At the Desk: With Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant's Desk
Marilyn Brant's Desk

I have friends whose offices are a study in well-organized shelves, neat piles and dust-free cabinets. Mine? Not so much. My bookshelves surround the room (I have one against every wall), and all of them are packed with books like the one in the picture. Some hold books on writing craft, others have my “keeper” novels, one has all Jane Austen-related works — both research guides and fiction, and another (the largest) has the stacks of print novels I’ve bought but have yet had a chance to read. My desk itself is mostly taken up with the computer and telephone, but the remaining space is a cluttered collection of paper scraps and notecards on which I’ve jotted messages to myself. Many of them are quotes, sometimes with shades of contradiction (i.e., “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” ~ Buddha vs. “You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.” ~ Anne Lamott). But I like that. I don’t think ideas are always neat and easy and, to me, writing creatively requires the ability to tolerate ambiguity and paradox. Above my desk, I have a poster from one of my favorite classic movies, “Roman Holiday.” To my left, I have one from “The Philadelphia Story” and, to my right, a poster featuring Shakespeare’s works — inspiration for good dialogue! I’ve written over half a dozen novels in this little space and, though my office is messy and sometimes dusty, it’s still my favorite place to write.


MarilynBrantDesk -- up close
See the little bits of paper with the quotes and the notes? I spend a lot of time writing down reminders for myself -- and even more time trying to find them later.

MarilynBrantDesk - office shelves
Not only do I have the books on the shelves, but they're also stacked on top of the shelves, in piles on either side of the shelves, in front of the shelves... Oh, and I have my woolly white sheep from when I was in Australia. He guards the books.

Marilyn Brant's Desk
Marilyn Brant's Desk

MarilynBrantDesk - more office shelves
I wasn't kidding about being surrounded by books in my office! And, well, also my Elvis magnets. I like the one where he's strumming his guitar and silently serenading me

MarilynBrantDesk -- on floor
Often, when I'm struggling with a scene and need to do something to jumpstart the process, I'll spread the papers I'm using for reference around me in a semi-circle (in a corner of the house somewhere) and I'll write by hand. While this doesn't necessarily produce stellar prose, it usually helps me to get past whatever issue is bothering me at that point in the story.

Here I am actually doing this at a writing retreat with friends: scribbling my way through the start of a scene...scratching out most of it...writing another few sentences by hand...hating all but one of them...and, finally, rewriting the opening paragraph of what became Chapter 5 of my manuscript-in-progress.


Marilyn Brant – Award winning Woman’s Fiction Writer.



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