Where I Write: Wood Lice, Words and DIY

Erika Shorter's Writing Space
Category: Writing
Tagged: writing, office

My shiny new husband is a patient man. A very patient man. He’s been unwaveringly supportive throughout every insecurity blip and crisis of confidence I’ve had while writing. I know I’m a lucky girl; I get little neck rubs and cups of tea. He tiptoes from room to room and listens seriously when I complain -‘Complain’ sounds like there’s something difficult I’ve got to deal with; whinge is probably a better word for what I do.

This happens a lot. Especially when I’m procrastinating. You’d think that being aware of this rather nasty personality trait would help me to not do it, but no. I can’t write today because it’s too hot, too cold, I have too much other work on, the construction across the street is woodpeckering at my brain, I drank too much coffee, we ran out of coffee, I don’t have any ideas, I have too many ideas.

The excuse I latched onto for most of last year for my lack of productivity was that I had no place to work. No place that was entirely mine. I would sink into dramatically uncomfortable positions and sigh heavily, stick ripped out pictures of dream desks to the fridge, crack my neck and quote Virginia Woolf; generally be a massive pain in the arse. There was the kitchen table, or the library - plenty of places really, but I wanted somewhere to sprawl and not have to worry about anyone stumbling across an unfinished draft. I wanted to be able to say, ‘Get out of my office. Yes YOU. Don’t you knock?’

One chilly March day we were binning a Christmas tree that had sat forgotten in the hallway closet and was now attracting alarming hoards of wood lice. My shiny new husband may be a DIY virtuoso but he gets awfully squeamish around anything that squirms or crawls (like babies and bugs). As we pulled out this Christmas tree, I had a flash of inspiration, ‘This could be my office!’ He gives me a skeptical look. ‘Why not? Oh please! I’m small! Really, look how small I go!’ I curl into fetal position on the floor amidst pine needles, sap and wood louse corpses to demonstrate. ‘It’ll be great!’

‘Look at the boiler.’

‘So?’ I bum wriggle over and push ineffectively against the massive metal pod with my feet. ‘We’ll put it somewhere else. Like… uh…’

‘It’s a boiler. It’s attached to lots of things that are really very important. We can’t just move it…’

Now, I should mention that my husband’s brain is permanently hardwired to a ‘fix’ setting, which I think is one of the loveliest things about him. As we were having this conversation, I could almost see his neurons firing and flitting about trying to find a solution.

And thus: my nano office.

It is exactly my height standing (5' 2"). I painted it gold except for one wall and the filing boxes on the inside of the door, which I covered with blackboard paint. My desk is blue and has a little radio. It’s lit by a cracked green banker’s lamp and kept cosy with an oriental rug and that darling boiler chugging away under my feet. There are no distractions and I can even get locked in when I need to be. Best of all, it’s a bit of a climb to get into, which means I’ve got to have a damn good reason to get out again. 

Erika Shorter

Erika Shorter recieved a New Writers Award in 2013. You can follow her writing progress via twitter @erika_shorter or at www.erikashorter.co.uk