My Writing Place, by Anthony Riches
Being quite spectacularly ill-disciplined – just ask my business partner and our long suffering employees – I’ve been aware for a while now that I’m not at my best writing at home: nowhere near it, as a matter of fact. Barely ten minutes into the day’s work I’ll have diverted to the internet to research something or other of some relevance, but from there it’s only a matter of seconds before I’m reading car reviews on the Evo website, looking at gorgeous stainless steel lever action rifles on the Marlin website or simply trawling Wikipedia to find out just who was the lead singer of Mud in 1975.
Having confided this shocking lack of discipline to my friend Eddie a while ago, I then spent a few days writing in his office after receiving an invitation so sincere in its expression that it would have been rude to refuse. Driving down into north London at a ‘going to work’ time of the day, I would sit at a table and tap away at my laptop while he went about his business. Was it quiet? No, it was a working office with all that entails (and Ed’s a forceful man when he gets going). We drank tea, we chatted every now and then, and it was most convivial. Yet, despite all that, I routinely turned out two thousand words in less than three hours. Even I could do the maths – working a gentle five half days a week would equate to five hundred thousand words a year, with afternoons off for proof reading copy edits, stroking my chin while looking at proposed book covers and (more to the point) playing games on the PS3. The scales fell from my eyes… what had I been thinking all these years not to have realised what I was missing?
So, when I found the end of my most recent engagement looking like coming to an end, I bought the local paper and sat on the train into London searching for somewhere internet free to go and hide for the purposes of writing. And there it was! ‘Small office space in rural location, would suit undisciplined writer due to lack of connection to the internet.’ OK, everything after the word ‘location’ was in my head rather there in black and white, but all the same it sounded perfect. I galloped round to the farm in question for a look the next day (up the handy private road that cuts out most of the area’s horrendous traffic and the world’s worst level crossing – I swear those blasted gates must close when the train is leaving the previous station and frequently close again thirty seconds after it has passed, five minutes after they lowered – at the cost of 50p of fuel and a noseful of a sewage treatment works. I took one look and fell in love with the place.
OK, the ‘office’ is actually a converted hen house riddled with cracks and gaps that allow the cold in (I sit here writing this cuddled up to a gas heater and with a fan heater on standby), but it’s peaceful…
Well, most of the time. Yesterday a tree overlooking the duck pond decided to rot past the point of no return and fall into the water with a tearing creak of splintering wood and a huge splash, and this morning a bird descended from the rafters to sit (and then defecate) on my desk, missing the laptop by inches.
A local metal detector specialist wandered by a week or so ago at the land owner’s kind instigation, to show me a 1900 year old bronze figurine of the god Mars he’d recently found, most likely from a votive altar in a Roman settlement on the site the farm now occupies. Pheasants and squirrels wander past every now and then to divert my attention from whatever prose I’m in the middle of turning out, and the farm’s four geese go everywhere on land or water in line astern, and at quite hysterical speed when food is sighted…
…but all of these distractions are only momentary. Unlike the internet, they don’t lead me off into dreams of German sports cars and large calibre firearms, or off in search of meaningless ephemera, and after a moment of pondering I’m back on track to deliver my two thousand words. I did it yesterday, I’ve done it today and damn me if I won’t do the same tomorrow.
For me, let me assure you, that’s about as close to writer’s heaven as I can get.
Anthony Riches’s author website: www.anthonyriches.com
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