Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Friends and I watched a movie a couple of weeks ago in which the main character was a successful writer. In the opening scene of the movie, 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 did a little Googling.

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's 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 - I'm trying to memorize Romans 8, and I write out a verse each morning to help print it into my brain. 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. I love it. "What does appellation mean?" "Hmmm, I'm not sure. Let's check it out at" 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. (October is looking pretty crazy, isn't it?)
My writing schedule/routine is probably a bit unorthodox, too. Yesterday, while I was majorly crunching away at Book #2, the day went like this: cook breakfast; feed chickens; wash breakfast dishes; write a little; start laundry; write a little; math with Helen; switch laundry over; write a little; go let chickens out of the chicken yard; fix lunch; write a little... As far as writing goes, yesterday was very productive.

Do I really need a private office, neatly organized and tastefully decorated? Nah. Working at the kitchen counter isn't bad at all - plus, it gives me easy access to the chocolate chip cookies.

So, Dear Reader, what's on your desk?


Anonymous said...

I love it. My desk? Funny you should ask. Two computer screans, one pile of files etc.,calculator, coller[how you keep the drinks cool?] two lamps, one phone,printer, clock,pens, paper clips etc.,drawing of Tom and his Drill Instructor, picture of Trent and Sophy, scotch tape, magnifying glass, drawing of opossum by Nate, license to practice law and a lot of etc. etc. Cleanest it has ever been. Love you, Dad

Camille said...

I read somewhere, Dad, that Albert Einstein once said, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what is an empty desk a sign of?" I think Mr. Einstein had a messy desk, too - we're in good company!

troal said...

The best book I ever read on writing was Stephen King's "On Writing." He wrote "Christine" from a nook in his laundry room! Keep up the good work,