John Irving’s home office in Vermont did not have a door.
The office was in a cedar-shingled house that, like so many great ideas, was sketched out on a napkin. In this case, a napkin from a Toronto restaurant.
While the house was a grand size, it didn’t have grand, ornate furniture. It had comfortable furniture that could be sat on, slumped on, spilled on by Mr. Irving’s three sons and handful of grandchildren.
There was a big kitchen where Mr. Irving liked to cook. A big gym where Mr. Irving worked out (it’s unclear if he liked that). And a big, door-less office where Mr. Irving liked to write.
Though ‘loved’ is probably a better word: “I can’t imagine being alive and not writing,” Mr. Irving told Time. “It’s in a category of needing to eat. Needing to sleep. Needing to have sex.”
The office walls, the hall walls, and really, all the house walls were covered with family photos. So many photos, in fact, that when Mr. Irving downsized from the cedar-shingled Vermont house to a Toronto apartment, his primary concern was not having enough wall space for photos of his children.
But during his years in Vermont, in the early mornings, Mr. Irving would walk past photos on the stairway wall, the kitchen wall, the hallway wall, and into his door-less office. And surrounded by photos on his office wall, he would write.
He would write first drafts longhand. Starting with the last sentence of a novel. Then writing towards it. And after doing that for seven or eight hours, Mr. Irving would leave his office for the evening. If he had his way, he would do this every day of the week.
So, why did Mr. Irving’s office, where he did the work he loved, where he spent some 40 hours or more a week, have no door?
“I never wanted my kids to feel I was more interested in anything I was doing than I was in them,” he explained to The Telegraph.
So, Mr. Irving had his writing. And Mr. Irving had his priorities.