Where I Write: Anywhere I Can

The view at the Cove Park writing retreat
Category: Writing

Disclaimer: As a new writer, I don’t profess to know ‘how it’s done’ or meant to be done by any stretch, but I’m going to write about what works for me *right now* and where I hope to be in the future.


Aiko's writing desk
Writing at my desk

This is the dream, isn’t it? A desk of your own, Anglepoise*, some brief art for inspiration. A picture window. I have all this and it is great, but I do very little writing here, honestly. I’m easily distracted and even the walk to the kitchen to boil the kettle can turn into hours chatting with my partner, doing dishes, watching a film... before I eventually get back to my desk and sit down to ‘work’. It’s not the desk’s fault. But I find I can only write at this desk when the internet is down and I’m the only one in the house. (Never.)

I don’t know what the problem is. When I was doing my MSc in Creative Writing in 2009 (shout-out Edinburgh Uni), I spent days and days at my desk writing endlessly. But it seems now that I work full-time and fill my remaining hours with women’s basketball, a chicken-keeping MOOC, finishing a marketing qualification and baking, I barely feel right just sitting down and allowing myself the freedom to write.

I want the desk to work. I’ve tried waking up early to write at it, but that didn’t pan out as I’d just get preoccupied thinking about work. I’m trying now to make time on the weekends to write at it, with the promise of my partner leaving me alone for a block of time. Watch this space.

*No Anglepoise - maybe this is what I’ve been missing all this time. The key to success! 

Writing in the shower (almost!)

I take very long showers. Probably too long for someone who grew up in drought-stricken California. But shower-time provides a quiet opportunity (with white noise) to mull over what to write later. I can ask the big questions, jot notes in the condensation on the wall, and score them out as quickly. Anything that sticks gets written down later.

Aiko's phone notes
Writing on the move

On the bus, walking, in the queue at Boots: this is how I do the bulk of my writing these days. I’m the girl with her phone out ‘texting’ in your path and not paying much attention to where she’s going. Apologies! The hum of the bus, picturesque Edinburgh skyline rolling by, captive idle time, and lots of great material to collect via eavesdropping.  

I used to carry a wee notebook around with me, take out my trusty pen and scribble notes in the old-fashioned way while I was wandering lonely as a cloud. But these days, I’ve always got my phone with me, and it just fits into my lifestyle better to leave the notebook behind. So if inspiration strikes, I pop up the ‘notes’ app and jot down whatever comes to mind.

I take a LOT of notes. Most are not so great. But every once in a while there’ll be a good nugget which I can polish into something later. Then I just email the notes to myself for further working.

Aiko's writing emails
Writing on my lunch break

Don’t tell my boss, but at my 9-to-5 while I’m updating Excel spreadsheets, sending a thousand emails and sitting in riveting meetings, I am with some other part of my mind (and heart) crafting snippets of poems to write down later, collecting fodder.

I type them to myself at lunch, usually via email. Saved to my drafts, I can go back later to edit, or harvest the hundreds of notes I’ve written (here or ‘on the move’) to make some fully-formed poems. An hour is not a great amount of time, but I take what I can get and make it work.

Writing at retreats

This is where the magic happens, at least for me I think. My life is super-saturated and it’s very hard for me to ‘switch off’. I scribble down cellar doors and bits of stanzas in various ways (as above), but rarely make time to concentrate purely on writing.

Therefore, I was so grateful for on the Cove Park retreat as part of my New Writers Award (pictured at the top of this entry). I packed all my half-formed poems and found the week-long focussed time to concentrate on writing invaluable. It drew up something in me similar to what I relished during my masters - the unfettered desk time - and I was able to produce and finish quite a bit of new material.

I think this might be the way forward for me - to take time out each year, on my own, to write. It may not be for everyone, but for me, the endless hours (wifi-free) to get down to business was the perfect calm needed to bookend my otherwise haphazard methods.

Aiko Greig

Aiko is a Los Angeles native living in Scotland, where she completed an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. She lived in Japan for a time prior to this, teaching English to high school students and spending time with her maternal family. Her poetry is published in Be The First To Like This, Where Rockets Burn Through, and The Edinburgh Review, amongst others. Find out more on her website: lionandsloth.com