Archive for the ‘working environment’ Category

“Do you fancy a pint?”


“What are you doing tonight?”

“Not much, how come?”

The two exchanges above are typical for me. Particularly the “what are you doing tonight?” question. Frequently, I try to set aside time for writing. And equally frequently, when someone asks me what my plans are, my answer is “not much” or “nothing”, despite the fact that I set aside time for writing, or reading, or just sitting quietly on my own and watching a film.

Strangely, it often seems to me that saying “I’m busy” feels like a lie if my plans just revolve around me. If my plans revolve around another individual, I am a lot more likely to stick to them then if it’s just me who is getting railroaded if things change. It feels almost rude to say “Actually, I am busy. I was planning on staying in.” I worry that people hear “I’d rather do nothing than hang out with you,” or “I’m washing my hair.”

But equally, I have observed a common trait in a lot of successful writers: steel. I can’t find another way to put it. It’s in the eyes, just look at AL Kennedy:


There’s a determination there, right?

A lot of writers seem to be able to lock themselves away, work hard, and, most importantly (for the purposes of this post), they’re probably quite able to say ‘no’. It’s not a harsh trait, and it’s certainly not a negative one, but it’s an ability to see your own needs and goals as just as important as those of someone else. It’s an awareness that you can say  no, and that ‘I’m busy’ is not a lie, even if ‘busy’ = pyjamas and ice cream straight out of the tub with a spoon (some of us have to do this as part of the creative process. Honest.)

There is also often a ferocious defence of space, alongside time: an awareness that he or she needs certain conditions in which to write best, and a dedication to maintaining that.

Being away in Belfast for a couple of months certainly taught me that staying in can be very very restorative and actually a lot of fun, and that you’re not necessarily ‘missing out’ if you don’t attend absolutely every possible social engagement.

Perhaps this steely determination doesn’t come naturally to me. It might be hard work. But also, maybe sometimes now I’ll feel like it’s OK to say no once in a while, and that being ‘busy’ can mean anything; it’s not a lie.

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It’s widely acknowledged that you’re at an advantage when studying if you have a comfortable and convenient area in which to work. With this in mind, my boyfriend, Edward, and I piled into a friend’s car last weekend and headed over to Ed’s parents’ house in order to pick up a secondhand desk which they didn’t want anymore. Ed’s starting an OU Course as well, so we needed a desk each.

One thing we didn’t think about properly was that I would need some way of sitting at my new desk. Luckily, it emerged that Ed’s parents also had an old desk chair that they were thinking of throwing away, as it is broken. Ever the eco-warriors (and loathe to see anything salvageable thrown into a landfill), we dutifully took the chair as well.

Unfortunately, the chair really is broken. It’s a very nice office chair in tattered black leather, with arms and padding. It’s also very comfortable to sit in, until you lean slightly to the left, at which point the old pivoting mechanism comes into play and you are tipped out of the chair sideways and onto the floor. I’m all for make-do-and-mend, but there’s only so long you can sit in that chair until one leg and the muscles in your back are screaming. You may as well be standing up, really.

Ed’s been lying underneath it with a screwdriver, trying to fix the mechanism, but to no avail. For a few hours last night its height was once again adjustable, so I could actually see the computer without sitting on 3 cushions. But when I sat on it again this morning, it let out a pitiful and gaseous sigh as it slid downwards, not to be raised again.

This is not an ideal situation, and one which my tenuous levels of concentration won’t enjoy once the course starts. In fact, any excuse to skive and I’ll be watching Coronation Street in my PJs, avoiding any OU work, if my past track record is anything to go by. This won’t do.

I need a new chair. I’ll be scouring the charity shops in my lunch hour. Wish me luck! x

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