Busting the Myth

I thought I would be able to concentrate sitting outside the bar, but that would perhaps have pushed my new found ‘writing freedom’ beyond the realms of reality. Kids running all over the place, slaloming between the tables with bubble blowing guns was a bit much . Whilst it was just the squeals and giggles I had to deal with, I was coping reasonably well — it was definitely the bubbles that did it, that hastened me back indoors – soapy spheres in my eyes, my mouth and floating across the page proved just too much of a distraction.

So here I am indoors again with MTV blaring out from the screen above my head – the chattering kids and their mums wandering in and out to fish around for their favourite ice-cream in the freezer just behind me, and the industrial strength dishwasher just the other side of the bar chugging, rattling and whirring away. Now I think about it – in this heat it’s probably not a brilliant idea to sit with my back to the upright freezer – a blast of cold air hits me every time the door is opened. A sure cause of backache if I’m not careful.

But let’s get back to the reasoning behind subjecting myself to all this noise and distraction.

Surely I’m not the only wannabe writer to have read book after book, ‘how-to-do-it’ manual after ‘how-to-do-it’ manual, and even spent hours absorbing advice, tutorials, courses, workshops – and why not – writing groups too? Well assuming the answer is yes, you, like me, cannot fail to have noticed that one of the first rules they all give you is to set up the ‘ideal’ writing space surrounded by the right tools, music and even lighting. Now if my memory serves me well, with very few exceptions one of the most important ingredients for this idyllic spot has to be tranquillity – peace, quiet – you know the kind of thing.

Well, quite by accident, I think I have managed to bust a myth, though I’m still going to have to keep working on it. It’s the disclaimer I found in most of those aforementioned workshops, blogs and so on that probably clinched it – the bit where they say, ‘You must do what works best for you’, which I guess amounts to the small print at the end really. The stuff they hide from you just in case you decide to think too much about the official jargon – just in case you allow yourself to consider that there might be a valid alternative to the carefully laid out ‘dogma’ that you’ve been fed in the main content. In simple terms – just in case you might think of doing it differently – and doing it differently at your own risk to boot!

I’ve tried ‘the quiet’ – difficult in my home where generally I can just about grab an hour – sometimes miraculously even two – in a span of time between when my husband goes out to work and when my daughter returns from hers. There are no corners in our tiny home to create the essential ‘space of my own’ so I just have to make do with the family dining table with all the usual disadvantages of the case. The most obvious of which is having to ‘shut down’ every meal time. Add to that the fact that our lounge and dining area are open-plan where most family activity takes place – from watching TV to discussions to playing with the dog to yoga, plus the most unlikely (and unpopular) of all – to my writing – and you have the recipe for chaos, which is hardly conducive to undisturbed and uninterrupted creativity.

I honestly tried to check off all the recommendations on the ‘how-to-get-it-all-together’ lists proffered by all those blogs and tutorials, but so far seem to have failed miserably. I’ve surprised myself at getting any writing at all done under the circumstances.

So yesterday, at about the time my daughter returned from work, just when I could suss from her expression that she was building up a mental list of what she was going to ask me to do/to cook/to read/to watch/to help with – all things which she is perfectly capable of doing alone at her age – I took myself off to my favourite bar for an after lunch coffee and stress-free five minutes alone. Noticing a local paper lying on one of the window side tables, I sat down a minute to read a front page article which had caught my attention. Just as I settled to read, my mobile rang from the depths of my shoulder bag and I had to rummage amongst the usual debris, pulling out odds and ends, left, right and centre until I found it – but too late to respond.

On top of the pile of stuff I had extracted from the bag – almost challenging me – lay ‘the notebook’ – the one that was another mandatory item (number 2 I think) on the wannabe writer’s ‘make-sure-you’ve-got-it-before-you-start’ list. Having very little inclination to go home, I rose to the bait and opened it up. I found myself a pencil and started to scribble – and I scribbled and scribbled. And somehow the aimless scribbling began to take shape. And from just beginning to take shape I started to pay more attention to the structure and the direction my scribbles were taking. And before I knew it, more than an hour had gone by when I was interrupted by yet another phone call – my daughter wanting to know where on earth I was – and I had been writing non-stop page after page of pencilled words.

Perhaps I have at last found ‘what works best for me’? No computer – no fancy pens – nothing more than a pencil and some simple lined paper? And what’s more – no silence or tranquillity but a noisy, busy bar with a constant flow of people going about their daily pleasure and business. My mind no longer rent with pangs of guilt for the pile of ironing or the dishes and a continual compromise between the exigences of daily family life and my own simple desire to be able to write without distraction.

So now — in the hope that I’ve found the right place, let’s see if I can find the right words.