My Pretend Workspace and the Desk of Doom

Thanks to a recent twitter conversation, there has been a small flurry of blog posts from writers talking about their writing spaces. So far Lou Morgan, Laura Lam, Andrew Reid and Stephen Aryan have shown us around the rather lovely places where they do the bulk of their writing work – I recommend going and having a look. There is something infinitely pleasing about a creative space, and the things they choose to fill it with.

The truth about my writing space is, I don’t have one. Or, more accurately, I take it with me. I have a (slightly battered) netbook and a (less than sane) number of notebooks, and they all get shoved in my enormous laptop backpack and dragged to a variety of cafes, libraries, and the sorts of pubs that open at 9am. I find it difficult to concentrate at home, you see. I prefer to be in an anonymous space, where the cat/the washing up/the xbox aren’t staring at me in attention-seeking tones of mute accusation (there are things living in the tea cups, Jennifer, and when are you going to finish that eighth playthrough of Mass Effect?). I like being out and about anyway, because strangers can be dead interesting. Anyone who follows my twitter feed knows that you get some fascinating characters in pubs at 9.30 in the morning.

But I do have a writing desk at home, in the tiny yellow room we call the Box Room, and I have written at it – mostly at weekends, when I’m feeling virtuous. Mainly though, it serves as a place of totems and charms, a place that I can exist in and think about stuff. It’s a tip most of the time, as are most places that are connected to me, but I have taken a few pictures of the main features for the curious, and will attempt to explain some of the mess.

nano certificate


Pictures are quite important to me. I use a lot of blu-tac. Here you can see my first ever Nanowrimo certificate for the book Bird and Tower, which was back in, I want to say, 2008? Bird and Tower was a children’s fantasy book, a sort of gender-reversed Rapunzel with some genetic engineering thrown in there. My other Nanowrimo certificates are above this one (for Ink for Thieves, Dead Zoo Shuffle and The Snake House I think) and I like to have them up there as a reminder that I am utterly capable of writing 50,000 words in a month. Sometimes you really need reminders like that. Below the certificate you can also see a postcard from my final year at art college – the project was about depicting weird memories from early childhood, and this one was about a boy who remembered feeding a giant slug in his back garden. To the right of that are some postcards from Spirited Away, one of my favourite films ever, and a quote I printed out from George R.R Martin about Fantasy being written in the language of dreams. You know the one.

the boys

I like action figures. And video games. These guys are some of my favourite characters, and when I’m struggling with something I like to ask, “What would Marcus Fenix do?” Well, blow the fucking shit out of everything, obviously. From left to right we have Thane from Mass Effect 2, Duncan from Dragon Age, Garrus from Mass Effect, Marcus Fenix from Gears of War, an armoured alligator with a sword, and down in front, The Chamberlain from The Dark Crystal. Beyond the D20’s you can also see one of my dad’s belt buckles, a shiny green eagle’s head.


This is probably one of the most important pictures in my writing space. It’s a portrait of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser from Mike Mignola’s comic, and I love it. There is so much I love about Fantasy in this picture – the darkness of it, the various belts and weapons, the overly confident poses. I always look at this and wonder what a version with Wydrin and Sebastian would look like. They would stand exactly the same way I think, only Wydrin would be smirking and Sebastian would probably look faintly long-suffering. The Copper Promise is a love letter to Fritz Leiber’s kind of sword and sorcery, and looking at this picture always reconnects me to that.


Here you can just about see the hilt of my larping sword. I named it Oathkeeper, although when labelling the photo I called it Oathbreaker, so I think it has a bit of a dual personality. When I’m writing lots of action scenes it’s pleasant to be able to pick up a sword and swing it about a bit. It’s not as heavy as a real sword, obviously, and I’m in no danger of decapitating anyone, but it gets me in the mood anyway. Also on the wreckage of my desk, not pictured, is a real dagger (pointy, but not sharpened) called Frostling, after one of Wydrin’s claws. It is very cool.


Just to demonstrate that some actual work does happen in this room, here is my pin board, currently covered in bits and pieces about the sequel to The Copper Promise. It isn’t attached to the wall because I like to carry it around the flat sometimes, so I can do planning in the living room or the bedroom (the Box Room is bloody freezing in the winter).

And finally, the cat. She normally hangs around in the Box Room until she decides that the things on my desk all look better on the floor, at which point she is hurriedly booted out the door with a few well aimed swear words. She does look quite cute in this picture though.



So what about you? Do you have a space where you work, and it is filled with lovely things? Blog it and tag me and let’s all be nosy. Oh, and infinite cookies of win to anyone who can name any of the unnamed toys and pictures…

Life sits on the writer and squashes her a bit

Alright, I’ve been rubbish at updating this thing lately (I wonder how many blogs across the blogosphere begin with that?) so it’s time for a quick sum up of recent weeks. If that’s possible.

In my last entry I was very excited about my week off, and all the tremendously writerly things I was going to do. Every day. Yep, every day, I would do writerly things.
Well, as often happens, life intervened that week, and I ended up not doing quite as many of the little jaunts that I had planned. Pyra, our small and cheerfully destructive cat had to be taken to the vets to have stitches removed, and this turned out to be more traumatic than I expected. She had a bubble of fluid under the scar, which the vet proceeded to remove with a needle (much to the combined horror of both Pyra and I. Having to hold her down while he carried out this procedure meant I felt like the evilest cat-mummy that has ever lived). It wasn’t the cleanest scar, and I spent the next couple of days watching Pye constantly, convinced she would start leaking or something.

Also that week, the electrics in the flat started to play up wildly, resulting in a few days of electrician visits, a further traumatized cat, furniture turned upside down and ripped up floorboards. Oh, and me being stuck in the flat making tea for electrician chaps (who were very nice but, you know, I sorted of wanted to be elsewhere).

All this meant that my writerly trips were rather cut short, but, I got enough done to feel like I had a good week off. I went for a wander up Ludgate Hill, where an important scene happens in A Boy of Blood and Clay, and actually went all the way up to St Paul’s (I’ve never been close enough to touch it before). I walked down Cannon Street to look at the London Stone, which is both tiny and largely unremarked- I peered through the grill to look at it only to find a man looking back at me from behind it; apparently it’s just in front of an office window. I went to Monument, looked at some old street names (Fish Street Hill, Pudding Lane) and spent a long time in some pubs writing and writing and writing (the London Stone pub has it’s toilets hidden behind a fake bookcase, if you happen to end up in there).

I also had a few trips to our local pub, which is becoming one of my favourite places to write; it’s light, spacious and usually quiet, with an “interestingly” arty clientele. I find that I get much more done away from the flat, where the temptation is to watch telly, read or listen to the radio.

So that was my week off. In the week since then, we’ve had builders in to rip out our bathroom (*sigh*) and having been chucked out the flat early every morning, I have been spending a couple of hours before work writing (in another pub) and consequently, A Boy of Blood and Clay is coming along nicely. Now, if only I had the discipline to get out of bed early every day to do that. Oh, and blog regularly.

If this works, here are a few pictures of the London excursion: