Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cold weather tips for the house-bound scribbler

Spring and summer are easy for those who write at home. Put on a pair of shorts and a tee shirt and you're ready.

When there's a cold snap in the morning it gets more challenging. I read Janice Turner's column in the Times today where she mentions a fellow writer who can't work unless she's in full fig, earrings, heels and all. I'm sure Peter Robinson wrote that you can't do proper work unless you're wearing shoes and socks, which is an interesting point.

I'm always alert to hints about how other hacks work. Mark Ellen and I compare notes all the time. Mind you, he put the central heating on the other morning, which won't be happening here for quite a while.

I got through last winter without having the central heating on after nine o'clock. In the last couple of years I've been following a personal central heating plan which is best described as "head to toe in Uniqlo" involving gilets, wooly hats and the kind of underwear people wear on skiing holidays.

When the weather's in a transitional phase I follow The Beatles plan, otherwise know as "I'll Follow The Sun". This means I take my laptop to whichever part of the house is getting the most natural warmth at any part of the day.

Because I need physical movement to have any kind of original thought, I go for walks in the park a couple of times a day. Sometimes I sit on a bench writing on my phone. Sometimes I go to a cafe. It's amazing how the proximity of other people can help you concentrate.

I'd be interested to hear about other people's regimes.


  1. Work from home 3-4 days most weeks and have my own set routine.

    Always dressed with thick socks, chinos or jeans, brushed cotton check shirt. Jumper and slippers added when the weather turned last week. The kids call it Dad's uniform. Daytime heating will probably be added when I hear the GLW scrape the car while I'm still in bed in coming weeks.

    This has been the routine for the past 20 years. Everyday no matter the conditions I make a point of wandering into town to pick up something for dinner, pay a bill etc. just to get away from desk, usually when my writing (legal IT stuff) has stalled.If it's a particularly bad day then the walk will be extended into the hills surrounding our place in rural Derbyshire

    Unless they were away from home I used to think people who worked in coffee shops were terrible pseuds but in recent months I've given it a go once or twice a week and it has worked for me. A bit of noise and having other people around are the only things I miss from my days in an office.

  2. In the Radio Times, Justin Webb warns Robert Peston that dressing down can lead to sloppy work. "There is something about informal dress that relaxes everything, including the mind. You tend, in jeans, to let anything go."

  3. Down here in Cornwall, it hardly ever gets that cold. And my flat is well-insulated, so I rarely bother with heating.

    I work at home probably two days a week, especially when I have a lot of writing to do – actually writing, rather than just thinking about what I'm going to write. That's what the other three days at my rented desk space are for.

    The views are spectacular, but they're for downtime. So when I'm working, it's curtains drawn, no distractions, just my Mac and and an angle poise for illumination. I always get dressed, even if it's just jeans and a shirt. Start around 8, quit around 5; and I always have a midday cut-off, when I go down into Falmouth, get some lunch and then some exercise back up the steep hill to home.

    And like a lot of writers, I sometimes leave half a sentence to be picked up as the brain-starter for the next day.

  4. I'm writing a book at the moment while working full time so it's 9pm midnight/2am (alternating every other night) for me.
    I throw on a hoodie, curtains closed in my study, angle-poise lamp (as above) and a desk full of research.
    I try to take mini-breaks every 30 to 40 mins, no hard and fast rules. And a get up a walk around break once or twice, for a coffee in the kitchen.
    It's a temporary endeavour so I'm not sure how I would plan my day if I was a full time writer. What luxury to have all day!

  5. The house was so cold yesterday. I sat in front of the computer with a hot water bottle stuffed down my jumper and a teapot within easy reach to warm my hands. I lost most of the feeling in the little finger on my right hand when I was sleeping rough in London. It's worse now that the temperature has dropped.

    There's a half hour after I sit down in front of a keyboard where nothing gets done. The concentration shifts and meanders. The attention glazes over.

    If I can nail down my focus on a single task for 20 minutes then environmental factors like temperature and noise fade into the distant background and I can get things done. I set myself tight deadlines that force me to work quickly and involve making compromises and snap decisions. I drag anything unfinished that I may want to work into successive drafts down to the bottom of the document.

    I am not a professional so it doesn't matter whether I write or don't write. It's a discipline.

  6. I just have to get away from my solitary work life (which I quite prefer) to have a coffee at the local, or not so local (because it's a 20 minutes drive each way) coffee shop. I love the place, their coffee is to die for as are their lunches. But it's the people more than anything and the odd famous person ends up in there too. I've just tweeted about whether I should feel guilty for taking 2 hours out of my day, even though I don't have a proper lunch break apart from eating something, to drive there, spend an hour, then drive back to get on with my work or pick my son up from school. But apparently not, it's necessary apparently – even though I still feel guilty and beat myself up about it.

  7. Equally resistant here to putting on the central heating when it's just me in the house, and have converted to thermals. It's the chilly hands that get to me though. Feels a bit steam punk to be sitting at a laptop with fingerless gloves on.

  8. What's wrong with a 2 bar electric fire?