Writers and Their Creative Spaces

Some of you may have noticed the blog header change. It is a photograph I took of  W. H. Auden’s desk and typewriter at his summer house in Kirchstetten, Austria, not so far from where I live. The previous header was an image of his bookshelves which are upstairs in his study. I visited Auden’s summer house last Autumn, just as Take Me to the Castle was about to be released and just as I began to creep into the world of social media as a writer. If you searched for F. C. Malby prior to September 2012, you would not have found a thing.


W. H. Auden’s study in the upper rooms of his summer house – Kirchstetten, Austria.

I have been interested in writing spaces for a while for several reasons:

They form the inspiration for the work of each writer, whether the space is a small desk in the corner of a room, a pocket of a cafe, a library, or a large wood desk in a grander room. Writers are natural sponges of their immediate surroundings – the views, the conversations, small objects or buildings. All of these things help to form the ideas which swirl around in our minds.

They are a slice of history. Visiting this beautiful house in a remote village, where Auden penned gems such as Stop all the Clocks, I felt a sense of anticipation as I scanned his bookshelves, coffee pots, vodka bottles, memorabilia, even his slippers left by the chair. It was almost as though he could have walked into the room at any moment. Everything he read and used has been left as it was and turned into a small museum. I sat in the chair by the desk and looked out of the window wondering what he might have thought as he looked out towards the woods.

The books say much about the author. Auden had a small selection of his own books in amongst shelves of writers such as Wodehouse, Shakespeare, Twain, Waugh, Keats and Golding, as well as a collection of atlases and books on psychology and philosophy. I looked at the books closely because I believe that what each writer reads will influence his or her writing and style to a great extent.

I have been to the Isle of Jura on the West coast of Scotland but have yet to visit the rented house where Orwell penned Nineteen Eighty Four.  He apparently worked without electricity or running water on a remote end of the isle.

If you are interested in finding out more about writers and their creative spaces, I have a board on Pinterest of well known writers, with many in their work environment.


Agatha Christie’s study

louis de berniers

Sebastian Faulks’ garden work space


 Jane Austin’s tiny walnut table

Agatha Christie surrounded herself with art. I also find art galleries a source of inspiration for some of my writing.

Beatrix Potter surrounded herself with animals as she wrote and illustrated her famous Peter Rabbit books.

E. B. White worked in a boathouse. Imagine the waves lapping against the boathouse walls as he wrote and a view into a horizon where the ocean meets the sky.

Sylvia Plath took her typewriter in the great outdoors, sitting on a stone wall with her typewriter balanced on her lap.

Louise de Bernieres writes in a shed in the garden over looking a vegetable patch with a view of pheasants, listening to music.

Sebastian Faulks uses a small room fifteen minutes from his house. He has a small cameo of Tolstoy that he bought in his house in Moscow and a bronze relief of Dickens. For each book he invokes a sort of patron saint. For A Week in December it was George Orwell.

Jane Austin worked on a fragile 12-sided piece of walnut on a single tripod, which must be the smallest table ever used by a writer. She established herself as a writer whilst working here after a long period of silence. Her early novels had been written upstairs in her father’s Hampshire rectory.

20 thoughts on “Writers and Their Creative Spaces

  1. Wonderful spaces. I write at my desk on a landing at the top of the staircase. I can swivel my desk chair to glance outside. I ignore phone calls much to the chagrin of my family.


    1. Ignoring phone calls saves the time taken up with distractions. I would imagine with a swivel chair you could spend some time spinning to get ideas.
      The view from the landing is also probably better than from downstairs. I look out on to trees and blossom and I also avoid the phone if possible.


  2. What great pictures of writing places – and what great places! I have a room I go to where I write ( above the garage!). It is at the bottom of the garden and away from my normal living space and there’s no phone or internet and I hate being disturbed when I am there. But I know other writers who write in busy cafes or on a bus or with other writers… while I can make notes or jot down plotting points, I could never “write” under such circumstances. I suppose it is each to their own. Excellent post, thanks 🙂


    1. I like the sound of your room at the end of the garden. I work in the house but I don’t answer the phone if I’m in the middle of writing and I use the internet in between bursts of writing to give my mind a break. I can work in cafes but not every day. As you say, no two writers are the same. I would imagine that writing on a bus would be difficult. Thanks for your comments, Marianne.


  3. Fascinating article. Shelby Foote sometimes used a quill pen — the dipping kind. And Laura Ingalls Wilder sat in a chair with wide, wooden arms to write the rough drafts of the Little House books. I believe she scribbled them in notebooks. The chair is on display at her home in Missouri, Rocky Ridge Farms


  4. Great article! And Austria is one of my favorite places. I believe Shelby Foote used a quill pen, the kind you have to dip in ink. And Laura Ingalls Wilder had a chair with wide wood arms on which she wrote her rough drafts of the Little House books.


    1. Thank you, Betsy. Austria is absolutely beautiful. We have just spent the Easter weekend in the mountains skiing and the views were amazing. Fresh mountain air brings you back to life. Using a quill pen takes some skill and I like the idea of a wide armed chair. I think Wilder is in the same league as Austin with the size of the work space needed.


    1. What a great post. Thanks so much for the link. I love black and white portrait photographs so these were good to see. It’s so true that work on canvas is much more immediate than writing. That’s one of the things I love about painting.


  5. I love this. As you say, it’s so interesting to see the environments that other writers create for themselves – what they surround themselves with. I think I’m still to find my perfect writing place… where do you write?


    1. Thank you. I find it really intriguing. I liked the idea of Sebastian Faulks having a work of art relating to a writer to inspire each novel.
      I work on a big table in the living room but would love an office space to put inspiration boards up on the walls and to be able to leave things out.


      1. I think that having a separate space (if you’re able) has to be the best way. I’ve found it easiest to write on the writing retreat that I recently posted about… I actually found being surrounded by other writers inspiring and motivational. I’m the king procrastinator usually – but having other writers in the same space was an enormous help.


      2. I think you’re right about needing a separate space. I’d like to go on a writing retreat and I’ll have a look at your post. I think it’s important to be connected to other writers which is where blogging is so good.


      3. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a particularly revealing post! Some nice pictures though 😉 I should really write more about it sometime soon – such a great experience.


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