Sarah Shares Her Writing Room

This is my work space; unstyled, untidy, replete with cats. Very obliging of them to get in the smaller shot (below). I quite often end up with one on my lap and one sunbathing under the lamp, and it can be hard, having to peer round a pair of ears to view my screen. Although recently I treated myself to a bigger monitor, so now it’s a more like being at the cinema with someone wearing a hat in front of you – annoying, but not impossible.

As you can see, minimalism isn’t my style. Part of me admires people who do clean white walls and shelves where one classy object strikes a deliberate pose, like a supermodel in the snow. But I’ve got far too many nick- nacks that please me to limit myself to one. (Just like I haven’t got only one cat.) Sneaking into the shot on the left are my bookcases – every inch of this room is as smothered as the wall you see here. Above my desk are my work-in-progress boards. I went to Staples six months ago and treated myself to them. (I love Staples. Forget Harvey Nicks, I reckon. Staples is where it’s at – it’s far cheaper and way more practical.)

On the left is a pinboard, here I have (in no particular order) a voucher for a facial I’ve yet to find time to have, various book jacket designs in progress (which have to tie in with the teacups cover of my novel One Moment, One Morning, hence why that is there too), some bills that need paying, and a drawing by one niece and a postcard from another.

To the right is a wipe board, for lists. When this photo was taken I was in the run up to the launch of Another Night, Another Day in the UK, plus The Other Half had just been published in America. This meant there were lots of little jobs relating to publicity for
both – without writing them down I wouldn’t have a hope of keeping track. With my self-published non-fiction there is even more to do, as I’m going it alone. So I believe lists are a good thing and I keep encouraging my partner, Tom, to give them a go, but he’s yet to appreciate their value. As a result my life is made up of tasks to be wiped off, his is more of a spaghetti tangle, though perhaps this something I should share with a marriage guidance counsellor rather than on here.

When I’m drafting a book, I aim to tick off a word count. This sounds impressive but isn’t. My target novel-wise is a mere 500 words a day. And although I raise the target when I’m writing non-fiction, every other author I know aims for a higher word count than me. But my theory is that if my target is low, then it’s easier to hit it and feel pleased. Whereas if I made it higher, I’d often feel a failure. We writers beat ourselves up enough, I reckon, without giving our inner critics cricket bats to bash us with.

Full to bursting

I also draw up a mind map with arrows and ringed words and different colours everywhere. I have the timeline of whatever I’m writing going from left to right, but I also need to see the links between themes and characters. I’m a bit odd that way, for a writer my mind works pictorially.

Indeed, I draw too, and the sunflower picture you can just see in the top photo is one of my own. My latest book, Making Friends with Depression, is the first time I have illustrated a book that I have written myself.

Finally, you can see in the main picture there are French windows; these lead to a little wrought iron balcony with pots on. It’s not the best view in the world – there are a lot of rooftops involved – but it’s got charm and I spend far too long gazing out of the window, which I can see from my desk. Needless to say our patio is like this office: full to bursting.