I was critiquing a manuscript yesterday (Hi P&C!) in which a conversation takes place in a writer’s study. I thought there wasn’t enough physical description of this room, this mythical birthplace of creation. I looked around my own desk for examples of detail, and realized that a writers’ room is really rich with possibility — I write at a stained plywood desk from IKEA. The arm of my chair has fallen off twice and is held on with zip ties. The cushion is rank with cat hair. But somebody else might have antique rugs, or a desk their father wrote at, or a mania for pristine surfaces and zero tolerance for clutter.

Sarah Waters' (Fingersmith, The Night Watch) writing room
Writer's room: Sarah Waters (Fingersmith, The Night Watch)

Looking at the space where someone works in solitude, where they produce tangible worlds out of the rag bag of their subconscious, is ripe for voyeurism and salacious speculation. Hence, the Guardian’s incredibly gratifying series, Writer’s Rooms.

Some writers don’t have their own rooms, and claim not to want them. (Bizarro craziness if you ask me. How do  you find yesterday’s thought if you don’t know where you left it?) Most rooms have windows, but not all. Some are tidy, some are not.

Actual dirt is not a problem for me, but I need to have a magic circle of empty surfaces drawn around my immediate viewing area – I need to be able to see ahead. I get how views or busy streets could be distracting, but I think I’d die if I had to work in a poky closet without a single window. How can you imagine the world when all you can see is walls?

People is different. Amazing.