A Wi-fi Connection of One's Own
It amazes me that despite living in this flat for over ten years I have just had my first drink in the pub downstairs. It was always too full of karaoke and noisy TV football for me. But it has reopened in an altogether more pleasant incarnation – with armchairs and an air of calm.
As I sank into the soothing embrace of a sofa, clutching my historic first drink, I looked around thinking - this is handy. I can stumble from the garret and pop in here for an absinthe. Well more likely a rum, but you get the idea. And just as I was having the further notion that I could tote in the laptop and go about the tappy-tap in comfort, I overheard the conversation at the bar.
There was a wee huddle of the landlord’s pals, who all seemed involved in other bars or cafes. And they were discussing the disadvantages of offering a free wi-fi connection to customers.
“Someone will comandeer a table for four and while buying a coffee an hour, will make it their office for the day.”
There were nods of recognition and grunts of disapproval all round.
Thanks to JK Rowling café composition has become something of a cliché in Edinburgh. And where once you could look what Billy Connolly used to call “windswept and interesting” writing in the pub – if you see someone with a laptop these days its as likely to be an accountant tinkering with a spreadsheet as some edgy urban author.
Many writers obsess about where they write. Its all part of our work-avoidance strategy I expect. We put off the job at hand until the circumstances are perfect. Once the kids have grown up. After it gets less busy at work. When I am happier. And once the lifestyle is sorted you can worry about geography and materials. The ideal chair to sit in and weight of paper to use.
Of course there is nothing to make writing work seem more appealing than when you are supposed to be doing some other less-appealing work. I used to tappy-tap up a fair storm on the sneak when I had an office job.
I was at the launch of the latest New Writing Scotland in Blackwells the other day and in the introduction the editors talk about “focused skiving”. Where would the arts be without it! One of my favourite Larson cartoons shows a guy in a cartooning office, caught doing physics equations in the margins when he should be drawing funnies.
But when writing fiction is the main job at hand, I like to have something stimulating available for when there is a lull. I loved it at Glasgow University because the library is next to the Hunterian gallery. Ten minutes with some Scottish Colourists can be just the thing.
The best place I have found to write is at the Cove Park centre in Argyll, where I was lucky enough to receive a Scottish Arts Council residency. I parked my computer at a window overlooking the loch and had perhaps the most productive few weeks I have ever known, stopping only to marvel at the speed the Waverley steams at, and to watch the submarines practice their three-point turns. The surroundings did have an impact though and I wrote about fish rather than the piece about a guitarist I had planned.
At the moment I divide my writing time between my desk at home and Edinburgh University library. My desk at home has a picture of Anne Frank on the wall next to it. Its supposed to guilt me into working, Anne being a writer of tantalising potential who didn’t get the chance to fully realise her talents. She smiles down at me – the doomed, sparky, lovely wee girl.
She’s looking at me now but it is not working.
I might just nip downstairs. I won’t take the laptop. The landlord wouldn’t like it.