I know the saying goes, “Happy wife, happy life,” but I’m not a wife. I’ll just work with what I’ve got: a dog and a desk. Estelle Getty better be happy. She’s a dog. I treat her like a person half the time. Be thankful, Estelle Getty. My desk on the other hand is often… how should I put it? In disarray? A pigsty? Good luck spending the next hour looking for the checkbook? I think all of those are pretty accurate. But not for today. No. Today my desk is clean. This is important because I’m a little obsessed with writing spaces.
I have two desks, kind of. I really have one corner desk that is always clean and pristine and gets the perfect amount of light for writing. Something I’ve learned about writing though: the desk doesn’t matter half as much as the chair. Therefore, I mainly use my other desk *cough* coffee table *cough* because I get to sit on very comfortable couch.
I would love to use my spectacular chair I got for last year’s birthday (thanks, Mom and Dad!), but it’s slightly too large to go near a desk, meaning I’m left with only my lap space.
Why do writing spaces matter? I’d like to say it’s because I spend so much time there, which I do, writing or not. But I think they matter to me mainly because I’ve romanticized them so much. I romanticize things. It’s sort of a problem. What things? British accents and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars and handwritten letters and old cars. Strike handwritten letters. They’re actually pretty romantic. But, the point is yes, these writing spaces are just spaces, but they’re also personality reflections and creative inspiration and neat. I can’t be the only one that thinks they’re cool. In fact, I know I’m not (because my mom likes them, too). You know who really got the idea of a writing space? Mr. Roald Dahl. I love Roald Dahl for many reasons, including whizpopping.
Roald Dahl wrote in a big, comfy chair with a lap desk, big blanket, thermos of hot chocolate, and sharpened No. 2 pencils. What a beautiful way to live. See? Definitely romanticized.
J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter (the first one) at a Edinburgh restaurant, The Elephant House. 1. How cool of a name is “The Elephant House”? Super cool. 2. Writing in a public place everyday sounds… rough. 3. I am so impressed by Rowling’s ability to write an entire book (never mind writing Harry Potter) with her pants on the whole time. Wow.
How could I NOT talk about Jane Austen’s tiniest of tables? And I complain about not having enough room. How crazy is it that Austen competed six novels on a surface I wouldn’t deem large enough to eat dinner on? Oh, Jane, you’re nothing short of fabulous, even in all of your tiny desk glory. I’m noticing a British pattern… you know how I feel about the accent.
Stephen King’s room. If nothing else will sell you, On Writing will make you believe that you have to have a designated, poetically beautiful writing space. Oh, it will also make you realize that you are most likely a very bad writer, but that’s besides the point. In King’s words: “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” See? He’s romantic, too.
What I’ve realized (King: “No passive voice!”) through our writing space journey is that the most important writing space has nothing to do with my desk. It’s that room in my head where I lock everyone else out, especially the fourteen year old who tries to compare me to other people, until I let her come in because I have a fourteen year old character. It’s the place where I figure things out and go new places. It’s the place where I don’t think too much. I explore. It’s the place of adventure and fear and frustration. And most importantly, it’s the place that doesn’t define my life. It’s the other way around.
I made this post into an article for Lydia: http://www.lydiamag.com/2013/11/where-we-work-study-in-writing-spaces.html#more
4 thoughts on “happy desk, happy life”
What a freaking awesome post! Thanks for putting this out there — and I just followed you, so I can enjoy more of your wit.
Hilie…you perspectives continue to delight and amaze me. I know you are not that old but you write with a wisdom of several decades mmore than your age. YBF! Dad
This is definitely an “insight to Hils” post! Love the way you can compartmentalize your brain and pull experiences into your writing! Studying successful writers will bring you a long way. I picture ( in the near future) your couch, table, and computer in a wax museum with your likeness sitting and typing! Your children will visit saying, “Mum, is that where you would write when you attended the University, before you met dad dee?” ( in their miniature British accent, like their father’s).