Jane Austen's writing desk


In the collected wisdom from my creative writing course/book habit, there is often mention of the writing space.  The place that is yours, where you go to be inspired and where words flow freely, and you feel the joy of writing.  Some suggest that you create a shrine, collected trinkets that look back and you and say, ‘now you’re here, look at how beautiful I am… now write.’ 

My husband and I moved house in the summer last year.  I used to live on the Sussex/Hampshire border, a short distance from Jane Austen’s house in Chawton.  In a panic that can only come when you’re up against time, I listed out some of the ‘must visit places before we leave’, and the haloed place of Chawton was top.  My friend Karen and I went to visit on a perfect summer’s day, and had a charming time being Jane and Cassandra, without the long frocks and with an ability to have a pub lunch.  She laughed at me when I saw the desk that is purported to be where Jane Austen penned, literally, some of her novels.  This is the photo at the top of this page.  There are no trinkets, no distractions, just a fairly uncomfortable looking chair and a quill.  She told me to photograph it and show it to my husband, saying,

“if that is all that Jane needs, then there are no more excuses.”

That got me thinking about the places I’ve written, and where other writers write.  It’s back to my point about thinking about writing or actually writing.  Writers write – and it doesn’t make a fig of difference where it is.  Some of my more ambitious poetry (another course) was created lying on a rug in St James’ Park as the tourists swilled around. JK Rowling famously wrote in coffee shops in Edinburgh – I am considering the same, but not in Edinburgh, as it gets bloody cold in this garret of mine!  So, the trinkets are gone, as they just actually remind me of the endeavour and not the action.  I had also been tempted into the idea of buying some writing software (another delaying tactic); I’d done a bit of research, but was not as far as a free trial.  I love paper, pens, lovely stationery. Mind maps, bubble question marks.  Pages filled with notes, thoughts, more questions.  This is the best tool for me.  This is what worked for me in writing Hurt, and Word does the job of the typing bit.  If I can’t hold the threads of plot/character in my own head, then how will a reader achieve it?  And isn’t that the part of revision and editing, that ability to stand back and appraise your own work? I know that I can be super-organised.  Mostly right-brained, but years of being an accountant have developed those planning and completing skills. I also know that I am creative, so it’s really time to stop messing about and, well, let’s get down to no-frills writing.

What was it? If Jane can do it, so can I.