• The Dark Room

Where I Write Part Three

Writing.ie | Magazine | Interviews | Where I Write

By Vanessa O'Loughlin

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As you are all writers, we at writing.ie know, deep down, you all suffer from the most insatiable and overwhelming curiosity, so in the next of our series of fly-on-the-wall articles we reveal the secrets of three more Irish writers, getting a peek inside their writing rooms.  Showing that their writing spaces are as individual as their writing, Alan Early, Rahel Fehily and Sarah Maria Griffin tell us where they write…

So where did Bord Gais Irish Book Award nominee Alan Early dream up the fabulous Arthur Quinn and The World Serpent? He told writing.ie:

“I live in this draughty 1940s-era house and I write in my bedroom, which is a really tiny ten foot square room. Back in the day, it used to be the maid’s room. The space is very limited and I would never be able to fit a full-sized desk in, so a few months ago I trawled the Ikea catalogue for a space-saving solution. And wouldn’t luck have it, the Swedes had just the thing! The desk is like a cabinet that is fixed to the wall and folds down whenever I’m working. But despite all these complications, I actually like my little writing room. Thanks to the position in the house, it’s cool in the summer but also manages to keep the warmth in the winter. And apart from the ever-present call of Facebook and Twitter, the room is devoid of any distractions that could slow down my work. I live with a couple of film freelancers who are often at home so it is important to have a space I can call my own.

I like to outline my days writing in advance on Post-its that I stick over my desk. As I finish each plot point, I pull the Post-it down and gleefully crumple it into the bin. Whenever I’m working on an exciting action scene, I like to play music to set the scene. But it has to be something without lyrics – usually a film score. I think my ideal writing space would be a quite small, bare room but with one wide window that caught the sun all day. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if such a window became another distraction!

Rachel Fehily, is a mediator and barrister as well as author of the recently released ‘Split: True Stories of Relationship Breakdown in Ireland’ and ‘Break Up, Don’t Crack Up: A practical guide to dealing with the end of your marriage or relationship in Ireland.’ She reveals:

‘I’ve always had an idea that the best writers write in atmospheric rooms surrounded by hand carved wooden bookcases laden with first editions, in isolated stone cottages. They have rare Turkish kelims on their floors and gaze out at fields of sunflowers or the Mediterranean Sea when they need a bit of inspiration.

If they need a break they can pop down to the local Boulangerie for some patisserie and a brie filled baguette or take their golden Labrador for a picturesque stroll on the local deserted beach.

I spent many years practising law at a tiny desk in the frenetic maelstrom of the Irish Law Library, surrounded by shouting, adrennalin charged lawyers – the first lesson baby barristers have to learn is how to think clearly and block out the impossibly invasive noise while negotiating, drafting civil bills, reading reports and writing opinions.

So the training has paid off. For now, I’m okay with tapping notes into my iPhone while waiting in the car at the school gates. I can proof read in bed with Sky Sports droning in the background and regularly steal time researching on my son’s huge super charged Mac in the a playroom surrounded by chaos.

Hemmingway had Key West and a Cuban farm, Jeffrey Archer always takes a break at noon to feed his hundred Koi carp in the pond of his Cambridge home. One day my cottage will come.

While Rachel has learned to write with distractions, Sarah Maria Griffin, twenty four year old poet andWriter in Residence in Collinstown Community College, Clondalkin, cannot write without them. Sarah told writing.ie:

Silence does not bode well with me when I write: neither does music. I like listening to talking. To the disordered sort of noises of voices and people going about their day. I like disappearing in it. My writing space is the mezzanine in Collinstown Park Community College’s bustling and lively library. Libraries aren’t known for their social atmosphere in most schools: but this one is always full of students coming in and out looking for books and DVDs, classes being held, or parents groups, student groups, people people people. I just sit up on the mezzanine in the corner desk at my laptop, with no internet access, and scribble or type away.

It’s a really bright space, with tall windows that stretch up to a seriously high ceiling. There’s also a radiator right at the wall my desk is against (I don’t believe in writer’s block, but if I’m cold, I can barely concentrate!) which makes the space super cozy. I like the sense that I go to work in the school every day, and part of that work is the few hours spent in the mezzanine getting poems fixed up, chapters and episodes done, little by little.

I was a massive fan of working in my bedroom growing up, concealing myself away up there for hours at night typing away. I liked the solitude, the quiet, but I probably liked the idea of being a brooding writer in a garret a lot more than I liked either of these things. The brightness and warmth of the mezzanine in the library for me is the antithesis of those times, really lends itself to positive. It feels a little like a greenhouse up there: loads of room to grow.

You can follow Sarah Maria Griffin on Twitter @griffski at her blog wordfury.blogspot.com and at 100poems.wordpress.com

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