Views of Rooms

Writers' rooms: Margaret Drabble

I am always interested by what writers do to get ideas, or where they sit when they write, or what supersitions they must follow in order to call down the muse. I forget which author said this (maybe someone can help me), but somewhere I heard that a writer stored his (I do think it was a man) work in progress in the crisper section of his refrigerator. Faulkner enjoyed his bottle. Hemingway said that you must always leave something 'in the well' to make sure that you have some place to start when you come back the next day. Some writers must have complete silence; others must be in the beating heart of things. Some must write in longhand; some must have a typewriter or computer.

When working on my stories, I have learned that I like complete silence, which is hard to come by unless it's early morning, late at night, or I'm in a library somewhere. In school, I loved the Gothic Reading Room. Everyone would glare at you if you made a peep. No one felt too bad about glaring; after all, there (used to be) a cafe immediately outside the reading room if you needed to chat. Currently, Woodruff Library is the best place for complete silence, but usually, I opt for the red room library over other spots.

The picture above is of Margaret Drabble's writing room and is part of a series of stories on The Guardian's website that investigates writers' rooms. There is a long list of mostly English writers, which one would expect. I would love a newspaper to do this for American writers. I don't much like his work, but I would be interested to know what type of room Stephen King writes in. I remember a piece by Annie Dillard in which she said that while she was writing A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek she sat in the library at Hollins in front of a blank wall. There were a few filing cabinets about and some bookshelves behind her. The contrast between her rotund, image-heavy, beautiful prose and her sparse, cell-like surroundings struck me as a clear testament to the power of her imagination and recall. It's always interesting to see the landscapes that play a role in the creative process.

For the series go here.


  1. I love to look at writer's rooms too. I especially like it when they are really messy with piles of books and papers everywhere. Not sure why I like the messy rooms better, maybe because they seem friendlier and more lived in and definitely less intimidating!


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