Writing Between Spaces

Pressed ceiling in our 100-year-old Johannesburg house

Pressed ceiling in our 100-year-old Johannesburg house

We’re renting a furnished house in Johannesburg while we look for somewhere to buy, and although our current place has some beautiful, historic South African features, there is no way I’m affiliating myself with my landlords’ 1970s safari decor. As it is I’m one of those writers who has to mentally map out each scene before putting a word on the page, so a lot of “where I write” is in my head. As such, I thought I’d show you some of my best thinking spots instead.

Before I moved to Johannesburg I lived in London, and before that I lived in New York City, so one of the biggest changes for me since relocating almost a year ago was commuting by car instead of subway or Tube. Although I’ve been driving since I was 14 (hello, Kansas license laws!) it’s only recently that I’m not only hurtling around daily in the most expensive asset I own, I’m doing it on the left-hand side of the road. Eek!

Standard view on my drive home

Standard view on my drive home

The surprising upside to this change has been the time my commute allows me to plot in my head. I used to read on the Tube, and although my TBR pile has suffered as a result, I love using those dead moments at stoplights or in gridlock to work through story lines and map out scenes. Johannesburg is infamous for its rush-hour traffic, and although I’m lucky to live on the less busy side of the main business district, I still find plenty of opportunities in my journey to retreat into my imagination.

The other place I do a ton of brain work is at the gym. Nothing helps me untwist messy plot knots or dig deep into a character’s conflict like going for a long run on the treadmill at my awesome gym. Unfortunately I chickened out of two separate attempts to take a photo from the treadmill! Both days the gym was quite busy and I was too embarrassed to whip out my phone, plus I was slightly worried the other patrons might think I was taking a photo either of them or of the kids in the pool and as it’s an establishment I would like to return to, I decided to play it safe. Sorry!

Of course I've elected to show you what has been my most productive month this year! We won't talk about April's word count...

Of course I’ve elected to show you what has been my most productive month this year! We won’t talk about April’s word count…

In recompense I thought it would be neat to show not necessarily where I write, but where I record what I’ve written. Just this January I started using an annual word tracker and have found it to be a brilliant motivational tool. This particular theme features the ever-inspiring face of my bit-on-the-side, Jensen Ackles, and the cell formulae are set up so that monthly and yearly bar and pie charts change every time you update the word count. It tells me whether I’m on track and how much I need to average to get where I need to be. Maybe it appeals to my type-A personality, but I find it super satisfying to fill in a nice four-digit number and see the chart shoot up.

I’ve loved seeing everyone’s writing spaces this month, even if it makes me jealous of those of you with dedicated offices. I’ve definitely added that to our house-hunting criteria. When my husband balks at my need for an extra room y’all are good if I refer him to these posts, right?


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