Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Writers' rooms: Roald Dahl

Quentin Blake:

I didn't go into the shed very often, because the whole point of it as far as Roald was concerned was that it was private, a sanctuary where he could work where no one interrupted him. The whole of the inside was organised as a place for writing: so the old wing-back chair had part of the back burrowed out to make it more comfortable; he had a sleeping bag that he put his legs in when it was cold and a footstool to rest them on; he had a very characteristic Roald arrangement for a writing table with a bar across the arms of the chair and a cardboard tube that altered the angle of the board on which he wrote. As he didn't want to move from his chair everything was within reach.

I've always been fascinated with people's private workspaces, whether they be writers, artists, craftsmen or even programmers, technicians or scientists. I have had the chance to hang in the home laboratory of a botanist and stayed in a large house that doubled as a bustling art restoration operation, a dozen or more pre-20th century paintings laying about in various states of completion. I've been wowed by the workshops of metallurgists, armorers, woodworkers and the uncounted studios of painters, filmmakers, photographers, writers, designers, sculptors and musicians. There is a palpable 'spirit' to these spaces that I find energizing.

I am sometimes embarrassed by the clutter and disarray of my own workspace, but when I apologize to visitors, they often, to my continual surprise, say they like it and feel comfortable there. People have been known to settle into The Lab for hours. I'm a little bit more obliging about letting people in than some.


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