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A Writer’s Room: E.R. Murray

Writing.ie | Resources | Developing Your Craft
11. ER Murray

E.R. Murray

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My writer’s room comes in several guises; my actual writer’s room at home where I can close the door on the world; a mobile ‘writer’s room’ while travelling, which is a big part of my working and writing life; a residency writing room which I can inhabit for a focused period of time; and the writing room in my head which allows me to go deep into my work and make it the best it can be – that allows me to write at all.

I hate routine and so changing things up as much as possible – including the spaces I inhabit and the way I use my time – is the best way for me to stay motivated and excited about my WIPs (yes, plural). A huge portion of my first novel, The Book of Learning – Nine Lives Trilogy 1, was written during my work commute on the luas, at lunch time sitting under a tree/hiding in the toilets, and in airports – that was when I was in a high-powered job and living in Dublin. Although I now work for myself in West Cork, and I have a regular space available to me, things are no less hectic and I write in the same way; everywhere and whenever I can.

My everyday writing space is a tiny room in a mobile home. This is where I live, and my desk is just a few steps from the bedroom. In fact, it’s just steps from anywhere in my home, which has its pros and cons. The big pro is: I have somewhere that’s mine. The main con is noise and space: I can hear my husband breathing in the living room, and there’s not much wiggle room or storage. I have an antique school desk (the slim, slanted type for primary aged kids with the bench attached that you have to slide into) and it can be quite a feat to get into it. But I love it and it’s mine.

What takes place in my writing room: first drafts (usually 60K words written manically over 30 days), slow, concentrated rewrites (self-guided), even slower rewrites (with guidance from trusted readers/agent/editor), personal essays, short stories, poems (rare and mostly for play, but it happens), and event/workshop ideas/preparation. Meanwhile, admin, social media, blog posts, interviews and freelance work, I take to the coffee table – I switch between projects constantly throughout the day so I find this helps; it’s also a signal to anyone coming in that it’s OK for me to be disturbed.

I also love inhabiting writing rooms in interesting places for a short space; it’s invigorating. I’ve had residencies in Australia, Iceland, France, amongst others. In 2019, I’ll be writing on the edge of a jungle in Costa Rica for a month, and then I’ll have three weeks in Portugal later in the year – both for focused time on my WIPs (I work on two novels at a time as well as shorter projects). When I’m on residency, I work long hours but they’ll include reading, research, writing, and thinking time (see the brain section below) and I’ll go with whatever pattern that works in the place I’m in.

On residencies: I work really intensely on edits, and also research. This is often where I figure out major plot changes and flaws. I always have a clear idea of what I want to work on while on residency, and I schedule at strategic times. But I also leave a little room for new projects inspired by the place, distraction, and new experiences (I cannot stress how important this is).

But using travel time well is also important; just like writing, travel is so much more than the destination, it’s also about the journey. So, trains and airports are two particularly great places to write when I’m travelling between readings, meetings, and workshops. I also write a lot while walking – this might be in the form of photographic records, notes, or recordings (just make sure you type up your notes asap after the walk otherwise the ideas fly away) – and it could be something I’m working on already and trying to iron out or a new idea. The physical act of moving is conducive to creativity, but I find I need at least an hour before the to-do lists/concerns finally disappear and I can tap into the unconscious.

On public transport: I tend to complete freelance deadlines, reply to emails, mark workshop submissions, complete manuscript reports, do light edits on short stories/personal essays/a chapter of my book (on paper). And while walking: I record images, new ideas, talk through plot issues.

And finally, the brain – the most difficult workspace to clear with so much juggling. I can churn out endless light drafts of novel-length manuscripts but to really get to the heart of a story, I need to carve out thinking space. Various activities that enable this include any form of exercise but especially long walks (average three hours a day), gardening, reading, and learning bodhran. Simple, methodical activities that distract my brain from thinking about projects for a while create a bit of space so I can delve back in.

Writing in all of the above scenarios helps to create my writer’s room. Knowing I have somewhere I can return to regularly, daring to go somewhere different and experience new things but in a creative-focused environment, and making the most of motion and otherwise lost time between other projects to fit in some extra writing/stay organised, makes up my varied schedule. It stops the inertia from slipping in, and productivity high. But we’re all different and we all have to work with what we have – the key is finding what works for you.

(c) E.R. Murray

ninelives revenge ER MurrayAbout The Book of Revenge:

In The Book of Revenge, the final book in E.R. Murray’s Nine Lives trilogy, Ebony Smart faces her toughest challenge so far. Her enemies, Judge Ambrose and Zach Stone, have a powerful new ally and an army of Shadow Walkers to use against her. Without the help of The Book of Learning, Ebony, with pet rat, Winston, and the Order of the Nine Lives, must find a way to discover their plans, defeat the magical beings and rescue her parents. A story of ghosts, time-travel, battles and dark magic, this is Ebony s greatest adventure so far but will it also be her last?

Order your copy of The Book of Revenge here.

About the author

E.R. Murray writes novels for children and young adults as well as short fiction. Her books include The Book of Learning – Nine Lives Trilogy 1 (2016 Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Citywide Read for Children), The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives Trilogy 2 (shortlisted for 2016 Irish Book Awards and 2016 Irish Literacy Association Award), The Book of Revenge – Nine Lives Trilogy 3 and Caramel Hearts. Recent anthology publications include The Elysian: Creative Responses (New Binary Press) and Reading the Future (Arlen House). Elizabeth lives in West Cork, where she fishes, grows her own vegetables and enjoys plenty of adventures with her dog, Franklyn. You can find out more about Elizabeth on twitter @ERMurray.

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