I watched a movie once in which the main character was a successful writer. In the opening scene, this woman (who looked way too together for a writer, in my opinion) sat at her broad, uncluttered desk, in a room flanked by a wall of windows that overlooked a picturesque canal.
Hmmmm, I wondered, is that really what it looks like to be a best-selling author? Barbie with a typewriter?
If so, I should just give up writing now.
This made me curious. What kind of set-ups do other writers have? Do “real” writers work in expansive spaces that are uncluttered and flooded with natural light?
I found this cool blog where Anne Nutschell posted pictures of the writing desks of several famous authors, including a few of my favorites: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Jane Austen. None of the desks pictured were particularly huge, none of the offices/libraries particularly expansive. In fact, some of the desks were tiny, and more than one of the desks pictured were cluttered with papers, files, pens, and whatnot.
So what does my writing desk look like? Well, my “desk” is a six foot length of the kitchen counter. (Proximity to the stove is one reason I’m not particularly fond of deep-fat frying – causes a greasy film on my keyboard, printer, manuscripts, etc.)
Here is a picture, that I will attempt to explain:
Printer, laptop, and wireless router – obvious tools of the trade. Stacks of binders: these include notes, spreadsheets, receipts, and so forth for various writing projects. Bible – because, whatever you’re doing (whether writing or scrambling eggs), you need to keep a Bible handy. A Year With C.S. Lewis – because I have a sweet friend who loves me and knows how to encourage me! Books I’m currently reading, either for pleasure or for studies at church or for research. Notecards, jump drives, cell phone, stamps, letters to answer, cords, cords, cords. Japanese “poop” candy, because Martha thought it was funny and brought us each a box. A glass of iced tea (or a mug of coffee, glass of wine, a beer, or a steaming cup of ginger tea).
The elbow at the left edge of the above picture belongs to my daughter. She is sitting beside me working on her American Literature while I type a blog post. “Mom, what does appellation mean?” “Hmmm, I’m not sure. Let’s check it out at merriamwebster.com.” Lewis and Tolkien had the Inklings. Me, I have Helen – pretty sweet deal!
My filing system is eclectic. Electronic files on the computer. Manila folders in a box. Stacks of papers on the counter. And a plethora of sticky notes taped overhead on the kitchen cabinets. I like an old-fashioned calendar to hang on the wall at my elbow. Traditionally, Steve picks these out for me and puts a new one for the coming year in my stocking each Christmas.
Do I really need a private office, neatly organized and tastefully decorated? Nah. Working at the kitchen counter isn’t bad at all – it gives me easy access to the chocolate baking chips.