Most of us have habits and rituals associated with the special things we undertake in life – whether that be wearing the same socks for job interviews or not shaving off our beards until the end of the baseball season. On a more basic level, our habits and rituals shape our days and our interactions. That first cup of tea in the mornings. The way we stack our fridge. We are creatures of habit. I would love to spend some time looking into the psychology of habits and rituals and how they affect our creativity – maybe I will have a guest post from a psychologist one of these days (watch this space), but for now, I thought I’d share some of my own.
Habit one: my desks(s)
I love desks – I would have then in every room of the house if I could. Although she can barely hold a pen, I’ve been tempted to buy a desk for my 14 month old daughter: whenever I go into her nursery, I feel that something’s missing. Desks make me feel grounded – and oddly safe. A flat surface and a chair gives me the sense that all is right with the world. I can lay out my notebooks, my pens, my laptop, my novels, my books on writing – and begin.
And it’s not all about chunky desks with large surfaces and drawers: any table that you claim as your special space will do. A kitchen table at your friend’s house (my writing buddy, Helen, and I have written for many an hour at my kitchen table); a corner table in a coffee shop; a picnic table in a park; a plank of wood balanced on your knees as you sit against your favourite tree. A place that resonates with your writer’s soul, that gives you the mental space to imagine.
One of the greatest gifts I’ve been given is the blue and white desk I have in my study. It’s an important part of my writing ritual. It was a present from the parents of Ancren Gate North, the boarding house I ran at Downe House. If any of you girls and parents are reading this now: thank you, you are part of my writing life.
Another, wonderfully kind and original gift was given to me when I was about ten years old. I spent my summers in Corsica: my mother, brother and I lived in a rustic, home-spun house in the mountains, but we spent our days at my aunt and uncle’s beach house. I struggled with the heat (I’m happiest in the rain). I got sunburnt. I felt like a white blob next to my beautiful, tanned, sporty, long-legged relatives. And then my Auntie Marina, a kind, generous, creative soul, gave me a place to escape. She found a nook tucked away in the maquis, placed a strip wood between two pink rocks, cleared away the brambles and called it: ‘La Place Du Poet.’ I had a view of the sea. Shade. I could watch people wondering up and down the path to the beach. And I could write. I’ll try to get her to take a photo so you can see it. It was a very special desk indeed.
I daydream about my ideal writing desk too…such dreams are important. The top floor of a white clapboard house in New England, probably New Hampshire. It’s autumn, the trees are on fire. My little girl is playing with my husband on the front lawn. And I’m sitting at a rustic, white wood desk, writing my latest novel. One day…
I hope you find an inspiring desk – or plank of wood – to write at today. Create a mental map of the places you love to write and, whenever you can, go and sit there – and begin.