I suppose it has to do with the “behind the scenes” aspect of what writers do, but people are curious, aren’t they? The writing process doesn’t have any moving parts that non-writers can see. It’s different from them. Even seems occasionally magical. And maybe just a little weird for a tribal human to want to lock themselves in a room for hours on end without human contact. People want to understand what we’re doing there.
When people ask about my work space from time-to-time, it always seems like an odd request to me. Mostly because my work space is such a personal thing and I’m super territorial about it. Pretty sure that isn’t so weird for most writers.
While I can write anywhere longhand and do, because that’s how I fit it in, sitting at my desk is something on another level for me. What can I say? All tangled up with the raw emotion that goes into writing, it’s on the other side of the line from where I let people see what I’m doing. The secret part behind the curtain. It’s like having a stranger ask, “Hey, dude, let me see where you sleep.” My first reaction is always, <cringe> “Hunh? Uh, why???”
Could be just my extreme introvert overreacting there.
Every writer needs a space to work, though, even if it’s only the corner of a busy kitchen in the middle of children and life. My writing spaces were much in that realm for a lot of years until I found the desk of my dreams.
I spend most of my time there. It’s my real home inside my home. I will love it to the end of time. So, here’s a story about my desk.
About 20 years ago as I wandered around a local thrift store, I came across this desk. I thought it was awesome. Apparently, only awesome to me, though. They told me they couldn’t get rid of it. Seems it was too big and heavy for regular people, not to mention ugly as all get-out. That sold me on it right there. I mean, I’m a sucker for strays and orphans on a regular day and this was a desk, after all.
How could I resist?
On sight, it’s an old newsroom desk of the type I’d drooled over in every film and TV show about reporters championing causes and braving personal harm to get truth out to the people. I started out in broadcasting, so I have a particular affinity for them in general. But mostly? It was the type of newsroom desk Clark Kent used in the old The Adventures of Superman series starring George Reeves.
I mean, c’mon. Superman’s desk? Sold!
They were asking a grand total of $30 for this dinosaur of journalism. Needless to say, after basking in its awesomeness and running my hands all over it drooling, “My precious, my precious”, I threw my money down. Money I had earned freelance writing. Seemed apropos. And then tried to figure out how to take it home.
It weighs about 300lbs, you see – the drawers and body are made of actual steel. And individual compartments of steel cocoon the drawers. Nothing rattles. It’s stable as bedrock. Fairly massive, the top is a sizable 30 x 55 inches. The transport of this find-of-a-lifetime turned out to be more complicated than at first thought. Picture struggling an upright piano into a station wagon. After much fiddling and cursing, I got it into its new home.
Then came figuring out where to put it.
I tried it in the dining room, under the window, because that seemed inspirational. That only lasted a couple of hours. I moved all the furniture at least four times while I tested it in various places to find the optimal spot with the perfect creativity-inducing view when I sat behind it. It took some time, but I finally got it and set up my all my stuff within easy reach, even the things I’d never had the space to display before.
Even though I’d been writing for years, that day? That was the first day I felt like a real writer.
The entire top of it is rubberized to prevent furious pounding on a manual typewriter from walking said device across the desk out of reach. Pretty handy for coffee cups, too. And it keeps my external keyboard from sliding around, which is great because I pound on it at a brisk 120 wpm or more when I’m on a roll. What’s not to love?
And in case of end of times? I can live under it well-protected from zombies that won’t be able to chew threw that steel body. ‘Cause you just never know, but it’s good to have a plan.
To be honest, it’s so big and heavy, every time I’ve moved, my friends and family curse my name. It really is a bitch to transport, but I’ll continue to brave it. I love it and it’s never leaving me.
When I sit down to write at it, despite that it holds a laptop and not a manual typewriter (though I do have one and wrote my first full manuscript on it), I still get that “intrepid journalist” thrill. That never gets old and continues to inspire me every time. The top of this beast is vast and accommodates a lot of stuff with no clutter. There’s two kinds of writers I find – the messy-desk-creativity-out-of-chaos kind and the everything-needs-to-be-in-the-same-kind-of-order-as-organised-thoughts kind. I’m the latter, so the space to do that helps my thought process.
An array of pieces of inspiration from different projects I’ve worked on over time sit within my field of view – a small statue of Anubis, a wooden book stand with a dragon carved into it, a long lapis lazuli point and another of amethyst, both with one end cut off so they stand up like sentinels, a carved skull, a realistic horse figurine, a little blue turtle with a bobbing head, lots of pieces of amethyst and quartz of varying sizes, a cast owl… They mean nothing to anyone else, but they make up part of the cocoon that envelopes my brain every time I sit there and open up a new blank page.
Fun fact about this desk? It has a secret compartment! I know, right? Just when I didn’t think it could get any cooler. I didn’t even notice until after I’d used it a few weeks. The drawers go all the way back, they’re huge, but the middle drawer only came out partway. So I had a look. Sure enough? There’s a button at the back that releases the drawer farther to a secret compartment behind the main centre drawer.
And there was stuff in it.
Tucked back there was a picture in a letterhead envelope with the address of a local professional office. I was in intrigue heaven. I needed to know the story of this hidden picture. Okay, well, I had a pretty good idea. It was a black-and-white sort of cheese cake-y photo of an attractive woman standing on a boat. There was no year on it, but from the clothes I guessed maybe the ’40s.
Could have been the former owner’s wife and he kept it to remember when they were young. Or maybe the wife died and it kept him company until he retired. I was making up all kinds of shit in my head. I’m sure the reality was more mundane like this was photographic evidence of the former desk owner having an affair. But I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.
My curiosity got the better of me and I returned the picture to the address on the letterhead. And included a short note. I explained I was a writer who inherited the desk, and wondered about the photo if they were interested in sharing the story.
Never did hear back from anyone, but it does make a damn good thrift store find story, don’t you think?
Sitting outside to write longhand is my most favourite thing and I don’t get near enough opportunity for that, but the rest of the time? If I’m not writing while commuting, I’m sitting behind this steel beast.
And that’s the story of my desk. The end.