I don’t write every day, but when I do write, I write wherever I can.
I used to work a job in the city that ran 8.30 to 7.00 and had a forty five minute commute each end. I was new to London and like everyone else I started with the Tube. Back then I lived pretty far up the line so most days I could get a seat. The first week’s commuting I sat crushed between office workers and cleaners, writing in a lined A4 pad of paper with any one of the dozen Biro’s that littered my flat.
I think best when I’m travelling; my mind is bored enough to latch on to anything, but clear enough to join the dots. I dislike writing in public though, people wonder what you’re doing, read over your shoulder, see you struggling. And anyway, even without all that that my writing turns to shit. The train jolts and rattles along the tracks and I get home and find a pad filled with an unreadable scrawl.
I write on my Blackberry instead now. Use the notepad, type it out with my thumbs. Dialogue, notes, themes, thoughts, ideas. There’s nothing strange about a person playing on their phone, no one thinks twice. After I’m done I email it to myself. Or save it in Dropbox.
At home I write lying in bed, with London rent there’s no money for an extra room. Close the bedroom door for a couple of hours. Girlfriend watches television or talks to friends. I get most of the writing done like this as I don’t take the Tube any more. As I say, you start off with the Tube, but after a while you learn the buses, and after a few months of that you realise that fifteen stops down an obscurely winding bus route is fucking slow, so then you cycle.
You can’t write and cycle.
I don’t get in to the bed, just sit on top, scuffing up the duvet, lying back while my legs form a triangle with the matress. The laptop rests on my thighs.
There’re a couple of notepads filled with ideas scattered on the floor. It’s mostly Post-It notes and fragments of paper sellotaped to the pages, scraps used after the notepad has been forgotten/left behind. I refer you back to the Blackberry; you’ve always got your phone with you.
So. A phone and a bed. That’s what I do.
I think sometimes that I should have instead some creative place, organically created. I imagine moving in to a new flat that that has a tiny room I can call a study. A low ceiling, slanted probably, a small window. I’d rip out the built in wardrobe and install a squat, shabby desk. We concentrate on decorating the rest of the flat first, the kitchen, the lounge; it takes months. Meanwhile I scribble notes and sentences on the exposed plaster board above my desk. I write down phone numbers and appointments, draw arrows linking characters with back story. There’s half a timeline, full of asterisk’s and crossings out. A characters back story. In the corner a draw a spurting cock, with a smiley face.
A lawyer friend gave me a green lamp, that sits on the desk, and a broken shelf behind me is filled with paperbacks.
When it’s time to paint the room I don’t do it straight away, I keep a pot of whitewash under the window sill instead and when a story is finished I paint out the notes. A couple of layers until the black pen disappears. Then I write over it again.
Later on a photographer friend uses the wall as a project. An evolving montage. His pictures are shown in a small gallery in East London. He gives me one of the prints and I frame it and hang it from a nail I have banged crookedly in to the plasterboard.
That’s a real writers room. Isn’t it?