‘Write Here’ takes us into our authors’ writing spaces across the globe, where they tell us about how they go about their craft. We mark each location on the map at the bottom of each post. In this edition, Claire Lowdon reveals the secret weapon in her writing process – her grandmother.
‘In 2009 I moved to Summertown, Oxford, to live with my grandmother. I’d come from London, where I was too busy making rent to find proper time for writing. The idea was that I’d stay at my grandmother’s long enough to finish the novel I was working on – about a year, I calculated. I was still working part-time, but there were now one or two days a week, plus weekends, that I could devote to writing. Six months later the novel was finished. It was very much a piece of apprentice work, good for nothing but the ‘old stuff’ file on my computer desktop. But I started a new novel and stayed till the end of the year, and then I stayed for another year, and then another. I had found the perfect working conditions. I’m not talking about the little room at the top of the house with space for my desk – although that did feel like serious luxury after my cramped London flatshare. What my grandmother brilliantly intuited was that I would need regular sustenance. Based on my sugar intake, you’d be forgiven for thinking she had an elite athlete staying with her, rather than someone who spent 90% of the day sitting down.
Things kicked off with an early breakfast – often bacon from the local butcher, plus the easy crossword in the Times to get the little grey cells moving. By about 10:30 I’d have finished revising work from the day before: nothing between me and the harder task of actually writing something new. It was at this point that my grandmother would appear, tiptoeing across the carpet with a fortifying Chelsea Bun or raisin Danish. She was amazing. No stopping to chat, even if the procrastinatory devil in me would have welcomed that, sometimes. Just a cup of coffee and a pastry, expertly positioned on the scree of books and papers that covered my desk. Lunch was a proper break, with conversation – really valuable if you’re locked in your own head most of the time. We ate a lot of pork – ham hock, pork pies – which has been proven to stimulate creativity. The mid-afternoon slump was combatted with another stealthy air-drop – buttered welsh cake, perhaps, or a honey-drenched crumpet. Finally, at 6pm on the dot, a gin and tonic and a packet of mini cheddars: bliss. Usually I’d be done for the day by gin-time, ready for an episode of Poirot or Morse. More often than not there would be an extravagant supper, too – my grandmother being a wonderful, adventurous cook.
I wrote most of my novel Left of the Bang on this regime and recommend it highly to anyone with a willing grandmother. There’s a website called Grannies Inc where you can rent a granny to knit something for you. Perhaps the Arts Council should investigate the possibility of granny-pairing for aspiring writers. Personally, I can’t think of a better place to work.’
Claire Lowdon’s debut novel ‘Left of the Bang’ is out now.
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