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A Writer’s Room: Alana Kirk

Article by Alana Kirk ©.
Posted in Resources ().

Where I write – from dreams to reality.

When I first started to write, I remember looking around my house wondering where my ambition would sit amongst the baby toys, and piles of washing. I tried to carve a corner space in my daughter’s playroom, but the setting taunted my writing attempts; the word ‘play’ flaunting that I was merely trifling with the idea, rather than taking myself seriously; chubby little fingers always grasping me, before I could grasp the zone needed to find my writing wizard. I was at that lovely stage of a writer’s evolution where I thought writing had to be done at a sturdy, somewhat domineering desk, with Jo Malone candles wafting in the wind of my creative cyclone of that tuned out, turned on zone that you hear about, every aspect set for the perfect creative ambiance – temperature at a balmy 19C, a pot of brewing tea and a lucky mug, oil sticks soaked in ‘optimism,’ bird songed-silence – every sense catered for, ready for sensory enlightenment to pour through my pores.

Then I actually became a writer, and I discovered that an amby pamby ambiance is like a crinkly sweet wrapper – it looks good, and it sounds good, but it’s not the real thing. It wasn’t until I’d been regularly published for a year and was a few thousand words into that book (you know, the one we all write but no-one will ever read) that I looked around again and knowing I’d never quite have Virginia’s room of my own, demanded at least a small cupboard in the dining room dresser to store my writing workings.

As I became a freelance journalist, a copywriter and finally an author, the urgency of the words and the constant drill of deadlines drove away any nod to ‘creating a writing ambiance’.  I learnt how to write what I can, where I can, when I can, how I can.

I work from home so I do have a main space that has evolved from many various attempted positions and locations. (I actually created an office but I never work there as it has no windows and life without windows just isn’t worth living, but it is lined with tumbling book shelves which is ideal, because a cave of books is the perfect windowless retreat). As my writing career grew so did my space and now I seem to have created a perfect writing area; my kitchen table, beside a wood burning stove, south facing sun streaming through my windows, so as the day develops I slowly undress my layers of winter dog walking clothes until I sit, burning in heat and creative agitation, in a t-shirt.  The dog lies at my feet and the cat likes on my laptop so that I have to scratch an ear or two before I can scratch my writing itch.  Now I have not one, but two cupboards to store my stuff! I have wide windows that I stick white board pages to and draw out my ideas, walking and talking to myself, my table top a clatter of coloured pens.   As the school bells ring, I lift my writing workings and store them back in the cupboard, the table now festooned with the flavours of family dinner and chat.

In reality though I can, and do, work anywhere and everywhere. My laptop is like a lapdog; it comes with me everywhere. To bastardise a perfectly good Paul Young song, wherever I lay my laptop, that’s my writing space; mostly the kitchen, sometimes a cafe, occasionally in bed.  But actually in moments of creative combustion, sometimes it is my phone, a notebook, a post it note, a scrap ripped from my daughter’s homework copy book, a thought thrown down on a torn open envelope, an idea sent back to myself in a text, a line so delicious it will leave my brain quicker than the taste of a dark salted chocolate unless it is captured in that second, the whispers of words whistling away faster than I can type them into my phone notes app.

I have spent money on desk tops and lap tops; I could sell out at my own stationery stall and still have enough post it notes (multiple sizes, various colours), pens (thick, thin, permanent and erasable), notebooks (my fetish, along with Gin) to supply a small country school; I have loyalty cards in every tea-toting cafe chain in the greater Dublin area; I have enough apps to launch a rocket ship (for writing, for reading, for organising, for planning). But really, at the end of the day, when it comes to a writing space, it doesn’t matter if I have a stubby pencil or a MacPro super screened computer. My writing space is simply me.

(c) Alana Kirk

About The Sandwich Years

The Sandwich Years is the heartfelt, inspirational story of the bond between mothers and daughters, and how one woman – through caring for the person she had relied on the most – finally found herself.

Alana Kirk, married with two children and a third on the way, often found herself stretched between the various demands on her time – parenting, marriage, work, friendship, self. But when her mother suffered a massive stroke, just days after the birth of daughter Ruby, Alana’s life became unrecognisable.

The next five years – ‘the sandwich years’ – were a time of heartbreak and difficult choices as Alana lost herself amid part-time caring for her mother, supporting her father and parenting three young daughters, while also attempting to get her career back on track. But it was also a time of growth and love as Alana rediscovered the joy her loved ones bring to her life, and learned how to find a way back to herself.

The Sandwich Years is a celebration of mothers and daughters, and everyday warriors.

(Previously published as Daughter, Mother, Me)

Pick up a copy online here.

Alana Kirk is a writer and journalist. She has travelled the world working for charities and writing their stories. When her Mum had a devastating stroke just four days after her third baby was born, her life was turned upside down. She began to blog about the struggles of being sandwiched between caring for the two ends of her life - her children and her parents. Over five years later, she is still stuck in the Sandwich Years, but finally found a way to thrive as well as survive. Alana still works for the non-profit sector as well as being a writer, and raising three girls.