A Room of One's Own, II
Tilly's prayer at the end of a very long winter

A Room of One's Own, III

Dorothy West, photographed by Jill Krementz

"When I was seven, I said to my mother, may I close the door? And she said yes, but why do you want to close the door? And I said because I want to think. And when I was eleven, I said to my mother, may I lock my door? And she said, yes, but why do you want to lock your door? And I said, because I want to write."  - Dorothy West

Katherine Anne Porter, photographed by Jill Krementz

"I can live a solitary life for months at a time, and it does me good, because I'm working. I just get up bright and early -- sometimes at five o'clock -- have my black coffee and go to work. In the days when I was taken up with everything else, I used to do a day's work, or housework or whatever I was doing, and then work at night. I worked when I could. But I prefer to get up very early in the morning and work. I don't want to speak to anybody or see anybody. Perfect silence. I work until the vein is out. There's something about the way you feel, you know when the well is dry, that you'll have to wait til tomorrow and it will be full up again."  - Katherine Anne Porter

Rita Dove, photographed by Jill Krementz

"What I love about my cabin -- what I always forget that I love until I open the door and step into it -- is the absolute quiet. Oh, not the dead silence of a studio. A silence so physical that you begin to gasp for air; and it's not the allegorical silence silence of an empty apartment, with its creaks and sniffles and traffic a dull roar below, and the neighbors' muffled treading overhead. No, this is the silence of the world: birds shifting weight on branches, the branches squeaking against other twigs, the deer hoosching through the woods....It's a silence where you can hear the blood in your chest, if you chose to listen."  - Rita Dove

Susan Sontag, photographed by Jill Krementz

"Writing requires huge amounts of solitude. What I've done to soften the harshness of that choice is that I don't write all the time. I like to go out -- which includes traveling; I can't write when I travel. I like to talk. I like to listen. I like to look and to watch. Maybe I have Attention Surplus Disorder. The easiest thing in the world for me is to pay attention."  - Susan Sontag

Isaac Bashevis Singer, photographed by Jill Krementz

"When I get up in the morning, I always have the desire to sit down and write. And most of the days I do write something. But then I get telephone calls, and sometimes I have to write an article for The Foreward. And once in a while I have to write a review, and I am interviewed, and I am all the time interrupted. Somehow I manage to keep on writing. I don't have to run away. Some writers say they can only write if they go to a far island. They would go to the moon to write not to be disturbed. I think that being disturbed is a part of human life and sometimes it's useful to be disturbed because you interrupt your writing and while you rest, while you are busy with something else, your perspective changes or the horizon widens. All I can say about myself is that I have never really written in peace."  - Isaac Bashevis Singer

Saul Bellow, photographed by Jill Krementz

"I feel that art has something to do with achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction." - Saul Bellow

Ann Petry, photographed by Jill Krementz

The last word today comes from Ann Petry, who says:

"It doesn't much matter where I sit to write."

The Writer's Desk by Jill Krementz All of the photographs and quotes above come from The Writer's Desk, a beautiful little volume of black-and-white photographs featuring writers in their work spaces, by Jill Krementz. Krementz is a portrait photographer, photojournalist, and author based in New York City (and the wife of the late Kurt Vonnegut). The cropped images here don't do full justice to her work. The book's cover iimage is a portrait of Eudora Welty at her desk.


Terri, my wife Francesca and I thank you for this series of posts on work spaces and work habits. We've been prompted to talk about our own, and the changes we could make to better support our creative work. Change we must, now that there's a baby in the house - the old, pre-parenthood work habits and assumptions require re-examination. We both are grateful to Myth & Moor for provoking this discussion.

This really hit me today as i read the first quote...as i was never allowed a closed or locked door when i was young I took to the orchard and my favorite apple tree. I wrote and read in that tree until i left home at 17. I am on 2nd floor now and still amongst the trees when I write or draw. I need to see them or be with them. I love the new selection of books here on the side...i have read many but many more to be read...near trees :)....hope you are on the mend!

Its Saul Bellow today. I'd say that pretty much says a lot about what I make art for and what I hope my work brings to the viewer, that's it in a nutshell.

Thank you for posting this series. As a "beginning" writer (working on my MA and first novel), I have been inspired. Of course, your blog always inspires me. In fact, I routinely read your posts before I begin to write each morning. (Since I'm in America, you usually have posted by the time I awaken.)

Also, I want you to know that your art has blessed my family. My husband bought me a print of "Lost Child" for Christmas, and it is hung prominently in our home. We have five children, one of whom (who looks a lot like the little girl in your picture) is quite "lost" in her own way. the print gives me comfort and hope when I see it. I hope it encourages her, too.

y'know I like all these dreams of quiet studio spaces and I do give myself the time to work on the drawings every day by waking at 2am but looking back on a lifetime of drawing and making when the dream has to come out it doesn't matter where I am... some of the best sketches have been scribbled down in train station cafes or when I've been in between houses couch surfing... there's a vitality to the line making when in free fall, it becomes a lifeline, it's how I understand the world...

When I first met Karen in NYC, she was working for Jill Krementz and seeing one of Kurt's novel through to its finish. That was interesting to say the least...

these are pretty awesome.

Oh boy those standing desks! You can dance your way through the happy parts, kick the wall during the stubborn parts, and hang on for dear life when the writing tries to drown you.

Mine was an oak so broad that when I sat underneath I was hidden from the house... glad to hear I'm not the only tree-writer!

For me, too. I've been writing that particular quote on my various studio walls for years now.

Thank you so much, Sara. That painting was created for a deeply "lost child," and given to her during a particularly rough patch. She has since found her way and is doing remarkably well and is very happy, so perhaps there *is* a bit of magic in it. There's certainly a lot of love in it, and that's a form of magic.

I didn't know Karen was working for Jill Krementz then! I want to hear the tales some day....

"a vitality to the line making when in free fall"

-- What a great phrase! And, when I think back to my younger days, so true.

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