We writers are a neurotic lot aren't we? Sometimes we think we have Writers' Block and we can hardly put pen to paper; then we get a rejection slip and we become riddled with doubts about our ability to produce anything readable; or somebody makes a remark about our style and we try to change it - to no avail.
The Saturday Guardian does a feature each week called Writer's Room. There is a photograph and text about where a particular writer does his or her writing. In the photograph these days there is usually a computer, a word-processor - all the trappings of modern technology. Sometimes the room is in apple-pie order, sometimes in a state of ordered chaos. There might be a glorious view out of the window or it might look out onto a brick wall - sometimes the desk is nowhere near the window, as though outside would just prove a distraction.
Iris Murdoch, who wrote the most erudite novels, always wrote with an HB pencil on lined paper exercise books. She also worked in a state of complete chaos, the full extent of which was really only revealed after her death.
George MacKay Brown, the idiosyncratic Scottish poet, would get up early, eat his breakfast, clear a space at the table and write amongst the debris of his meal.
He would have his back to the window so that he had no distractions. I wonder if he thought about what he was going to write whilst he was eating his breakfast! Like him, Penelope Mortimer also wrote at the kitchen table (before or after washing up the breakfast things?)
Vita Sackville west - the best gardens writer for me - wrote in a beautiful writing room in Sissinghurst, a room in the tower which she called her "lair". It has been preserved in its original state today. The desk does not overlook the garden but she wrote with the window open so that she could smell her beloved roses.
There are photographs of herself and her husband, countless vases of flowers and a lovely little writing stand complete with pens and inkwells.
Virginia Woolf had her ink bottle permanently fixed onto a board so that she could rest it on the arm of her favourite armchair where she did all her writing. George Bernard Shaw on the other hand took himself off to a shed at the bottom of his garden. (This reminded me of Edvard Greig who composed in s lovely little shed overlooking a lake - what inspiration!)
Angus Wilson liked to sit on his window-sill to write - distraction just a pane of glass away and DH Lawrence wrote a lot of his words while sitting on a rock looking out to sea.
When Iris Murdoch was showing the first signs of the Alzheimer's Disease which was to end her writing career I remember reading in The Times that she said that the muse had left her for good.
Having thought about this I have decided that I shall write what I want to write, in the style that I like best and in spite of having a lovely study with a beautiful view today I shall sit in my armchair by the fire and look at the deep snow outside and just hope that the muse arrives.