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A bed in which novels are written

I seem to treat the bed as a kind of island on which I’m castaway, says author Anjali Joseph

Anjali Joseph
Anjali Joseph (Photo by Geraint Lewis)

It is widely acknowledged that writing cannot be made too viewer-friendly. How entertaining can mental writhing really be, after a point? And when that phase mercifully passes and the writer finally gets in the flow, how enthralling can it be to see a person hunched over a desk and writing longhand, or lately, in all sorts of postures that the luxury of a laptop can offer, punching away at its keys? It isn't always easy therefore, for writers to speak about the physicality of the writing process, or their relationship with the spaces that allow for the writing to happen, without the benefit of looking at it in retrospect. 

In this edition of Creative Corner however, author Anjali Joseph, who came out with her fourth novel Keeping in Touch earlier this year, keeps it very real. “A vote in favour of the bed,” she says after answering our questions.

Describe your current workspace to us.

I move books, a notebook, a sketchbook, and a laptop between a few different places: my bed, the dining table, and the table in the hut in the garden.

Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?

I like to sit cross-legged, so the bed has often been a constant, but after a while of sitting on the bed looking down at a laptop it’s nice to move to a table and not hunch over. Sometimes it’s also nice to work in the hut, which is out of reach of the broadband. I did a lot of work of revising the final draft of Keeping in Touch in there.

Anjali Joseph working in bed
Anjali Joseph working in bed (Courtesy Anjali Joseph)

How would you define your daily relationship with this space?

It depends which space, but apart from the hut all of them have a continual presence in my day, especially the bed. Besides the obvious sleeping and waking up, it’s also where I spend a lot of my time, accumulating the stuff I need around me, whether that’s my laptop, phone, and headphones, or the laundry that I’m in the process of folding. Also see [in illustration]: the empty bowl from my lunchtime khichdi (I could eat khichdi between once and twice a day for the rest of my life without getting tired of it) and my sketchbook, a pen, and a little box of watercolours. I seem to treat the bed as a kind of island on which I’m castaway.

Joseph's own illustration of her workspace
Joseph's own illustration of her workspace (Courtesy Anjali Joseph)

Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.

I’ve worked on much of Keeping in Touch on a bed somewhere, whether in Guwahati or in England. Much of Saraswati Park [her first novel, which won the the Betty Trask Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, and jointly won the Vodafone Crossword Book Award for Fiction in 2010] was also written on a bed, some at a desk or in an armchair. I wonder if there will be a branch of literary studies in the future that analyses a text in terms of the spinal health of the person writing it? Posture apart, I do find the incursions of the rest of life around me welcome, overall. I’m the kind of writer who likes distractions; it’s easier to concentrate in some way with other things happening too. Otherwise I have to have recourse to that giant squid of distraction, the internet.

If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?

Well, I’d be very open to working on my craft from a beach hut in the Maldives, Seychelles, or an attractive South Sea island. All I’d have to figure out is how to bring my husband and the cat along.

Also Read: This author's desk glows like a jewel in the sunlight

Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces.

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