A Desk Post
There have been a few interesting blogger’s posts on desks recently and so I was inspired to put up a picture of my workspace. It’s interesting what people decide they need and don’t need to work. Proust famously required a cork-lined room and Mrs Gaskell was content to write her novels at the kitchen table.
The Guardian’s ‘Writer’s Rooms’ column has thrown up some interesting surprises along the way. Who would suspect Seamus Heaney works in an immaculate Ikea office or that Sarah Waters produces her Wilkie Collins-stylee novels in a drab (and very modern-looking) attic room?
What seems to emerge is that it doesn’t matter where you write just as it doesn’t matter if you write on a 25p biro – if you lose yourself in the process the surroundings should fade away in any case. Philip Hensher, for instance, notes that he doesn’t aspire to ‘the Room Beautiful’, and wrote his huge novel about English suburbia, ‘The Northern Clemency,’ rather appropriately on a sofa in a very suburban-looking sitting-room. For him, having a study, or even a desk, gets in the way of the process. Jonathan Safran Foer also sidesteps the cliché of the ‘artist in the study’ by working in libraries – though admittedly some of them very grand, such as the Rose Reading Room in the New York Public library. The husband and wife writing-supergroup that is Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster also have very different approaches – she likes a beautiful, modern, gleaming home study whereas he can only function by visiting a rented office in the city, so that he feels he is doing a day’s work and not lounging at home.
One of my favourites in the series is Viriginia Woolf’s fancy-shmancy tool-shed in Monk’s House with a view of the Down’s. It’s got the right balance between some beauty and a little austerity so that you can be inspired and disciplined simultaneously.
My own is a hotch-potch of bits of art I like or have done or collected – I like picking up postcards. It looks a bit distracting but I don’t really notice it anymore. I also have a favourite poem stuck up but more about that in the next post! The suspense!