Tyler Moss, Managing Editor at Writer’s Digest, inspired me with a tweet today. Tyler shared this photo of Roald Dahl from 1979. It shows the author in the garden shed where he wrote many of his books—including Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. I was struck by the image. It is obviously far from opulent given locale and decor. In fact, Dahl is dangerously fending off the cold in a sleeping bag all too close to portable propane heater.
There is plenty more to observe and enjoy. Two rotatory phones, a steamer trunk for a footrest, wastebasket full of discarded writing, a homemade writing table resting on an older chair. Beyond the tangible items I had to ask myself, could the space be any less inspirational? But to each his own and I cannot argue with Dahl’s prolific output. It worked for him so I thought where do other notable writers ply their trade and love?
Sebastian Faulks wrote Human Traces, Engleby and Devil May Care in this space. He has noted that the window and its view provide helpful respites from the page. It is tight and focused. There is precious little decoration but comes with the advice to “Carry On”.
A whicker chair and makeshift table were fine with George Bernard Shaw. This was his escape from people or so he said. Simple in design and decor like so many other writers. It seems that many do not want to be surrounded by distraction which is a lesson to those who write today with the help of so many distracting devices.
There was some intrigue to Agatha Christie’s space. It does not even look dedicated to the craft but rather a section of a living room. This author wrote in journals or on pads that she then typed into a complete manuscript. It is just her and the white page.
The story goes that Jonathan Franzen’s computer is not connected to the Internet. That would make me incredibly productive but I could not attest to quality. It would certainly garner focus. Given Mr. Franzen’s output it obviously works for him.
As a famous food writer one may expect Amanda Hesser to be set up in the kitchen nook. A print is a nod to food and inspiration but otherwise her space is stark. The eye is drawn to that closed MacBook and what delectable tales it can weave.
In putting this blog together, I thought more writing spaces would be dark, crammed with books, and highly disorganized. While there were a few like William Buckley’s space most were extremely minimal. For many writers it appears all the trappings, decor and reference materials reside in their minds not in their space.