Roald Dahl’s Work Environment

Roald Dahl’s books brought me hours of enjoyment when I was a child. There was little that could top the excitement of reading one of his books that would, of course, be illustrated by Quentin Blake. He created a world into which I could immerse myself, no matter how fantastical the setting might be.

Now, via Jason Kottke, I’ve had an opportunity to see, in the video embedded below, the environment in which Dahl worked, and to him him speak of the mindset needed to create such amazing works of fiction.

There are concepts arising in this video that have started to again be considered relevant in today’s modern world as being helpful in improving productivity and performance.

Highlights from this short clip include:

  • The need to immerse himself, for around 4 to 5 hours per day, in the work, and be away from other things. This reflects perfectly the concept of ‘deep work’ as recently brought into public consciousness by Cal Newport. It takes time, focus and the avoidance of distraction to reach a zone of high productivity. This place is rare in the modern workplace. Making time for extended periods of focus can represent a huge competitive advantage over the competition.
  • The simplicity of the tools. No computers, typewriters, productivity methods. Just paper, pencil, a basic desk and a thermos of tea. The tools don’t make the work. They are, however, customised to his needs.
  • The necessity for play. Play is again considered relevant and useful in improving productivity and well-being. Dahl spends time with friends playing snooker on a regular — and scheduled — basis. I have no doubt it released stresses from his mind and left him fresh to focus on writing when it was time to do so.
  • The smoking. Okay, so that was an unknown negative at the time. We’re doing better on that count.