by Elatia Harris
So many great writers need their writing rooms to meet precise specs. E.B. White preferred a rough-hewn, minimalist space, with nothing but a typewriter. Virginia Woolf needed lots of green around her, and took some serious kidding about it from her sister. I have noticed that a writing room is almost never gender-neutral, even when the writer is going for a low-key, orderly space that gives little away. There’s something I need, that I’ll give up things I like to get: a window. Looking at photos like the National Trust photo above, of Vita Sackville-West’s writing table at Sissinghurst, I always notice — does the writing table face a window, or a wall?
Which leads me to wonder — how much of a writing prompt is your desk itself? It has four corners, like the ancient Chinese idea of the Universe. Within that space, you can put anything you have that helps. When you look up from your work, are you still seeing with the mind’s eye? What could you arrange to see, physically, that would give you the most of what you needed to keep writing?
Elatia Harris is a writer and consulting editor in Cambridge, Mass. She is most often at work on books and articles about food, wine and travel. Contact her at elatiaharrisATgmailDOTcom or via text at 617-599-7159.