Where the magic happens for Vikki Wakefield


When I first read Vikki Wakefield’s post, I sent her a very long email. But the one thing I forgot to say was, Thank you. So thank you, Vikki! This post helped me so much. It reminded me that there’s writing, and then there’s not writing; it’s that simple, and that difficult. Words come from inside you, not outside, and they possibly originate from the very same place as the dread!

If you love Vikki’s words and are greedy for more of them, like me, and you want to know more about her writing process, your wish is granted, because she will be Writer-in-Residence at Inside a Dog for the whole month of April. And one more thing – October! Yeeeeew!

Okay, here’s Friday’s gift, courtesy of Vikki Wakefield. 

I started writing ‘seriously’ (by that I mean I turned up, regularly, with the aim of finishing something for once in my life) in 2009 in our crowded meals area, next to the lounge-room. My ancient PC was perched on a narrow student desk on wheels, three feet away from the TV, Wii and PlayStation. Usually there were four of us crammed into a small space. I’m pretty tidy but the rest of my family are not. I’m quiet; they’re loud. They’re daytime people and I’m nocturnal. Somehow, I finished my first novel at that tiny desk, under fire from the surround sound system, dodging missiles thrown at my head.

 I wrote Friday Brown in the dining-room. We were never a civilised enough family to share meals there, so it was wasted space. I bought a second-hand desk and a filing cabinet; the window was a distraction, so I turned my desk to face a brick wall. It was much quieter but still I fantasised about having a door. When my youngest started school I had more time to write but, after a while, I found that I missed noise.

I’ve coveted a room of my own for many years. I’d like a storybook tree-house with a rope ladder, a dumb-waiter and a wrap-around porch. It wasn’t until late 2014 that we converted the rear half of the shed into an office. It’s a vast space, six by five metres, and it smells of new carpet, fresh paint, furniture polish and dread. For now, it’s a place to put my stuff and stack my books. Having an office makes me feel more like a writer, but it has very little to do with the creative process.

I write slowly. I can read and draw anywhere but I can only write at home or on ‘The Farm’, my father-in-law’s property at Mount Jagged on the Fleurieu Peninsula. I love going there to research sensory stuff—it’s not unusual to find me climbing trees or sitting fully-clothed in a creek. I’m easily distracted in places where other writers might find inspiration: beaches, cafes, hotel rooms, libraries. I’ve never applied for a residency. I’m scared I won’t write a single word.

The Farm
The Farm

Mostly, I write on my iPad at night, sitting outside on the back verandah with the dog under my feet. I blast digital radio because I can’t stand the quiet. Ninety per cent of my third novel has been daydreamed about and written this way, alternately sweating or freezing, swatting mosquitos. The moon rises over our back fence. Dusk is a time clock for me—I punch in, get to work and rarely clock off before midnight. When I’m happy with the words, I send my notes to the laptop to flesh out and tidy up the chapter. Once a chapter is complete, I forward it to the office PC where my manuscripts live. Only then do I sit down at my new desk. So, the room is very much an office—it’s where I file, format, pay bills, do tax and worry, but it’s not where the magic happens.

Are you someone who has to be in the same bat place at the same bat time, or do you prefer to free range?

As long as I’m at home I’ll rotate between seven different chairs (twenty-one if I count individual dining chairs) depending on my mood. I prefer to write the novels at night. So… home, on the range?

Seven chairs
Seven chairs

Any talismans around? Feel like explaining them to us?

One beloved old book (Hilda Boswell’s Omnibus)—the illustrations take me straight back to childhood. Several paintings and prints that I stare into when I’m feeling soulless. (Shaun Tan’s work brings my soul back without fail.Never Leave a Red Sock on the Clothesline and Never Give Your Keys to a Stranger are my favourites.)

Hilda Boswell
Hilda Boswell

If you had to get the hell out of there and you couldn’t go back, what 3 things would you take?

A collection of apology notes from my kids (I’m not too sentimental about their art, but I keep all evidence of contrition). My Shaun Tan prints. My sketches and notebooks (because they hold all of my daydreams).

My Shaun Tan prints

What’s the policy on interruptions? Open door policy? Open door policy with cranky look on face? Door locked tight and hands on ears, shouting: ‘Can’t hear you, lah, lah, lah!’?

I’m going with ‘open door policy/catatonic state’.

What magic is happening in there right now?

I’m editing Inbetween Days (October 2015) and writing a Middle Grade novel I kept putting off because it’s tricky. I’m also racking up posts for my Inside a Dog residence in April.

Was Virginia right? Do we need a room of our own?

I’m not convinced I need an actual room anymore, but I do need others to respect my writing space and my headspace. I should get a forcefield or a cattle-prod, maybe…

Ever use longhand? Or is it all clickety-clackety?

A combination of both. I tend to do the grunt work by keyboard and the poetic stuff by daydreaming and doodling in longhand. I can turn one simple idea or theme into pages of scribbles and notes. Often they’re so convoluted I have no idea what I’m on about when I finally stop.

Thanks, Kirsty!

I think it should be thank you, Vikki! Again and again :)