More like this

Show Your Working is a regular column exploring how some of our favourite writers get things done. This month, we take a peek into the writing routine of author Paige Clark, whose debut short story collection She Is Haunted (Allen & Unwin) was longlisted for the 2022 Stella Prize.

A small fluffy dog sits on a desk chair in front of a desk with an iMac computer and various papers and small items. A small bookshelf sits to the left of the desk.

Paige’s workspace, with coworker. Image: Supplied

What does your workspace look like?

Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my desk. I have a three-month-old baby, so I write when/if possible. This statement makes me sound more productive than I am, and the when/if possible is usually me jotting down a sentence or two in the notes app on my phone. Though I shouldn’t use the baby as an excuse, this was also my writing process before the baby arrived. I do have an office that is my preferred writing space, but, currently, my dog gets as much use out of it as I do. On my desk is my computer, a bottle of wine that’s a gift for a friend, a wrist brace, an e-reader, a random assortment of papers, a notebook, a Rubik’s cube gifted to me by the writer Robert Lukins, an EFTPOS receipt, a copy of The Joy Luck Club, a couple of pram clips and an object that I have no clue what it is. These objects neither add to nor subtract from my writing process. They simply live their life at my desk until they move on to other homes. I use any excuse I find not to write, so I try not to let my messy desk be another one.

The only thing I must have in my workspace is quiet. When I write, I hear each sentence in my head before I type it out. Any music or conversation distracts from this, and I can’t work. Unlike my other excuses this one seems non-negotiable, so I listen to it and make sure I have quiet before I begin.

I use any excuse I find not to write, so I try not to let my messy desk be another one.

Are you an analog or digital writer?

Digital. For two different reasons that are essentially the same: my handwriting can’t keep up with my brain, and I must edit as I go. This is because when I actually work, I work very quickly. And as much as I can stand mess on my desk, I cannot stand mess on the page.

a top-down view of a timber desk with a white Apple keyboard and mouse, strewn with papers, books, cables and other items such as cups and a Rubik's cube.

Paige’s desk. Image: Supplied

What sort of software and hardware do you use to get your work done?

I use Microsoft Word because I am most familiar with it, but would be open to Google Docs if the next computer I purchase does not come with Word. I’m not picky with word processing. What’s important is that I am comfortable with the software so that it’s as invisible as possible in the writing of the text.

I use the Notes app to write down anything that comes to me when I am not at the computer. I put these notes down randomly. My current note is titled ‘Casey’; I have no idea why.

When I write, I hear each sentence in my head before I type it out. Any music or conversation distracts from this.

I use the voice recorder to record something that comes to me when I am in a situation where I cannot type out a note—crossing the street or rocking a baby. I also use the voice recorder religiously in my revision process. I listen back to everything I write at least once.

I am guilty of wasting time looking for the app or software that will help me write more and more often, but I do not think it exists yet.

.hider { width: 100%; background-color:#EEEEEE; border-color:#EEEEEE; border-collapse:separate!important; border-spacing:5px!important;border-style:solid; border-width:1px; border-radius:8px;}
@media screen and (max-width:768px) {
.landscape { display: none; }
@media screen and (min-width:768px) {
.portrait { display: none; }

New reads, offers and opportunities in your inbox every week

Describe your writing practice?

I thrive on a deadline. I usually wait until I have exactly enough time to finish a project and then begin. I work in the mornings and I must get straight to work once I wake up or I will never start. At the moment, if I need to write, I get up at the time of my baby’s last overnight feed; I usually get a good two or three hours of work in before he wakes up and we are ready to start our day. The only thing I do before sitting down at my desk is make a big cup of coffee and grab a quick breakfast. I didn’t use to bother with breakfast, but now that I’m breastfeeding, I have to be more responsible! I don’t change out of my pyjamas (and I will stay in my pyjamas all day if I have a big project). My best writing happens in comfy clothes.

In terms of the writing process itself, it changes based on what I am writing and what it requires. I think that’s the beauty of the art form: how many unlike ways there are to get to where you need to get on the page.

Has your writing practice changed over the years? If so, how?

I am a lot easier on myself now. I used to feel a lot of pressure to follow any writing advice given to me: write every day, keep a notebook, go out and observe the world, listen in on conversations, etc. While all of this is good advice for someone, most of this was not good advice for me. Realising that you could write well without writing very much or very often was a revelation. I prefer to write with purpose, and now that’s what I do.

Realising that you could write well without writing very much or very often was a revelation.

How do you encourage inspiration to strike?

I wish I knew the answer to this! So far, the only thing that seems to work for me is patience. If I go searching for inspiration, I never find it. There are ways to pass the time during this wait though—reading, walking, daydreaming. I remind myself that of course I will write again, and this makes the time between not writing and writing more bearable. If I can, I embrace writers’ block—that old friend—because it means at least I am yearning and striving and still trying to do the thing. And that eventually, I will.

She Is Haunted is available now from your local independent bookseller.