I wouldn’t say I have a set writing area as such, and never really have done: I’ve always been someone who’s had to ‘hot-desk’ through the day, with the ‘desk’, at times, being nothing more than my lap on a crowded train (and, it has to be said, it’s amazing what you can get done on a 30-minute journey into work, for it’s often just enough time to solve, for instance, some knotty problem in a troublesome verse or paragraph that, once sorted, enables me to move forward with the rest of the poem or piece of prose I’m writing – so I’ll always write, or try to write, no matter how short the time is or uncomfortable my surroundings are).
Having said all that, if I manage to get up early enough – say, by 7am (and assuming I’ve had at least 7 hours sleep, for I struggle to operate on anything less) – then, because I often don’t start work (as in, my actual job, as a Procedural Publisher in the House of Commons) till the afternoon (on account of me working shifts), I’ll write at the kitchen table, making the most of the morning hours I have alone. I have a partner, who I’m a carer for, and she’ll usually remain in bed till around about noon, on account of her needing a lot of sleep (as a result of the long-term effects of brain injury following a stroke), but once she’s up, we’ll have breakfast together and the rest of the day will begin in earnest, and so it’s nice if, before then, I’ve been able to get some writing done (and therefore get my daily fix at the outset, so as not to have my addiction gnawing at me quite so much while occupied with doing other things).
In any event, the kitchen table has, over the years, become my favourite place to write (and even though there’s now, since the start of last year, a desk in the bedroom which I use in the day, especially when working from home, it remains the case that, given the choice, I prefer to sit at the kitchen table, as I always seem to be most productive there). It’s very convenient, of course, that, in the kitchen, the kettle’s nearby and so is the fridge, making it very easy for me to refuel in the midst of writing, and while there’s no doubt that constantly grazing on food, along with drinking endless cups of tea, coffee and orange juice, is bad for my waistline (with the calorie count always rising much faster than the word count), so long as some kind of writing gets done, that’s all that really matters: everything else can go to pot.
Anyway, all of the above is why the photo I’ve supplied is of my kitchen table, and the photo comes complete with our pet cat, asleep, and my current book, Grenade Genie, which, granted, is strategically placed and a cheeky bit of product placement, but the fact remains that the book is often there beside my laptop as I regularly have to refer to its contents while doing any writing admin in support of it (as in, writing emails, social media posts and articles which, on any given day, will always come before writing new material, for any opportunity regarding publicity and promotion really does have to be seized before it disappears).
In fact, it’s rare that I’m actually able to get new writing done (and when I say new writing, I mean completely new material): in the main, it tends to be lots of editing, over and over again, of existing material, as well as the aforementioned writing admin in support of published work (plus, on top of that, I’m regularly engaged in sending out, as email submissions, existing work that I always hope, from all the editing I’ve done, is polished enough at last to get published). At any rate, today, I’ve been finishing writing and editing this essay, and the fact that you’re reading this must mean that today is a long way gone and this piece has now been published. So, that’s where I’ll end (I hope you’ve found it useful), and now to get on to hopefully, at long last, sorting out that troublesome synopsis to that equally troublesome novel that keeps on getting the better of me.
Thomas McColl lives in London and his poems and short stories have been published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Atrium, Prole, London Grip and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and in anthologies by Hearing Eye, Shoestring Press and Smoke: A London Peculiar. He’s had two collections of poems published – Being With Me Will Help You Learn (Listen Softly London Press, 2016) and Grenade Genie (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020) – and works as a Procedural Publisher at the House of Commons, having previously worked in bookselling.