Where I Write (a peak behind the curtain)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been interested in where things come from, the spaces people work in. Often what’s most interesting is how simple those places are.

The converted work shed where Tom Thompson painted. It is now located at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg, Ontario.

The converted work shed where Tom Thompson painted. It is now located at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg, Ontario.

Tom Thompson, one of Canada’s most admired painters, worked in an old refurbished workman’s shed, because he couldn’t afford proper studio space, like his Group of Seven contemporaries. Thompson paid $1 a month for the shed in the years just before the First World War. The shed has since been relocated to the McMichael Gallery of Canadian Art, in Kleinberg, just north of Toronto.

Ernest Hemingway wrote in a number of places: Paris, Spain, Cuba, Wyoming and many others. The world is littered with places where the great man is reputed to have either written or drank. The latter are quite probable given Hemingway’s legendary thirst.


Ernest Hemingway at his desk in Cuba.

Ernest Hemingway at his desk in Cuba.

My favourite picture of Hemingway is of him sitting as his desk in Cuba.  Perhaps the photo was posed. I don’t know and don’t really care. It captures an essence. The pencil is poised, ready for action. The desk, a table really, is spare and uncluttered. His posture is relaxed, but he is deep in thought. It captures visually, the spirit of Hemingway’s writing.


My mother's old desk, where I do most of my writing.

My mother’s old desk, where I do most of my writing.

My own work space, like my writing itself, is not nearly as impressive or uncluttered. I do most of my writing at home. I have my mother’s old desk, situated under the stairs of our log home, à la Harry Potter. This is where she worked on her translations. For those of you who don’t know, my parents translated the works of several Arab authors into English, including Egypt’s Nobel Prize winning, Naguib Mahfouz. My mother Olive Kenny did most of the work, but my father, Lorne also worked on their translation projects. Here’s a link to Palace Walk, the first book of Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy.

To the right of the desk, just out of the picture, are french doors which open out onto deck. I have a nice view of the lake through the bushes along the shoreline. Our cats often visit, because their food dish is to my left under the lowest part of the stairs. Hemingway kept cats and there are several pictures of cats on his writing desk. That’s about where any similarity between me and Ernest Hemingway ends.


My corner desk in my Toronto crash pad.

My corner desk in my Toronto crash pad.

The other place I work is in our tiny bachelor apartment in Toronto. I have a small desk tucked in between the murphy bed and the window. I’m often on my own in Toronto, between shifts in the fire hall, with not much to do. It can be a very productive time. In fact that’s where I’m writing this.

I don’t have a set time for writing, though I try to spend a couple of hours at the keyboard every day. My most productive times tend to be early morning to mid-afternoon. It’s a discipline I’ve been slipping on in the past few months. Looking after the marketing and promotion for The Spark tends to eat up large chunks of time if I let it.

Several people have asked me if I write in the fire station. The short answer is no. There are too many interruptions and distractions. Of course there’s the alarm that can go off at any moment, and then there is the regular daily routine of training, reports, cleaning, maintenance and so on. Besides that, it would constitute a conflict of interest to use time for which the City is paying me to work on my own projects.

I’ll leave that sort of thing to the politicians.

Speak Your Mind