Each week, Impress HQ will be talking to the authors at Impress and Watchword about their writing locations. We’re kicking off the ‘Where I Write’ series with a piece by Saeida Rouass, author of Eighteen Days of Spring in Winter and The Assembly of the Dead (coming soon).
Some writers prefer a set writing environment. They have a permanent desk or location established, with their preferred writing paraphernalia surrounding them. It’s the space they always go to, to create their stories.In my experience each writing project has come with its own set of creative processes and consequently spatial needs specific to the story. Whether the writing space is a permanent fixture or shifting is secondary. What is important is that the space works for the writer and facilitates the creation of narrative.
I had wanted to attempt fiction for a long time before writing Eighteen Days of Spring in Winter and had previously published non-fiction. However, fear of failure and an obsession with understanding the dos and don’ts of writing fiction prevented me from committing to the process. I spent a lot of time stopping and starting projects. Eventually, I decided I would start telling a story and not stop until it was told. So, I gave myself a three-day license to create the story, suspending any personal judgement over it. The three-day license liberated me from fear and Eighteen Days of Spring in Winter emerged.
At the time I was living in a beautiful fishing village that over looked the Arabian Sea, in the Sultanate of Oman. The view offered a perfect horizon to look up at from my computer screen when pondering the next part of the narrative. I learnt that an engaging view from your writing position enriches the writing experience and that the hardest part is believing in your ability to tell a story.
For my current project, The Assembly of the Dead, I changed my writing environment completely. I moved to Marrakesh in Morocco, where the novel is set, and lived in a Riad (a traditional house with an internal courtyard open to the sky) within the bustle of the old city walls. Being in the immediate environment the novel was set in helped me immensely to establish the right atmosphere around the narrative. My most productive writing time was in the evening, after a long walk around the old medina. I would wonder through the alleyways and try to imagine the city before modernity arrived. Cancelling out the sound and sight of mopeds that chase through the narrow roads, I saw that not much has changed since the early twentieth century. I was able to observe Marrakesh at a micro level (small interactions, craftsmen at work, deserted alleyways, intricately carved wooden doors) and incorporate those observations into the story.
I created a space that included a writing spot, the research literature and stuck postcards of old Marrakesh and newspaper clippings from 1906 on my wall. Having the postcards and newspaper clippings around me kept the historical context of the story alive and reachable while I was writing.
I try to let the story tell me how, where and when to write and, aside from a slight obsession with Moleskin notebooks, I throw myself into the creative process, intent on enjoying it. I have no idea where my next writing project will take me or what view I will have from my writing position, but for me that is half the fun.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to developing a creative writing space. What works for the writer in that time and in that story is what matters the most.
Eighteen Days of Spring in Winter is available for download now.
The Assembly of the Dead will be released at the end of 2016 and is available for preorder.