While some writers take their laptops to busy coffee shops, I need the tranquillity of my writing desk at home. The spare bedroom is my haven of solitude and silence, a place where I can enter into the world of my protagonists without the distraction of other people, noise, activity of any kind. No music, no chatter, no coffee machines, clinking of glasses or scraping of chairs, no traffic din.
The sun illuminates my writing space, encouraging creativity. Through the window, my view is of the wooded hills across the valley of the river Darro. If I lean backwards a little, I can see the Generalife, the summer palace of the Alhambra built by the Moors. Closer in my field of vision is the rampant honeysuckle on my terrace. In spring, when it flowers, I open the window and its gorgeous scent wafts in. Whatever the time of year, I only have to turn my head slightly to catch sight of the pinky-mauve bougainvillea and the miniature pomegranate bush.
On the wall in front of me is a corkboard with photos of family; of people and places I love. It also has a postcard given me by a friend, with an inspiring quote from Goethe: Whatever you dream you can do begin it. Boldness has genius, power & magic in it. Begin it now. I read it often. Mementoes from my travels – batiks from Africa and Asia, small sculptures in ebony, a painting by a dear friend – adorn the walls and surfaces. Books litter the spare bed, scraps of paper with notes cover the desk. It is not a particularly tidy space.
I can write elsewhere, of course. All I need are quiet surroundings free from interruptions, away from commotion and clamour. In Bristol, an attic room with windows each end that give me the morning sunrise and evening sunset provides another peaceful haven. I have spent occasional periods of two or three weeks at writing retreats. The best was a residency in Mojacar, Almería with my own room in a beautiful artists’ house with meals and laundry service provided and the company of other artists from all over the world. One retreat was in the countryside near Comares in Málaga, another at Relleu, a mountain village in Alicante province, run by poet Christopher North.
We are all different. I can understand that for other writers, the lively atmosphere in a café or pub can be stimulating and necessary. Or it may be that they are less disturbed and distracted than they would be at home. I realise I am privileged to live in a beautiful place and also that living alone as I do is very different to living with a family or housemates. While some writers find music helpful to their creative process, I find it intrusive.
Writing seems to me a magical process. Where do ideas spring from? What triggers the imaginative leaps, the entry into other worlds? Internal and external stimuli contribute in different and often inexplicable ways. As Goethe said, we must dream and be bold enough to believe we can do it, bold enough to begin it now, in whatever environment inspires us