The contemporary background really hurts this one, to my eye. Also, I think a slightly wider frame to pick up all of the quills in standing ready would help.

I find the first one quite a bit stronger, due to the alignment of lines. Hat-feather, actively used quill, sight line all pointing to one place. Then there's a second line from the quills on the desk, pointing to the same place. You wind up with a slightly odd high point, where the lines converge, but there's something there. The vaguely pineapple shaped knoblike object, which is presumably part of the scribe's trade gear? It's not super interesting, but it's something to focus on? The actual point of interest is, I assume, where he's about to write, but we can't see that so the object stands in for that.

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