I roll out of bed, shamble downstairs, make tea for my wife and put down biscuits for the cat, and switch on my espresso machine. Once that has done its thing, my working day begins. I climb the two flights to my office, leaving, typically, a distinctive trail of dribbled coffee on the stair carpet. I’m usually at my desk by half-seven (in springtime and autumn I’m there in time to catch the sunrise over Wrose Hill).
This is where I work (NB: not always this tidy):
And here are two contrasting views from my office window:
The rooftops belong to Shipley in West Yorkshire, where I live, and the skyscape belongs to the lower Aire Valley. This is one of the things I love most about our house: how much sky came with it.
By eight o’clock my wife’s gone off to work and the cat has settled in for a nap somewhere, so I’m on my own – except for Twitter, which I keep on all day as a sort of background chatter. Generally I’ll work on three or four different jobs in a typical day. I might have a book review on the go, in which case there’ll be books piled on every available surface; most days I’ll work on one of my crosswords (I set six every month, for various magazines), which generally requires me to have about four hundred and nine Chrome tabs open. If I’m working on fiction, I usually work in bursts: a few hundred words, then a bit of emailing, reading or arsing about on Twitter (but then at other times I’ll go a bit mad and find I’ve written six thousand words and haven’t had any lunch). I’ll have music playing whatever I’m doing (I know some writers find that distracting, but I never have – I find that it makes everything that bit more interesting).
I don’t have a routine. On good days I work on whatever I feel like working on; on days when the deadlines are piling up, I do what needs doing. General maintenance tasks – eating, showering, putting on proper trousers – get fitted in wherever. I drink a great deal of espresso. Sometimes I talk to the cat. I work until my wife gets home, usually around six-ish. Sometimes I’ll work in the evenings, but generally I do my best to line things up with my wife’s working hours.
I’m very happy working by (and for) myself; after nine years as a freelancer, it feels normal. Sometimes I might head out to work somewhere else: if I have a stack of reading to do, I’ll take my books to a pub or coffee shop; if I need to do research, I’ll jump on a bus to The Leeds Library or to the British Library at Boston Spa. But I don’t have a laptop and I never write in notebooks – my desk is where I do all my creative writing. Is that very boring and unwriterly of me? It probably is. Sorry.