Last week I was in the Berkshires and had a chance to tour “The Mount,” the house Edith Wharton designed and built in 1902, at age 40, and where she wrote some of her most famous novels, including The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome.
I kept waiting for the guide to take us into Wharton’s study as I’d conjured it in my mind: a wood-paneled library with a desk by the window overlooking the garden.
Wharton had such a library, designed to look like her father’s, lined with books specially bound and colored-coded so she could arrange them by category; but I was surprised to learn that she actually wrote in her bedroom, modestly furnished with a bed, a vanity, and a dresser. She wrote in bed every morning and dropped the handwritten, numbered pages on the floor to be collected later by her secretary who sent them to be typed in New York. In the end, Wharton only lived at The Mount for ten years. After her marriage failed, she moved to France, where she lived out the rest of her days. She died in 1937.
I guess I’m like everyone else when it comes to being curious about writers’ lives . . . about any artist for that matter. I want to see where they work, I want to know what they think, how they feel about their creative lives. Years ago, someone gave me a book called The Writer’s Desk for my birthday. It’s a slim book of black and white photographs showing famous writers in their workspaces, accompanied by a paragraph or two, where the writer or poet shares their creative process. It’s interesting to see the workspaces–some of which are spare, with only a desk and a chair, while others are overrun with books and papers. Most, though, are by a window. Here are some of my favorites.
So here’s my idea: Send me a picture of your work space, where you create, accompanied by a few sentences about your creative process or how the space inspires you, and I’ll post it here. Artists of all types–writers, poets, painters, cooks, composers, wood workers, dancers, photographers–are welcome, so spread the word. I’ll call it, “Where We Work.” This idea is inspired by my friend Rod Dreher, a political columnist and foodie, who has a section of his blog called, “A View From Your Table,” (here) where he invites his readers to submit pictures of meals they’ve eaten. This post is particularly long, and features a meal he and his friends prepared, but most are much shorter and simpler.
I think it’ll be fun! I hope you’ll do it. Please send your submissions to: email@example.com with “Where We Work” in the subject line.