I am a workspace voyeur — especially writer’s workspaces. My bible here is Jill Krementz’s The Writer’s Desk, a collection of wonderfully evocative photographs of, well, writer’s desks. In the introduction, John Updike writes, “I look at these photographs with a prurient interest, the way that I might look at the beds of notorious courtesans. Except that the beds would tell me less than these desks do. Here the intimacy of the literary act is caught in flagrante delicto: at these desks characters are spawned, plots are spun, imaginative distances are spanned.”
Talese dresses up every day, walks the outside stairs of his apartment down to an old wine cellar where he works, saves everything in boxes and file folders, and looks damned good for 80.
Love this bit on being a documentarian of your own process:
I save everything. I think that I’m a person of record… Some people collect a lot of stuff and then they don’t know where it is. I know where it is — it’s all on file… It’s a whole process of giving worth to every moment of your day. I’ve seen things. I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people over many years. By saving it, I’m not just being a collector of stuff — I’m a documentarian of what it is that I do. Who I know. What I see. This stuff is never dead because stories never die. Stories are never over.
You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.