Michael Murpurgo's writing room for Saturday Review. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe
Writers' rooms: Michael Morpurgo
Saturday 4 July 2009
I used to write longhand at a table in any room, anywhere so long as it was quiet. But I found that the more intensely I wrote, as the grip tightened on the pen, the smaller the writing became and the more my wrist and arm and shoulder began to ache.
One evening I asked my neighbour and friend Ted Hughes how he wrote. He said he'd had some trouble and now wrote standing up at a lectern. What's good enough for Ted Hughes, I thought ... so I tried it, but my feet hurt.
I was reading a biography of my great hero-writer Robert Louis Stevenson and discovered a photograph of him towards the end of his life, lying on his bed in Samoa, propped up on a pile of pillows, a writing book resting on his drawn-up knees. So that's how you write Treasure Island, I thought. I went up to my bedroom, piled up all the pillows I could find and began to write. Everything was supported and relaxed. It was wonderful for dreaming up a tale, weaving it inside my head, wonderful for scribbling in an exercise book. (I still don't use a word processor. I did try. I lost five chapters seven or eight years ago, probably the best chapters I ever wrote. They're still floating around up there in the ether.)
For many years, I wrote on our bed in the house. But there were complaints about ink on the sheets, dirty feet on the bed, and we felt we should try to create somewhere else, a storyteller's house. Clare, my wife designed it - it's based on the Anglo-Saxon chapel of St Peter-Ad-Murum at Bradwell-juxta-Mare in Essex, where I grew up, but it has a Devon thatched roof, a Japanese garden and an uninterrupted view of the countryside, looking towards Dartmoor.
So there I have made my writing bed. With flowers in the window - these a gift for our 46th wedding anniversary last weekend - and with Clare sitting at the computer, trying to make sense of my scribbly script as she types it up, it has become a perfect writer's hideaway.