I’m currently getting ready to fly out to Australia to stay at a writer’s retreat for a whole month, thanks to the wonderful Tyrone Guthrie Centre awarding me their 2017 exchange programme, and needless to say, I’m very excited. It’s a month to just write, in a new environment, surrounded by other writers. It’s not for everyone, but to me, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and after a very busy, very tiring two years, the perfect tonic to reset and figure out what’s next with my writing.
Every writer has their own routine and their own requirements to be able to sit down and write. If I’m at home, I like scented candles and I choose one that suits my mood and what I’m writing. I also like silence. If I listen to music, I end up writing the lyrics down instead of my story (does anyone else do this?). I tried listening to classical music but any kind of crescendo and I’m pulled right out of it. So, silence it is, then. Mostly. I live in the countryside so I can hear cows, sheep, horses and, of course, my dog.
I also enjoy working in cafes where there’s a buzz. Where people are talking but you can’t distinguish the words; that’s an ideal spot because I don’t accidentally write their conversations down. I have written in cafes all over the world including Australia, Thailand, Spain, Italy and Cambodia. When you don’t understand the language, it’s even better – it’s so easy to zone out but you don’t feel alone. Writing can be lonely sometimes.
I also like to take writing breaks abroad – hence my excitement with Australia – as I find a new environment (and sun!) lifts the spirits and motivates. In 2015, I went to a writing retreat in France, just outside of Carcassonne. The sun and natural surroundings were stunning and I made this short video about why I chose that spot and what I liked about it. The information is out of date (The Book of Learning, Caramel Hearts and The Book of Shadows are all published and on the shelves) but I thought you might like to hear my thought processes when picking a spot to write.
I think environment affects us very much, and this is why setting is always an important feature in my books. If you’re writing and you get stuck, I find that movement and a change of scenery really help. Put the pen down or the computer away and take a walk – you can always bring a notebook with you, if you need. Walking stimulates the blood flow to your brain and also lifts your spirits. So it’s a win/win! Some of the best ideas come when you’re away from your desk, and I find I untangle the trickiest of plot issues or character flaws when I’m in motion. By the time I return to the spot where I’m writing, I’m all set to continue on. I can’t wait to see what Australia brings to both my writing and my process!
What about you? I’d love to know more about your own writing spaces. Do you find your environment affects your writing? Where do you like to write and why?