We’re just back from a lovely, hot week in France – batteries recharged, skin slightly crisp, clothes smelling of sun-tan lotion and chlorine. It was glorious. We loved it, the kids loved it, and there are still four weeks to go of the summer holidays.
But what stands out as the highlight for me – more than the cheese, the garlic sausage, the eclectic and fascinating Sunday markets – is the caravan. Yes, the caravan. We stayed on a camping/caravan site in Northern France, surrounded by pine trees, built into the grounds of an old chateau. It was as Romantic as you can imagine (Romantic in the gothic, at-one-with-nature sense), and I loved it.
We were removed from reality and the pressures of modern life. Just what we needed after a hectic few months and just what a writer needs to prompt new words.
My connection to the little space we stayed in got me thinking – why is it that writers cleave to private rooms or certain geographical areas in order to be creative? Virginia Woolf mused on the phenomenon in her essay, “A Room of One’s Own”, though she ruminated more on the pressures of female life limiting their creativity. I think that’s the key – to be free of the demands putting a stop on one’s work. Roald Dahl and George Bernard Shaw had their sheds, Jo March in Little Women had her garret, J.K.Rowling had her coffee shop in Edinburgh…the list goes on. What all these spaces have in common is that they offered the writer a sense of retreat. They could tuck themselves away from the outside world and focus on the inner.
My current space to write is our dining room. Not exactly private – the kids can burst in whenever they feel like it and I’m surrounded by the detritus of our messy life – but my ambitions are high. I want a caravan. A sleek, small, cosy caravan. Preferably in France.
Where do you write? Where would be your ideal place to write? Do you need peace and quiet or do you work best where it’s noisy?