I used to believe that writers had to find an idyllic spot rich in atmosphere before they could be creative. So one summer day, I grabbed my pen and notepad and drove until I saw a beautiful open field and in it an odd wooden picnic table. The table was tall and thin with vertical wooden pieces hanging down where a table cloth would usually hang. I could barely fit my legs into the space for them between these pieces and the bench, but the setting seemed perfect. Did I write some astonishingly brilliant text while I was there? No. And I discovered later that I had been sitting on a horse jump in the middle of an equestrian practice field!
I often get asked where I write. The truth? In all kinds of places. At home I often write at my office desk, but sometimes at the dining room table, or sitting on my back deck, to name a few. When I need extra help concentrating — in other words, not going online — I’ll spend a chunk of the day at my local library. I created most of the character sketches for Raising the Stakes there.
In Port Joli, Nova Scotia, there is a magical little cabin known as The Fish House. It’s owned by my dear friends Peter Carver and Kathy Stinson. While on a weeklong writing retreat there years ago, I discovered (as have many others) that this place, with the sound of the surf right outside its window, was my favourite creative hideaway. But, alas, I was only in Nova Scotia for that one week. While there, I worked on a novel set 5000 years ago that still needs more work before it can be born.
Sometimes I try to recreate that fish-house experience here in southern Ontario, in the visitor bunky of one family cottage, the sunroom of another, or housesitting the wilderness home of a fellow artist. (Being near water is always a bonus!) Once a year or so I try to escape for a few days when I really need to buckle down. For a few days, I do nothing but think, go for walks and write, with no TV or laundry to tempt me; no one else’s meal times to interrupt my flow. Most projects I’ve worked on have benefitted from time in a little spot on the water somewhere.
The view of the lake from my private bunky
Housesitting on the river for fellow artist Gaia Orion
So where do I write? Basically, wherever I can — though now before I settle in, I always check for horses.