A famous writer told us recently that he plays a certain piece of music by Igor Stravinsky every time he sits down to work. We guess the music signals to his brain that it is time to go to the writing place. The remark got us wondering about the conditions in which writers write. Below, some famous writers describe their writing places. We found them on The Guardian’s Website so they are mostly British.
Sebastion Faulks: “I admit that the decor – if that's not too strong a word – is the subject of some hilarity to female interviewers.”
Jane Gardam: “I move around the room when it gets too untidy, like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.”
Marina Warner: “I used to write in a burrow downstairs, and moving up into the roof and light and air lifted me and my writing.”
Jane Austen described her writing as being done with a fine brush on a 'little bit (not two inches wide) of ivory'.
Martin Amis: “My writing room is a detached building at the end of a small concrete garden. The glass ceiling is covered with leaves and squirrels. It's ideal – you can't hear the children and you can smoke.”
Penelope Lively: “I can't sit at a desk or a screen on account of a back problem, so I work with an ancient electronic typewriter on my lap.”
Jonathan Safran Foer: “I used to work in the Rose Reading Room of the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library. The library was built upon what used to be the city's main drinking source, a massive reservoir that stretched from 40th to 42nd Streets, and 5th to 6th Avenues. Once you know that fact, it's hard not to imagine either the books underwater, or people drinking them.”
Antonia Fraser: “It's all rather untidy, but that gives me a sense of security. I want my mind to be the only orderly thing in the room.”
We too have decided – and opposite – opinions about writing spaces. One of us likes “cozy;” the other likes to project herself into the nearest tree. Here in an unprecedented break into the first person singular are our descriptions of our writing spaces:
Linda: “The windows in my office offer a close-up view of the brick wall next door. I always thought it would be wonderful to work “with a view” but when I had one (at the beach overlooking the water) I became distracted and had trouble concentrating on what I was writing. My office is the smallest room in the house. My choice. I prefer “cozy” to “expansive”. (Is there a word for the opposite of claustrophobic?) I write surrounded by books and plants and pictures of loved ones, but they all kind of fade out as I interact with my (very big screen) computer.”
Molly: “If I don’t look out the window, I search the Web which does nothing to rest my eyes or my soul. The view from my very large windows is city roofs and gardens with a sizable sweet cherry tree in a garden across the way. Last week, it was full of migrating cedar waxwings feasting on unripened cherries. As I watched (through binoculars,) one CW picked a cherry and passed it to another on the same branch. The second CW hopped to the side, hopped back again and returned the cherry. The first CW then did the exactly the same thing, hopping sideways and back and giving the cherry to its partner. Very pleased, they performed this ritual four or five times before one of them ate the cherry. I am never alone in my writing place.”
What is your writing space like?