Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Wouldn’t You Know–A Reflection on Desks

Where writers write is almost as fascinating as how they write. Personally, I become rather discouraged rather than encouraged to read about authors with routines that involve getting up at 4:30 am, doing yoga first, downing their wheatgrass shake, writing away until noon with no breaks because they are of the “plant butt in chair” answer to the obsequious “how to be a writing success?” Quora question.

I am more interested if it’s a wouldn’t desk or not. That’s no typo.

A “wouldn’t” desk is different than a wooden one. A wouldn’t desk involves an alter ego, as in “You wouldn’t believe that when the laundry is off this couch, this is where I work on my cow joke book.” Or “You wouldn’t think that writing in bed would be comfortable or even productive.”

Both couches and beds have served as my desks. Apparently I’m in good company because Mark Twain is famous for writing in his bed. He kept a pool table in his bedroom for when he needed a break from  writing. That’s one big bedroom.

I have yet to find an author who wrote or writes on a couch, that is, a purple one. I purchased mine as my muse and placed it next to my bed. A lovely shade of deep eggplant, it’s  in patterned plush, reminding me of the old movie theatre seats in the Rialto of my childhood years. It has since disappeared into the guest room where it lives an unfilled life as a laundry sorting station.

I ditched desks a long time ago due to two factors:

1. Space

2. Clutter

Desks take up a lot of space. Plus they are so imperiously demanding. Desks can’t go anywhere and require sitting at them. My creativity is shackled somewhat to planting my hindness in that chair. Realizing sitting at a desk feels too much like being a student expected to produce something worthy of a grade, I have since ditched the desk.

Another factor for being deskless is guilt. I could not bear allocating one of the bedrooms as my office. Kids do better not being piled up like Twinkies in a box  in terms of sharing rooms. So, my desk found itself in the living room or our bedroom which led to problem #2:

Clutter is ineviable when a flat horizontal surface beckons. Bills, library books, toys, plates, cups, laundry (which finds a place no matter in the house) all land on my desk. Like Rodney Dangerfield, my desk got no respect. Hence the switch to the couch. Which is a horizontal surface, wouldn’t you know. I ditched desks, couches, beds as writing stations when I switched to a laptop from a desktop computer. My desk is now an IKEA chair. Foot rest is option. It has yet to serve as a laundry station.

Now that I am an empty nester, I have commandeered an abandoned bedroom (after 18, unless they pay into the mortgage,a progeny’s bedroom is absorbed into the household) and have a bed, a couch, a rocking chair, and an IKEA chair as muse choices. No pool table at present, but I do have my son’s lava lamp, which is pretty good entertainment.

So–about your desk?

image: Wikipedia The secret is in Twain’s plumpy pillows

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17 thoughts on “Wouldn’t You Know–A Reflection on Desks

  1. Thanks for reminding me of how I used to write in bed. I would have mine made up, throw over my legs, tea tray at hand, and lots of books scattered around the bed by the time I got done for the day. Think I’ll try again!

    • Yes, a bed is a good place to write, as long as there are LOADS of pillows as per Mr Twain. I think in bed it’s easier to be in that happy space between the conscious and unconscious worlds. That’s my excuse anyway.

  2. I do have a desk, but I only write there a part of the time. I actually write a fair amount on my treadmill! I have a plastic shelf that straps onto it. I rest my laptop on it and walk at a slow pace while I work. I don’t like sitting for too long. My back starts to hurt. Or, for a change of pace, I’ll put my footstool on my kitchen counter and rest my laptop on that so I can stand up while I work. So I guess I’m all over my house. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I like the idea of Edith Wharton’s bed (that she wrote her novels in), but I do like a computer that sits on something resembling a desk or table.

  4. I’m a bed writer! I love to be comfortable when I’m working on something, and a bed is bigger than most desks, so you have plenty of room to spread out papers and books and things you might need to refer to. Plus, for obvious reasons, you are forced to clear it all up when you’re done, you can’t just leave it all there for the clutter to build up over the days. I also like the fact that in bed, if I want a break, I can just switch on the TV for a while, or lay down for a nap, all without needing to leave – oh dear, that does make me sound lazy, well of course I’m not totally lazy, I do get up in order to go downstairs to get drinks and snacks to bring back to bed ๐Ÿ™‚

    The other issue is that I sit at a desk all day at work, so when I’m working on something of my own at home, I want it to feel very different than my work environment.

  5. My bed is where i do most of my reading, so not much writing there. (and i think i’d fall asleep too easily, which can also happen while i’m reading.) however, i do take notebooks everywhere, so writing on the go and in other locations isn’t new to me. i did selfishly carve out a writing space – desk included – in our home office and i absolutely love it. i’m surrounded by my books and things that motivate me. it also makes me feel more official. the space is just mine. but i do love to get away from it and write in other places. i think whatever works for an individual writer is most important.

  6. For most of my life, I never really used a desk, and I was stupidly excited about those crappy wooden desks everyone gets in a college dorm room. By the second week of freshman year, I realized that my desk was better used as a clothes rack than a workplace. I mean, where else are you supposed to put those clothes like sweatshirts that aren’t really clean and aren’t really dirty?? So then, I turned to crappy library desks. So uninspiring. After my college career, I finally realized that what I crave in a writing space is variety. Even if I’m comfortable sitting on the couch for 6 hours one day, I’ll find the place a horrible and traumatizing place to work the next (I mean, remember all the struggles I had there the previous day??). It’s kind of a pain because it means working at home is not a great option, but it means I get to explore lots of library nooks and coffee shops!

  7. I had an office space built for me…. It houses my computers, all those network drives and most of my writing is done there. I like peace and quiet and I hate movements and noise around me. If I could get up early at 4:30 to write, I would.

    BUT: My office clutter has to be seen to be believed. There are cameras, big SLR types, assorted guitar accessories, a guitar on a guitar stand, paper everywhere, very little gets filed in the filing cabinet I had custom built. The shelves are full of junk, old cables, accessories, more paper, books.

    But it’s quiet….it helps with my day job as well….

  8. Mine? The kitchen table, but piles are an issue. My father-in-laws desk (he was a journalist) was a sight to behold. A mountainous pile that subsumed the desk underneath, but he knew where everything was.

  9. Ellen cannot be trusted with a desk, or any flat surface really. Much to my chagrin, it becomes a depository for crap. Then she does her work on the floor.

    I, on the other hand, loooove desks — and use them the way desks are supposed to be used. When I was 17, I decided to forgo a car and use my savings to buy a gorgeous, oak rolltop, almost big enough to sleep in with the lid closed. I am now on my fifth car (and I drive my cars until they drop dead) but I still have that desk. I have another, more practical desk in my home office as well as a drafting table (does that count as a desk?) My mom has an antique secretary that she vowed to will to me along with two old time, fully restored school desks; the first is from the Victorian era, with an ink pot and some stunning iron scroll work. The other is in the Mission style — spartan, perfect, and surprisingly comfortable.

    Long story short, we don’t see eye-to-eye deskwise.

    • I am surprised how passionate people are about their desk practices and beliefs. Desks are lovely tools. I three in my classroom–each has a designated function. Maybe that’s why I remain deskless at home, I overcompensate at work.

  10. I would like a desk, a space to retreat to when I needed it and to pose for photos that make me seem less shabby in my writing habits but anywhere will do for me, bed, in the pub, in a graveyard under a tree. I think the variety of places influences the writer as much as anything.

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