Thursday, October 31, 2013

"It looks like you're signing in from an unusual location..."

I've spent most of this week writing here at a kitchen table. In France. In a cottage so gorgeous I'm planning to sneak it away along with the toiletries.

I'd have to sneak my host away too, but I'm okay with that: she's great and the project we've been working on has gone remarkably well. Hang on, I need to touch wood and there is just a surfeit of choices. There. I went for touching the kitchen table. You know it made sense.

This is probably the picture-perfect image of a writer, at least the image that non-writers are encouraged to believe. The work going easily – now I've touched the antique display cabinet and also the curling wooden staircase just to be safe – and with a fire over there, a mug of tea over here, forests out of the window and a cat named Gustav who wants to write the book with us. (He also wants to blog and says safohe89hfskjhmiaow.)

No wonder Google looked at me twice when I tried to log in to write you this. Unusual location? There should be a dropdown menu with options like Gorgeous Location, Very Un-William-Like Location.

This is really not my usual thing. Not as a writer, not as a William. I'm a city boy. I was thrilled to spend just an hour in Paris earlier and I'll get two hours there on the way back. Fantastic. If New York is my favourite place in the world – and I truly don't know why I said if – then Paris comes in second. Forest cottages in the most southestify of France never figured on the list at all.

It's sobering to think that I would never have come if it weren't for this particular project. It's galling to think where else I would never go and have never been because I don't have a project to get me there. I think I might just possibly be a teeny bit too work-focused, I don't know.

All my life, I've believed that it is better to be crew than passenger. It is infinitely better to be working than not. To have purpose instead of just a destination.

I still believe it.

If I'd come here on a holiday, I'd have seen the same places, breathed the same air, doubtlessly slept as tremendously as the high altitude and the long journey made me. But I'd have been itching to move on to the next thing. Or I'd have been itching to just stop for a mo to finish writing this or that.

As it is, my job is to be here and – ridiculously, I know – that makes all the same things feel all the different. We're having to do less work on the book than I'd expected, which is great because it means it's in very good shape already, but it also means that when we're done for the day, we're done. I know it's done and I don't itch, I don't stop, I can just enjoy the place.

I have no problem with being a tourist somewhere, that's fine enough, but when you are one, you do see places from one particular angle. And it's an angle that the local industry always exploits by putting the best things in your view. I'm not a tourist here, I'm also not living here, I'm working.

It's a difference that makes no difference but is still a difference. To me.

And it is making me question how I work. The supposed benefit of being a writer is that you can work anywhere, you know, when the muse hits you. There ain't no muse. And the time you spend travelling somewhere is time you ought to have been working. But now that I can work on the move, now that I've seen what an alien landscape does to me, I'm going to rethink just how often I sit in my office writing away for 16 or 18 hours a day.

Mind you, you don't half get a lot done there.

Maybe there's swings and roundabouts. But I feel one owes it to oneself to do both.

I'd have been narked to all hell if the cottage hadn't had wifi and I wasn't able to write to you, though.

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