Living with another writer...
Just over a year ago I was interviewed by somebody from my local newspaper about my writing and my latest book. During the course of the interview he asked about my partner and whether we share a study space. He had an image of us in a cosy room with wing-back chairs and a roaring fire, swapping ideas over a glass of brandy. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
My partner writes non-fiction. She’s well-known in the outdoor community as something of an expert on the Lake District and her walks appear in local and national magazines. She’s also written more than twenty walking guide books covering the Lake District and other areas of the UK. She’s appeared on local and national radio a number of times, local television (once!) and she’s won a number of awards for her writing. Her career is very different from mine – as is her working day.
On my writing days, I usually start to write mid-morning after a dog walk. I’ll work until lunch, have a break and then return to my computer in the afternoon or evening. I like to listen to music while I work – Beth Orton, Tracy Chapman, Brandi Carlile – and I often get up and pace the room or stretch my back. I talk to myself, trying out lines of dialogue or I’ll make a hand gesture or facial expression that I’m trying to describe. None of this is conducive to sharing a work space.
My partner, when she’s not out walking (she says it’s work!) starts straight after breakfast and usually works in silence. If she’s doing something that doesn’t require too much concentration she’ll listen to Radio 2 on iPlayer – usually Johnnie Walker or Trevor Nelson. I find the radio too distracting so we often both wear headphones, lost in our own worlds.
As for the sharing of ideas …. she often asks for my opinion on a piece about the history of Northumberland or the best beaches in the country for dog walking. I read all of her weekly walks before she sends them to the local newspaper and I read most of her magazine articles, mainly checking accuracy.
I share nothing!
She’ll sometimes ask how it’s going and my stock responses are ‘not too bad at the moment’ or ‘getting there, I think’ but I don’t really discuss the plot or the characters. It’s hard to disclose details because I don’t want to give away anything about my latest book. My chosen genre relies on suspense and surprise so, as my partner is my first reader, I like her to be ‘fresh eyes’ when mine really can’t see any room for further improvements. I can’t think of anything worse than reading a novel when somebody has already told you everything that happens in it.
So, while we are both in the same profession, our work and our work-space requirements are very different. While my partner has the ‘box room’ as a study, I’m happy to have my little corner of the spare room, with the washing, the dog and the muddy walking gear. Our separateness might not suit everybody but it works well for us.