Posted in Personal life, Travel, Writing

My Dream Office (with a little help from the National Trust)

This post first appeared on the Authors Electric collective blog

shot of Debbie going through a gate into a graveyard
Debbie Young, going places…

“Where do you write?” asked a very pleasant lady at a talk I gave recently to the Cheltenham Writers’ Circle.

I gave my standard answer: how lucky I am to have my own study in my Victorian Cotswold cottage, with a big desk facing a window that looks out over the garden.

But next morning, when I sat down to write there, I shrieked as a sharp pain shot from my spine to my ankle, reminding me that lately I had been spending far too long at my desk-with-a-view – and I felt desirous of change.

Prompted by the arrival of my new National Trust card in the post the day before, and licensed by my friend and mentor Orna Ross to fill the creative well with a weekly “create date” with self, I stowed my purse, my shades, and my notebook and pen into my backpack, donned my walking boots, and set off to nearby Dyrham Park.

photo of Dyrham Park manor in deer park
The long and winding road down through the deer park to the spectacular Dyrham Park
The long and winding road down through the deer park to the spectacular Dyrham Park

Ok, I confess, I drove there (well, it is about eight miles away) – but on arrival, I eschewed the visitor bus service and set off down the path to this beautiful stately home, nestling at the bottom of the deer park, in search of a different place to write my daily words.

A cosy nook beckoned me from inside a hollow tree

This old hollow tree looked tempting. I’ve always had a soft spot for hollow trees since reading Enid Blyton’s The Hollow Tree House (over and over again) when I was a child. Unfortunately this one was roped off from public access.

I proceeded to the main house, skirting round the building – it was too sunny outside to be indoors – admiring beautiful Delft pots of tulips on the way. (This was a few weeks ago now.)

The original owner had served as Dutch ambassador

I thought the chapel would come in handy if my writing wasn’t progressing well and I needed a quick pray, but sadly it was locked.

The chapel now serves as the parish church.

There were plenty of seats to choose from with scenic views of the flowerbeds…

To sit in sunshine or shadow? – depends on which end you choose

…although I might be tempted to take pity on the gardener and lend him a hand with the weeding.

I think he might benefit from a bigger wheelbarrow

Wildflower meadows complemented the formal planting, replete with so many traditional English plants that I found Oberon‘s seductive lines running through my head…

“I know a bank where the wild thyme grows…”
Great swathes of forget-me-nots – a humble plant invested with a special significance in my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries – brought me back to the purpose of my visit: to write.
Not forgetting…
I turned my back on the lake to investigate what looked at first glance as a kind of wooden hammock.
Nature’s hammock?

…but closer inspection revealed a forbidding sign.

Then – who’d have thought it? – I found myself on the threshold of the National Trust gift shop. I do like a National Trust gift shop. Thoughts of writing were quickly forgotten as I snapped up a lovely new linen sunhat, a book about drawing (a hobby I’ve wanted to take up for a long time), and some souvenir postcards.
Running out of time to get home for my daughter’s return from school, I got the bus back up the hill to the car park, and returned home feeling like Wordsworth inspired by his visit to Tintern Abbey, rested, revitalised and refreshed by my impromptu outing, back at my normal place of work.
“Home again, home again, jiggety jig”
And where did I write this post? In Dyrham Park’s excellent tea room, of course. At last – I’d discovered the perfect office!
  • To find the nearest National Trust property to you, click here
  • To find out more about my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, click here
  • To order any of the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, click here.
  • To read other posts by the Authors Electric, click here
Posted in Reading, Writing

What to Write and Where to Write It

A short post about the influence of place on writing, with reference to my new two-desk writing strategy

Modern Ikea desk covered in paperwork
My business desk

If you ever spot me at the kitchen table, pen in hand, you can be pretty sure I’m writing a shopping list.

At the fold-out table in my camper van, with a spiral-bound notebook in front of me, chances are I’ll be writing a travel-inspired post for my blog to share an anecdote or observation that could only have arisen on the move. Like the time we found a dead body on holiday. Yep, fact, not fiction, folks – you can read about that incident here.

Sat at my computer desk, I’ll be stoking up the blog I edit for the the Alliance of Independent Authors, or plodding through a vast action list reflecting my multi-faceted self-employed life. Least likely task of all: bookkeeping, but with the help of adrenaline triggered by Saturday’s HMRC deadline, I’ll be thundering through my tax return this week.

With so much on my to-do list, I’ve realised that none of these places are very conducive to fiction writing, despite my motivational screensaver telling me to “Use your time wisely: write”. That’s a shame, because that’s what I most love to write.

Call Me Debbie Two Desks

Old upright bureau
Inspiration corner: my writing desk

So today I’ve arrived at a new strategy. Call me Debbie Two Desks if you like, (shades of Monty Python’s wonderful Arthur Two Sheds Jackson – catch up with him on YouTube here), but I’ve just cleared my grandpa’s old bureau to create a new creative writing corner in my study.

On top of the desk is the old statuette of a man reading a book, which I learned to love when it graced his mantlepiece throughout my childhood. The pull-down flap is just big enough to accomodate either an old-fashioned paper notebook, or my ancient computer netbook, which is too slow and cumbersome to tempt me to surf the net instead of writing.

So far, so good – I sat down at it this morning and wrote “Snoring”, one of the stories destined for a collection called Marry In Haste, a lighthearted collection of humorous stories about partnerships dogged by odd foibles. I’m hoping to publish it this spring. Will my new strategy work long-term? Watch this space, and you’ll soon see…

Statue of an old man reading
My grandma’s family heirloom

Like to know more about my little reading man statue? Find out how and why he motivates me here.