A Peek at the Creative Space of Sandra Waugh

Joining us for Creative Spaces is Sandra Waugh. Sandra’s debut novel, Lark Rising, publishes today. Welcome to the world, Lark! Lark Rising is a YA fantasy, and the first in a series called “Guardians of Tarnec.” About Lark RisingPublisher’s Weekly said:

“The fantastical realm is depicted in vivid detail, simultaneously ethereal and concrete, and populated by both kindly and menacing characters to guide and torment Lark, making this novel a tantalizing glimpse of what is yet to come. [Lark is] a formidable heroine beneath her reserved and gentle demeanor.”

To learn more about Sandra and her writing, read this great interview at Fearless Fifteeners, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Describe your workspace.
I am a writing hobo.  I take my laptop anywhere I’m going to be for more than fifteen minutes—waiting rooms, coffee shops, libraries, the car…. I thrive in tight schedules and am really good at using crowd energy to focus.  (Earphones and playlists are necessities, tho’!). 
That said, my at home workspace is a particular chair that is front and center in our house.  This makes absolutely no sense of course—there are other, more hidden places I can write in, and by nature I am a private person and love having my own little space.  But I am (currently) most comfortable there, assuming everyone else is at work/school. 

Describe a typical workday. 
I’m an early riser (5-ish). I write best in the morning, so the more I can accomplish before 11 AM, the better.  Lunchtime is when I READ (yay!).  I am absolute mush in the mid-afternoon—my worst time of the day, where the sunlight filters in too brightly and when I tend to fall asleep if I am not moving. I canget more work in between 4 and 6 PM, but after that it’s over because I have to be mom and cook and laundress and all the other parts of life I’ve forgotten about earlier.  Somewhere in there I exercise, which can be anything from Nia to yoga to mowing the lawn. Exercise time is where I sort out ideas and/or story problems.
List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful. 
It’s more atmosphere and comfort that are my favorite things rather than anything actually tangible and, since I choose to write in shared, family space I don’t keep personal tokens at hand there. But this might be the right moment to show a picture of the old building on our property, which I aim to make into my very own studio!
And, if this does become reality, then it would be a studio first and foremost of crowded bookshelves, a great big chair with ottoman, and a lap rug. I’d have a desk and other pretty things, but truth is a chair to curl up in with laptop and throw, surrounded by books is the most conducive to working, and as such most meaningful.  It must be some throwback to childhood reading.  I’m not crazy (I hope). Roald Dahl worked like this.
Do you have any rituals in your work habits?  If so, describe them.
A fairly ridiculous ritual: I have to put my tea, the house phone and my cell phone on the table next to me.  (I cannot stand having to get up to answer a phone and yet I also cannot stand NOT answering a phone; I’ll only obsess about what unimportant thing I missed).  If any of these items are missing I have to jump up from my chair and re-organize.
What do you listen to while you work?
I’ve made countless playlists for inspiration. They are moody/melancholy tracks, mostly (I’m currently obsessed with Rachael Yamagata’s Elephants and the Thom alt-J remix of Moby’s A Case for Shame). But I’ve also learned that I get distracted by lyrics when I’m actually writing, so have taken to creating playlists from bits of various soundtracks. Ramin Djawadi, Jocelyn Pook and Rachel Portman are some of my favorite composers of such.
What is your drink and/or snack of choice.
TEA—strong, black tea with milk, in a ceramic mug. And it has to be hot—I toss it when it goes cold since microwaving changes its taste.  It’s my addiction and biggest waste.  I have yet to find the perfect method of extending a cup of tea’s life.
What keeps you focused while you’re working.
The work! But it’s time limited.  I realize I have between 45-90 minutes of pure concentration and then my mind wanders and I have to move around, shake things up before I can settle to write again. 
Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?
A very old MacBook. J
How do you develop your story ideas?  Do you use outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
I’m an ‘other’, I think.  Usually there is some image that pops into my head—a scene, if you like—that I quickly (still in my head) rough out in atmosphere and urgency.  The images are snippets from dreams or moments or places or events. I can see certain points I want to hit, and, usually, an end. But then… but then… it’s the WHY I labor over.  I am trying to be more rigorous about outlining, but honestly I do better idea wrestling when I’m mowing the lawn, driving, or in savasana (—not supposed to admit that!)
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
I’d share with John Keats. I imagine him (of course) as passionate and melancholic and idealistic and driven—and that would utterly inspire my writing. Adding to that dark curls and British accent, and how could I help but be in love, and all the while he’d be tragically succumbing to tuberculosis, and … **Sigh**
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?






I have no idea where I learned that having a deadline makes all the difference in churning out work, but I think that’s a pretty obvious piece of advice. However, I once heard someone—I believe it was Francis Ford Coppola—being interviewed. About his writing schedule he said (not exactly a quote): ‘I write in the morning… before anyone has the chance to hurt me.’  That struck home.  I am easily ruined by events, so realized then how important a morning schedule is to me—before new emails, those silly phone calls, and other remains of the day filter in to thwart my intentions.

2 Responses to “A Peek at the Creative Space of Sandra Waugh”

  1. Joanne Roberts

    Try brewing your tea in atraditional English teapot. Give it a cozy. And use a smaller cup. It's like fresh tea each time. Of course this means you'll need to keep a pitcher of milk handy. But it's easier to keep the milk cold than the tea hot.