Arts·Where I Write

It ain't pretty, but it works: Welcome to Craig Davidson's writing lair

The Canada Reads author embraces the "writerly dandruff" of the spaces where he creates.

The Canada Reads author embraces the 'writerly dandruff' of the spaces where he creates

Craig Davidson's current writing room: the spare bedroom of his house. (Courtesy of Craig Davidson)

Leading up to Canada Reads, CBC Arts is bringing you daily essays about where this year's authors write. This edition features Precious Cargo author Craig Davidson.

Feast your eyes! The lair of a writer.

Truth is, I can write pretty much wherever. You lead me to a pile of busted bricks with snarls of rebar poking out of it, and yeah, I can write there.

A coffee shop? A little cliché, but sure. A bar? You better believe I can write there. Back patio, airplane, bus, kitchen table at a friend's house, wherever. Point to any domestic or commercial space, and chances are I've written there or some place much like it.

I know some writers really need to be in "their space" to write. I can understand that. There's something to be said for a nice view, a desk of fond acquaintance, shelves of books, easy access to a booze hutch, whatever. But I've never felt that way.

If I'm plugged into a story, into those characters and that gathering momentum, it really doesn't matter where I hang my hat. (Not slamming anyone who does things differently, however.)

Currently — since we moved into our house — I write in the spare bedroom. There's a Walmart desk wedged into the corner, in front of the closet, rendering that storage space useless.

It's usually a mess. My general behaviour is to give it a good solid clean out after I finish a project, be that a novel, a story, a big edit, etc. So, it gets cleaned...when it gets cleaned. Just an accumulation of notes, little slips of paper, some of which I feel I might need in the latter stages of a project so they just kind of hang around like writerly dandruff.

When we have guests for a visit, I write at the kitchen table — or wherever I can find.

There are some whiteboards, as you can see. Those were from a while back, when I was working on a TV pilot that ended up in heartbreak and disaster, as do a good many projects I involve myself in. I decided to approach it "as a professional" and grab some whiteboards at Staples. I'd always seen bigshot Hollywood screenwriters scribbling on whiteboards.

I used them to hold my evolving thoughts, character descriptions, plot arcs, etc. Whatever didn't fit on the whiteboards ended up in notes taped to the walls around the room, or on a huge sheet of Bristol board (actually four sheets taped together) that I tore down after the project went up in smoke. Why keep mementos to your failures around to goad and taunt you?

Craig Davidson's memoir Precious Cargo will be defended by Greg Johnson on Canada Reads 2018. (CBC)

Other than that, there are notes taped to many surfaces. I use a lot of duct tape. It's hell on the paint, but the room needs to be repainted anyway. I suppose it looks a little like that scene in A Beautiful Mind, yeah? My process is not, and has never been, orderly.

The bookshelves...those I do love. I'm not attached to the shelves themselves — they're Ikeas — but the books they hold. I'm a sucker for books. E-readers just don't do it for me. Anything that gets people reading is great, I'm all for it, but I could never give up on old fashioned paper books.

Some of those books have followed me around from childhood, from houses to dorm rooms to a string of apartments in different continents, to our sleepy little subdivision on the west end of Toronto. I imagine they'll follow me to the grave.

The view out the window is a grandiose one: my neighbour's driveway. It's nice enough when the sun's out.

There's a photo there — a brace of photos, I guess — facing the computer, taped to the closet door beside a quote by Louise Penny that I found very astute. The words say "Have Fun Again" and those words are encircled by some photos of our son in various poses: happy face, sad face, monster face, glum face.

I was going through a bit of a time a while back there. I suppose all people go through them in their lives and careers. Feeling a bit like, "Why the hell am I doing this?" And I don't just do it for our son, or for any one person.

I know some writers really need to be in 'their space' to write. But I've never felt that way. If I'm plugged into a story, into those characters and that gathering momentum, it really doesn't matter where I hang my hat.- Craig Davidson, author

I'm not always sure why I write, but I do know that it's a tricky enough gig that if I'm not liking it, I ought to find something else to do with my life. But if I do persist in being a writer, yeah, I may as well do it for the reason I started off — because when it's going good, it's fun as all hell.

So there it is. My place of business. Jealousy-inducing, I'm sure. A testament to the enviable cachet of a writer's life. Sure, why not.

About the Author

Craig Davidson is the author of several books, including Precious Cargo, included in this years' Canada Reads debate. He also writes horror books as Nick Cutter.