Last Tuesday I couldn’t continue. I had an uncontrollable urge to run right out and buy an electric pencil sharpener. When someone takes up a new sport in this country, their first sign of physical activity is a trip to the bike shop or club house to buy the paraphernalia of the sport. You haven’t taken a swing at the ball yet, but you’ve spent £62.50 on the shoes and hat. Buying a tool or a piece of equipment is often the first commitment to the game. And it’s a right instinct. Go ahead – commit retail. You sometimes need external, tangible proof that you are committing yourself to an activity. If you are a writer and you haven’t written anything yet, you need to look like a writer. You need to have a writer’s place to sit.
I lived on a Greek island. A friend lent me her Hermes portable typewriter. She called me “clickety-clack” because you could hear it all over the island. I had a tiny Greek table and chair and I sat on the veranda overlooking the Aegean. Just before Greek Orthodox Easter, everyone on the island whitewashes the houses. No one asked me to help with the white-washing. I attribute this to the fact that I had a place and stuff that said I was a writer and I was working. I was grateful. Writing is hard but whitewashing is manual labour. Oh no!
Where to arrange workspace
You can be as elaborate or Spartan as your personality dictates. One student turned her guest room into an office. It took two months. Great. It was a gestation period. The act of preparing her workspace got her thinking about the script. When she was done decorating she started writing. Just make sure you stop getting ready and start writing.
Another student has a portable typewriter and writes at lunchtime in her car at the park. I have an office that looks like corporate headquarters with a computer and printer that each have their own furniture, but every afternoon I leave all that and take my pen and paper and go write on the beach.
But a fixed place is important. Put a visual aid there. Be able to leave it all out because the act of putting it away means you have to take it out and having to take it out – you just won’t. We have statistics to prove it. [gods with a small g. You don’t think I/God knows them]
If you have no place, then find the place in a thing like a red notebook.
This place and stuff arranging doesn’t have to be expensive. I have a huge crockery mug the colour of money. I have a 3 a.m. sweater. [clay, and catholic helpers talking about the government]
So go now. Shop.
©Marshall Dodgsons, 1971.