If you look at the actual blueprint for our house, there’s a room marked “Dining Room “, set quite conveniently between the kitchen and the formal living room, with glass French doors and lots of light. Except it never got the chance to be a dining room. As soon as we moved in, I filled one wall with my Ikea Billy bookcases and claimed it as my writing room.
Here’s what it looked like, then:
It’s changed a bit, in the twelve years that we’ve been living here. The bookshelves, for one thing, are noticeably fuller—most of the shelves are stacked two deep, with books behind books, and I keep buying more.
My mother-in-law, a skilled seamstress, made me beautiful curtains for the window, and my parents gave me the comfortable wing chair I’d always loved best from their house. The desk in the photo got passed on to a friend, and was replaced by the antique oak table my dad always used as his desk in our various houses, when I was growing up. And we painted the walls a soft yellow that glows warmly gold when I’m writing at night.
It’s really a lovely room, and it’s a great place to write, but the truth is that most days it’s also Incredibly Messy. I try to keep up with the clutter, but when I’m at work on a book, it just Happens.
I couldn’t help but smile recently when someone tweeted the link to a Victorian-era book of etiquette by Eliza Leslie titled “Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book “, which in a chapter on how to behave when meeting an “authoress ” warns: “If, when admitted into her study, you should find her writing-table in what appears to you like great confusion “, it’s best not to comment on the mess. “In all probability, she knows precisely where to put her hand upon every paper on the table: having in reality arranged them exactly to suit her convenience. Though their arrangement may be quite unintelligible to the uninitiated, there is no doubt method (her own method, at least) in their apparent disorder. It is not likely she may have time to put her writing table in nice-looking order every day. ”
Those words are just as true today, I think, as they were then. So in the interest of authenticity, instead of cleaning up the evidence and giving you the Better Homes and Gardens version of my writing room, I thought I’d show you what it actually looks like this morning, complete with a few days’ accumulation of coffee cups (I have a weakness for Starbucks Skinny Cinnamon Dolce lattes). It looks a bit chaotic, but I do indeed know where each paper is, and what it’s there for, as the good Miss Leslie says, and it’s decidedly my space, the room of my own where my stories take shape.