Where’s The Mess?

As I’ve said before, I love visiting writers homes. (Once they’ve died, obviously. I don’t barge in on living writers homes and demand to be shown their home). It’s always very interesting and illuminating. But I do have a gripe.

Why are they always so tidy?

Where’s the scribbled notes scattered everywhere? Maybe not post-it’s stuck all over the wall, but scraps of paper with ideas of scenes and bits of conversation that the author thought up whilst away from their desk, quickly wrote down, and now have ready to go into the manuscript.

In fact, that neat pile of a few papers does not look like a manuscript. Why isn’t is half written over and marked through? Why isn’t it a huge pile of paper that topples over in the slightest breeze and gets covered with dust and soot and food?

And where’s the plate shoved under the sofa from that time the author had a good idea in the middle of dinner and put it aside to write and completely forgot about? For that matter, why is it all so clean and tidy? How have they had time to dust the corners and scrub the steps whilst creating masterpieces? (OK, some of them had servants. But the Brontes had to do a lot of their housework!)

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only messy writer in the world. Perhaps you are all neat, with arranged notes and clean manuscripts and the housework all done before you sit down. But secretly, I don’t think so. Secretly, I think we’re all a bit messy when inspiration strikes.

I just wish I could see Jane Austen’s mess, or Charlotte Bronte’s chores left undone, or Charles Dickens accidentally spilling ink all over the place. I’m sure that’s what really happened.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby


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