Part two of ‘Where I Write’ explores more writers’ cramped and creative rooms in which they craft their work. This week we get a glimpse inside Declan Burke’s ‘Cave’, Sinead Moriarty’s inspirational walls while Nuala Ni Chonchuir embraces the pretty clutter of her writing space.
Irish Crime Writer, DECLAN BURKE, refers to his writing space as ‘The Cave’, a room well lit in spite of its nickname due to the fact that, if nothing else, Declan needs great light in order to write. This bright ‘Cave’ is lined on three walls by bookshelves bursting at the seams. Declan’s ‘Writing Room’ is overflowing with books, however as he continues to describe his ‘Cave’ it is clear that it is a room of order and inspiration. As Declan himself explains “apart from everything else, floor-to-ceiling books make for wonderful insulation, and the most interesting wallpaper you could ever have,” but the books spilling out of the abundance of shelves are each an important addition to Declan’s creativity.
The top two shelves over the desk are taken up by Irish crime novels, which have now begun to spill down onto the third shelf, and he predicts that “at the rate Irish crime writers are churning them out, I’m gonna need a bigger boat.” Another three shelves accommodate his work related books, and one shelf is home to a framed newspaper clipping paraphrasing Samuel Beckett: ‘Try again, fail again, fail better,’ and his non-work reading, a category he refers to as a “mixed bag”. The last lot of shelves, to the left of his desk, proudly hold his own work.
On his desk is a PC and, while describing himself as a traditionalist and admitting that he “wishes it was a typewriter”, Declan explains that if he were to “lose the convenience of a computer, and particularly internet connection, then the Writing Room would very quickly come to resemble a real cave.” The monitor itself is home to a passport picture of Declan’s little girl, Lily and keeping her company “is a set of Greek kombolói, or worry beads; a tiny bas relief of a Greek fishing village, complete with windmill; and a quote from Isak Dinesen, aka Karen Blixen: ‘I write a little every day, without hope and without despair.”
A map of Western Crete, the setting for Declan’s current novel, adorns the wall beside his shelves and facing him as he sits at his desk is a self-portrait by his late uncle Jimmy. Describing Jimmy as “a modern renaissance man who was hugely inspirational and supportive of Declan’s earliest efforts to write” he explains that “I like the idea that he’s keeping an eye on me as I stumble blindly through the cave.” You can read more from Declan in guest blog for writing.ie, Crime Scene and on Crime Always Pays
The pattern so far seems to be one of cramped rooms and clutter and NUALA NÍ CHONCHÚIR, versatile author of novels, short stories and poetry, seems to keep that trend on track. In fact Nuala quotes Albert Einstein when he once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?” She admits that her desk and all around it is always cluttered but choosing to side with Einstein Nuala is embracing that clutter. Nuala’s desk sits in the corner of her dining room and she describes it as “small, old and compact.” The array of items she has gathered on and around her desk includes a postcard of the Eiffel Tower; one of Sylvia Plath and a sign that says ‘To imagine is everything’.
Nuala describes her clutter as “pretty” and she tells us how she surrounds herself with things that “will send positivity to the manuscript of the book as it goes from agent to publisher, and to keep feeling upbeat about the process too.” For her newly completed novel Nuala created a ‘lucky plate’ of charms. This silver dish is filled with beach-combed finds, along with a satin heart, a Holy Mary medal, an origami ladybird, several lucky pennies and a card that reads ‘Love your goal! Automatically you will make progress.’ Nuala also made a ‘lucky collage’ for her first novel You to help it on its way.
Speaking with pride and affection it is clear that Nuala loves her cluttered desk and in fact describes it as her “oasis for the ten hours a week that the kids are away at school and crèche and I am left in peace to write.”
Another writing space filled with inspiration is the office of SINÉAD MORIARTY.Sinéad is a best-selling Irish author, who was inspired by watching her mother writing children’s books at the kitchen table. Not far from her present kitchen table lies Sinéad’s own writing desk. Squashed between her bedroom and that of her two year old daughter, her office is a constant supply of support and inspiration as well as home to a particularly inconsiderate printer. The location of the office and the racket emitted from the printer mean that any printing needed during the creative process has to be worked around her daughter’s nap times. The walls of the office are, on the other hand, very obliging and supportive of the writing process.
These walls are home to photos of family, inspirational quotes and poems and a letter from Maeve Binchy to Sinéad which she now treasures. To her side while she sits at her desk Sinéad has a book shelf full of every book she ever used for research throughout the years and behind her proudly standing to attention are framed copies of her book covers. These wait patiently until they are needed during bad days when Sinéad admits “I may be tearing my hair out over a chapter, scene or paragraph” she then turns to them and they remind her that she can do it. She explains that, “It motivates me and more importantly, stops me running out the door and giving up.”
You can read part one of Where I Write here