmill

    I am not a writer but I think the perfect space is somewhere inside one of the many spaces in one’s head. The trouble may come because that space is mobile. So that would mean it could happen almost anywhere…anytime. There’s a difficult thing to plan around.

  40. Allison Rushby

    I really should listen to myself more, shouldn’t I? When we moved to the UK, with our great view of a lock, swans etc., I honestly thought it might make a difference (had been writing in a very dark study previously). Am currently sitting with my back to the view and have to close the curtains on the view because of the glare! But, I’m writing!

  41. Mrs Catch

    Oh I love this. Someone told me to never have a window near a writing space – just face a blank wall, to minimise distraction. I think I’d still find something! Fingermarks or dust or whatever. It’d be the cleanest wall in the house.

  42. Eloise

    oh, I’ve thought up just about every excuse to not finish my book but so far ‘having a writing room’ is not one of them. I actually do have a writing room which is actually pretty nice, it has a nice desk and a nice bookcase and a nice chaise lounge and a nice view – although it probably could do with the conspicuously missing children! (that or a lock on the door). But most of the 65,000 words I have written so far were written in notebooks while sitting cross legged on the lounge with the TV on. Weird.

  43. MultipleMum

    What a wonderful excuse to build a gorgeous home in the French countryside. Are you in? Great post Al x

  44. joiningsentences

    Building a house so you can write is just the ultimate in procrastination.

  45. Jodie @ parentwellbeing

    Allison – I love this post. So so so so true! Every word.

    Thanks, Jodie.

  46. Tracey from Central Coast Seachange

    I never have a writing room with a view unless I’m in my back garden. If I attempt to use my laptop in the garden, I can rarely see the screen properly because of the glare.

    So instead, my office is in the downstairs rumpus room. And there’s nothing ‘bespoke’ about it, and there’s no ‘integrity of the room’ either – to use Kevin speak.

  47. Jayne

    My study has a view of the street. It’s not terribly inspiring and husband’s mess takes up over two thirds of the room. But it’s what I have and it will do. I wrote my first book in there. The second is being written on the couch in my front lounge where the afternoon light is beautiful, but the view is the same.

    Writers, go and write, wherever you are and with whatever tools are to hand.

  48. Lisa heidke

    Love this post, Al … And I can so see you yelling at the TV. I was one of those people who used to say ‘I’ll write my novel when…’

    Truth is you just have to dive in head first and start writing and then don’t stop until the first draft is done.
    NaNoWriMo is looming for all those wanting to take the plunge.

  49. Thea

    I love this post!
    I don’t write, but I do sew, and I have very similar visions of a sewing studio.
    At the moment my machine is on the kitchen table beside the microwave and I have made 6 aprons in 2 days…you’re right…it doesn’t matter where the space is…you just have to do it. 🙂

  50. Donna

    Thanks for the cyber kick up the bum! I too am guilty of waiting for the glorious silky chasm of free time in which to sit and write uninterrupted from the daily grind of life… (In my dreams, I know!)

  51. Ms Styling You

    I feel like the man in the show – thanks for shouting at me too. I need to actually just start writing my book!

  52. Life In A Pink Fibro

    To be honest @tinsenpup, I don’t work that well in clutter either – but somehow that’s where I always manage to find myself… I keep saying ‘I”ll clean up my study when…’ 🙂

  53. tinsenpup

    I agree with you, but I think a healthy habitat can make a huge difference to some of us. I don’t function well generally in mess, clutter or dim light. I don’t think some scenery would be a hindrance either. Having said that, if it’s not happening, it’s not happening regardless of scenery.

  54. Kymmie

    So beautifully written Allison.

    And yes, I cannot imagine you yelling at the television. xx

  55. Mum on the Run

    I just love that last line (or two) of yours.
    Writing/reading transports me.
    No point if I’m already there, is there?!
    🙂

  56. Coal Valley View

    Love this post so much!!

    It can work as an analogy for many things, like homes and family. It’s not the home that makes the family special. It’s the family that makes the home special.

    xx

  57. Brenda @ Mira Narnie

    oh i seriously have goosebumps coz as soon as i saw the title and knew you were going to mention that Grand Designs ep, coz i watched it too and it pained me when Kevin returned and there was no novel!

    lovely post Al, you got a nail, and hit it on the head!

    xx

  58. therhythmmethod

    You, Mrs Fibro, are wonderful. x

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