Where I Write: the problem is, I just don't know

The old desk
Category: Writing
Tagged: Where I Write

This is a particularly pressing question for me at the moment, because the problem is, I don't know. In fact, the question is: Where SHOULD I Write? I am in the midst of upheaval and turmoil as I experiment with possible answers.

The difficulty began with finally accepting that my usual writing desk (pictured above) won't do anymore. This brings no small grief, as it is a beautiful old kitchen table that I bought when I first moved to Scotland in 1993. It is scratched and stained, speckled with woodworm holes and missing the handle to one drawer, but it has moved with me through half a dozen locations and is the place where I've written plays, poems, stories and most of my first novel. So what's wrong with it? Nothing, except that I've got persistent pain in my neck and lower spine and researching ergonomic work stations has shown me that my beloved desk is too high. But why hasn't it been a problem before, you may ask? Well, I suspect it has. I've always had tension around the neck and shoulders, but the combination of middle-age and longer hours at the desk has probably pushed things over the edge.

Cramped, stiff-necked and frustrated, I've started prowling the house for other options

The other problem is that the desk is not wide enough for all the stuff I need: a folder of research notes, a notebook, a planning diary, a stack of scrap paper, a cup of pens (none that work), a cup of coffee, a glass of water, my laptop, keyboard, mouse, and all the other flotsam and jetsam that wash up on the writing tide. I used to work in a bigger room with nearby surfaces for overflow, but when growing sons needed more space, the family 'office' – including my writing desk – was vacuum packed into a tiny room under the eaves.

The 'spare' room
Two years down the line, cramped, stiff-necked and frustrated, I've started prowling the house for other options. My husband has kindly offered a swap: he has a proper computer desk with sliding keyboard drawer and a better height, but it looks uninspiring and it's not wide enough, either. I have tried the kitchen table, which is brimming with stories as it was made by my father-in-law and has been the hub of family meals for three generations, but the hassle there is having to pack everything away at 4pm only to get it all out again the next morning.

The final option is the table in the spare room (pictured above). It is the best height of all, nice and wide, and allows me to rotate through the various seating arrangements I'm trying for the neck/back issue. The only problem is that this room is anything but 'spare'. It's the music room where my husband and sons play out their rock dreams and leave chord charts littered across my work; it's home gym with dumbbells to trip over and a ping-pong table, and it's store-room for everybody's junk – mainly mine. And then there's the guest bed in the corner, so that when the relatives come – usually for a few weeks at a time – I will be a refugee again, clinging to my laptop and balancing my folders on my head looking for somewhere to call home. Which is an idea in itself. We're told now that we spend too much time sitting so maybe I need to learn to write on the move. I could tell stories into a phone that will translate them into type. But could I? I certainly do a lot of thinking and creating as I walk and run, but for the actual writing I need something to scribble on, keys to tap, a paper-clip to twist… a desk. So which one? And where?


Perhaps Merryn could get some inspiration from previous contributors to the Where I Write blog strand? Journey to the writing dens of other writers.

Merryn Glover

Merryn Glover grew up in India, Nepal and Pakistan, is Australian by passport and now lives in the Highlands. Her stories and plays have been widely anthologised, broadcast on Radio Scotland and Radio 4 and won awards. In 2007 she was granted a Scottish Book Trust mentorship with Jo Falla for her first novel, which is being published this month by Freight Books. Set in India A House Called Askival traces three generations of an American family through the personal and political turmoil of religious conflict from Partition to the present day.