Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Of Ravens and Writing Desks

by Merry Gordon

My desk is a mess.

I've always been envious of famous authors' writing spaces. Maybe it's because my writing is almost never done at my desk (‘cluttered’ is my euphemism of choice, but if we’re being honest I could headline Hoarders).  When I write, I curl into piles of unfolded laundry with a laptop balanced precariously on my knees, trying to ignore the sticky fingerprints on the screen, or I throw a towel around me, scribbling my best shower ideas on Post-Its with my children’s stubby crayons. 

But I've seen where the magic happens. 

I spent part of one glorious summer in Wales, a stone’s throw from Dylan Thomas’s home on the Taf estuary.  Tucked into a shed overlooking his “heron priested shore,” he wrote (and drank) himself into immortality here.  The place is incredible only in its ordinariness.  It’s been lovingly restored—crumpled paper, cigarette butts and all.  Picturing the addiction-riddled genius writing in this space, raging against the dying of the gentle Carmarthenshire light, is easy.  I think of my own desk, heaped with receipts and books and half-empty water bottles, and feel better.

Writers write in hovels, and sacred spaces, and sometimes they are one and the same.

Can you guess these famous writing spaces? The correct answers will be in the comments below.

1)  "There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." 

2)  "I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word."

3) "What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?"

4) "You have to resign yourself to wasting lots of trees before you write anything really good." 

5)  "I'm just going to write because I cannot help it."

6) "A poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul."


  1. I can’t even begin to guess, but it does make me feel better to think that most creative people’s spaces are a complete disaster. I mean, when the rush of inspiration comes, who has time to tidy up?

  2. The answers: 1 = Ernest Hemingway, 2 = Emily Dickinson, 3 = Jane Austen, 4 = J.K. Rowling, 5 = the Bronte sisters, 6 = Edgar Allan Poe

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  4. I loved seeing these famous writing spaces! I only got one right- #4, because I read somewhere she liked to write in a coffee house, with her little one in a stroller (or buggy ;)
    I am dying for a comfy chair in the corner of my room by the window. I don't know why, but for some reason I just want to write over there instead of my desk across the room.

  5. Hemingway was the only I knew. I love Rowling's comment! My desk is always a mess too. I'm blessed though to have a loft in which I write. I do love it.

  6. I got 1, 3, and 4! (I've actually been to 4, so I feel extra squee-ish about it!!) :)

    I write wherever. Couch, table, lying on my bed. I read somewhere that you have to force yourself to write in every circumstance with whatever mayhem is going on around you, because if you wait for the ideal circumstances, you'll never find them. :)

    1. I've been to #5, and Dylan Thomas's boathouse. Best. Trip. Ever. Would loooooove to see Jane Austen's & Emily Dickinson's digs. #bucketlist

  7. I adored this line: ". . .scribbling my best shower ideas on Post-Its with my children’s stubby crayons." What a fun post, Merry!



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