Writing … spaces and places – conditions for writing

My plans for the day have just changed. I’m now working out how to best spend the time that has opened up.

This is, obviously, a bit of a furphy. The time will fill itself without any help from me.

There are the usual suspects. I have plenty of regular chores and errands to fill in the space. There are also some tasks that were deadlined during the week that I need to finish off.*


One of the big things that I need to take care of is sorting the space where I write and study.

After intensive writing weeks, like this one just past, my space tends to look a shade wrecked. It’s not at all photogenic at this point.

Looking around now, there is a considerable amount of filing and shelving to be done. You may remember that I’ve been buying books. (I’m always buying books.) They need to be stamped…catalogued…shelved. The danger there is that I might stop to read them. There’s definitely no time for that. Even with that bit of extra time, there’s no time.

I will HAVE to work on my space at some point this weekend. That’s a given, but I don’t want to waste daylight on filing and shelving. That’s the sort of thing I like to do at night; in that settling down time while I’m waiting for the world to calm itself and become quiet.

Once my space is sorted, I enjoy the work I do when the world is sleeping. Writing into the night while I’m on holidays is one of my favourite things. I ease into the ideas and words. I don’t worry about distractions or obligations.

Small desk set up with laptop, reading lamp and notes
Writing in the still of night

The important thing I need to remember, though, is that night writing needs to be balanced. It needs to be relaxed. I need time freed up around late nights so they are manageable. (I do still need to sleep…)

In the deadline frenzy of this week I made the mistake of engaging in some pressured night writing. It’s not something that works for me. This week’s late night (in the midst of a couple of days of annual leave) was disastrous. The result: a missed deadline. Lesson learned and noted. Night writing can’t be panicked. Not for me at least.


I’m a fan of working ‘elsewhere’. It’s not just the chaos of home that drives me to be somewhere other than my study. Finding a spot and settling myself into it is part of the fun.

Of course, there are times when I seem to wander aimlessly looking for the spot. That’s a risk that needs to be mitigated on a regular basis. I need to run my own interventions some days…

Once I find a spot to be the spot for a chunk of time, it is worth it.

Picnic bench at The Whaling, Flinders Bay set up as a writing desk
In the sun by Flinders Bay

This found space was just delightful. I was in Flinders because a friend had whisked me away from the debris of a broken heart. Angst of those days aside, working at this bench felt so good. The writing was for my day job and for uni. Even so, it was pleasurable. It was a beautiful space to be. The sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the sound of water lapping on sand…I won’t go on.

I often find that the spots I choose for writing feature water, in one way or another. I lived in inland for a couple of years. I liked where I was and I was happy there but the absence of ocean and river were disconcerting. Whenever I went home to Perth I would head straight to the ocean ‘just to check’. I still choose routes that take me along the river or coast – even if it adds time to the journey.

The plan

It’s time to run some of those errands, do a bit of the family thing and then stop by the water on the way home. I fancy working on some bits from the scrawl and perhaps add to it.

I can see the spot now. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful and, as usual, there’s the possibility that there will be pelicans or maybe even a dolphin.


*I met one with a minute to spare. Literally. The date stamp on the submission receipt is 3:59 for a 4:00 deadline. That was cutting it a shade too fine. Even for me.

A week of bookshops, mooching and poetry – my readerly-writerly idea of bliss

It’s been a busy week. There has been oodles to do with family, work and study. I may not have been productive as far as outside-of-work writing goes, but I’ve been busy. It’s been good.

I’ve taken a break from the scrawl. Also, I’m nearly done with the jottings I can find in notebooks. This is not to say more notebooks aren’t lurking. My study is chaotic and I suspect that not all the notebooks were in there in the first place. That said, there’s only so much backwards looking I can do in one hit.

Note to self: it might be good to read some of the books on dealing with clutter that are taking up space on the book shelf.

Despite not much to show for it, I’ve been showing up at the page a bit. When I’ve done so, I’ve made a conscious effort to keep the writing on loose leaves. That way I can avoid adding to the scrawl I’ve been working so hard on clearing.

While there’s nothing substantially ‘useful’ in these latest pages, a few lines here and there look as though they might be worth mining for later. I’m happy with that.

Late in the week I found myself writing in cafe. I got so caught up I lost track of the time and was nearly late for a conference/seminar.

I have to admit it’s been a while since I was immersed to that degree.

Photo of poured tea on a metal tray in a city coffee shop
I managed to find time for some cafe writing

Mooching around bookshops

Saturday was a cracker. I made it to not one but two bookshops: New Edition Bookshop (Freo) and Bookcaffe (Swanbourne). I was tempted to make it three when I went to go to the library –  the Coop (UWA) – but I figured I had some work to do.* I kept myself to just the two.

I’m excited that NEB is back. There’s been a bit of an hiatus while they’ve been moving premises. I don’t know what the full story is but I’ve missed them while they’ve been away. I know ‘they’ are a different ‘them’ but I’m sure you get my point.

I like mooching about Freo. I love mooching about Freo going from bookshop to bookshop. That’s been a tad tricky in recent times. The Freo bookshop count is generally in decline, NEB hasn’t been around and my mooching opportunities are decidedly outside working hours.

Swanbourne isn’t too far from Freo. I zipped up the coast to catch up with a friend on my way to uni. Books, chatting, hot chocolate, sitting by the window. It was lovely.

One of the books that made its way home with me is My Brother’s Book by Maurice Sendak. It is a beautiful, meditative riddle. I don’t feel as though I’ve managed to nut-it-out and I need to spend more time with it. I’m not sure when that will be.

Poetry night

Monday was great because it was, as we say in my family, ‘poetry night’. Yes, I made it to Voicebox again. This is starting to be a habit.

There are worse habits.

Again, I enjoyed all three guest poets. I’m afraid the titles have escaped me but Dick Alderson’s poem about almonds, Dennis Haskell’s about oranges and Kylie Stevenson’s about Deep Water Point all stuck me at the time as beautiful explorations of imagery and emotion and they’ve stayed with me for the week. Rose van Son’s ‘Meatworks, Caversham’ is one of the poems from the open mic readers that keeps coming back to me.

I’ve been thinking not just about the poems that were read, but the usefulness of poetry for narrative . The distillation of words and ideas carries an emotive power for telling story that I find visceral. A bit further along from these thoughts is how much I enjoy the poetic within prose.

That’s led me on to reflecting on novels that I read as poetic. Yesterday I picked up a spare copy of David Malouf’s Fly Away Peter so I could dip into it on the train ride home for precisely that reason.

In the end the train station was a shade too hectic for the way I wanted to read the novel. Instead, I started the copy of Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist that I picked up from the same sale shelf.

A stack of books
The outcome of bookshop mooching

I now find myself with two copies of Fly Away Peter. Possibly not the best outcome for book-case space crisis of 2014 (which is very much like the book-case space crises of 2013, 2012, 2001…1975 – when I was given my first bookcase for my birthday…) but that particular thread of thinking – the poetic in prose – is always tantalising. I hope I can hold onto it in the face of a week which, I already know, is going to allow very little time for musing as such.

*I didn’t go into the library either to be honest. I sat in the sunshine while I looked for useful articles online. Being able to work remotely is such a bonus.