WHERE DO YOU WRITE?
WELCOME to my bedroom. My imaginary one, that is. We’re talking about where we write today, and for me the answer is in my bed as that’s where I spend 99% of my time. But let’s rewind the tape a bit and see how I got here.
I’m a 50 something Swedish mother and grandmother living in London, UK. I’m a spoonie with a malfunctioning immune system that forced me into early retirement in 2012, and since then I’ve been largely bed bound.
Initially, I struggled to find purpose in my new reality. I was convinced I could trick my body into co-operating for a few more years. It had worked before, so why not this time? I guess the answer was because you can only squeeze so much blood out of a stone. Or something. Try as I might, I didn’t get any better and it was a hard pill to swallow. But it got worse.
After three years of continuous deterioration, my doctor told me it was time to “make peace with death.” I thought long and hard about it, but I realised I have neither interest in, nor the inclination for, such negotiations. I mean, I’ve seen death up close and I don’t trust that bugger as far as I can throw them. Besides, I may have a useless body, but I’m not done with it yet.
A storyteller at heart, there are so many things I’d like to say and do while I’m still here. Unfortunately, writing doesn’t come as easily to me as it used to. My brain is muddled and my fingers and hands don’t always want to play ball. I realised I would have to find other means of expression than the written word if I was going to be able to continue with my dream. That’s how I stumbled across video creation.
Once upon a time I had a little dream of a YouTube channel for spoonies and our allies. I wanted to make content about accessibility, particularly with regards to travel and recreation. I was thinking entertaining and inspirational stories, with educational and informative angles and a touch of assistive life hacks and typical spoonie fails. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do any of those things as there were two gargantuan obstacles in my way:
- I had a deeply rooted fear of the camera; and
- I had no idea how to film and edit a video.
But here’s a little insight to the kid of person I am. I thought about it for a while, and then I said, “Well, how hard can it be?”
I spent a few weeks checking out my favourite YouTubers and some of the most successful ones. I dug deep into their channels and watched their first videos, and let me tell you that was an uplifting experience. They all sucked in the beginning! Which is exactly what I’ve always told my writing mentees that their first drafts are supposed to do, so it resonated with me. It wasn’t all about charisma, looks and technology – these people had clearly worked on their skillsets and build their channels one video at the time.
If you think this made me start a YouTube channel you’re right. Kinda. It made me decide to learn how to make videos. I started filming myself on a daily basis (almost) and cutting the different clips into videos. And videos take up an awful lot of space on your hard drive, so I did start a YouTube channel where I could upload and store them.
My second lesson from the YouTube pros, which also resonated with my writing experience, was that it’s important to save your first videos no matter how embarrassing they may be. They serve a triple purpose in giving you a video archive, showing you how far you’ve come in your development, and serving as inspiration for future storytellers.
It was hard in the beginning. I felt ridiculous talking to myself, and I hated seeing my face on screen. It was embarrassing and it triggered my anxiety something fierce. And to make matters worse, everything I did was like duck poop. Annoying and all over the place. But after a while, something interesting happened.
As it turns out, you get desensitised to your own face if you look at it for long enough. Especially if you study other people’s faces at the same time. I was downloading videos from YouTube where successful toobers talked about how they started and what advice they had to give noobs like me. I cut their videos up in PremierePro to see how they were made, and that gave me plenty of opportunities to see what a face actually looks like from one tents of a second to another.
The more I kept editing videos with my own and other people’s faces, the more I realised that what made a video truly stand out wasn’t the props or the facial features or any other surface level aspects of the production. It was the quality of the storytelling. And I do know a thing or two about that.
After this, filming myself became second nature. I focused on what I wanted to say and decided to let everything else go. Using two old mobile phones, a web cam and an action cam I’ve created something of a mini studio in my bedroom. My bed has become my creative space and my battle station. I do pretty much all my reading, writing, filming, editing and gaming here.
I’ve got cameras screwed onto different clips, strategically place in different angles. On the radiator, on the shelf above the headboard, on walking stick that i prop up on a pile of pillows or lean against the shelf, and on a gooseneck arm that I can twist and turn.
I’m sharing an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription with two of my kids, and that gives me access to all Adobe software. I have a laptop that one of my sons bought and a wireless mouse and keyboard. I also have a l-a-r-g-e monitor that I can plug into if I need to blow things up. On top of all this, I use a Dictaphone and a tablet and between all of these things I have the freedom to create stories in different formats.
I do all of this lying on my back, with a laptop, keyboard or tablet on a pillow on my belly. I speak the words I want to say into the Dictaphone or one of the cameras, and then I spend an awful lot of time cutting them to pieces/paragraphs. Piece by piece, I add each of these bits together until I have a new story in the form of a video, a blog post or another piece of fictional writing.
Sometimes, I manage to complete a story in one go, but most of the time all I do is to add new pieces or edit old ones that may or may not fit together with something else. It’s a bit like a jigsaw. I collect pieces and organise them into folders on the off chance that they’ll be accompanied by other, complementing, pieces eventually.
It took me quite some time to feel comfortable telling people about this new path my life had taken. I was concerned about sharing stuff that wasn’t very good, or at least not good enough, and I was grateful no one could see them. But over time, and especially after COVID, I’ve come to see the process as more important than the possible end result.
Technology combined with a little bit of ingenuity has given me an opportunity to share my stories with a wider audience, and I’ve come to realise that the most important story of all is the one I tell by sharing my drafts and #WIPs. It’s the story that made me name my fictional pirate ship the M/S Resilience. My bedroom is located on its Quarterdeck and that’s the bedroom I’ve invited you to today.
The Resilience is my last big adventure, and it can take me wherever I want to go. At the moment, that is a route that takes me between blog posts, poetry and my Ulfrheim sagas. I guess it’s my legacy, in a sense.
If I could pass one tiny piece of wisdom to my grandchildren, it would be to never give up. To always look for new and innovative ways to keep doing what you love. And to remember that, at least when it comes to creativity, done is better than perfect.
I’m proud of the Resilience and I’m enjoying turning all my old texts and teaching materials into blog posts and e-books. But I’m even more proud of my decision to share my non-fictional texts. I obviously want to see them finished and “properly” published, but I think it’s possible that they are serving a greater purpose right now.
Between my pirate ship and my panic room, I am showing myself and others that adventures can take many different shapes. And yours isn’t over as long as you’re still here.
Because of this adventure, I’m no longer useless – I’m a bedridden storyteller. And one of these days, I’ll buy a van to stick my bed in. Then I’ll lie and write somewhere close to the sea.
Now, let’s talk about you. Where do you write?
Please, tell me in the comments below and remember to share the links to your posts if you’re using today’s prompt in your own posts.
© Evalena Styf, 2021
Writing prompt from #NaNoWriMo Preptober InstaWrimo Challenge: 12 October, 2021. “Where You Write”
The #InstaWrimo is a photo challenge for Instagram, but it works just as well as a daily writing prompt.
Here are the daily writing prompts for NaNoWriMo’s preptober challenge. It’s never too late to start, so let’s get into it. Together.