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Welcome to my office

June 27, 2010

I’ve written before on the subject of writing areas. Back in August 2008 I gave a quick tour of my writing area, and in October over on my own blog I shared a snapshot of my writing set up. That’s an outdated photo now. Not only do I have new glasses, but I have a completely new desk.

A desk is very important to me. I’m not the type of person who can simply work “anywhere”. If my current location doesn’t feel like “work”, then I won’t work. I know people who can write in coffee shops, who can edit whilst sitting in a park.

Me? In a coffee shop I’ll drink coffee and people-watch. In a park I’ll sunbathe, sleep, admire nature. But I won’t work.

Psychologically, it needs to look like somewhere I can work in order for me to settle to work. And as you can tell from my previous posts, a filing cabinet with a pull-out writing shelf and a small desk footprint that leaves everything looking crowded and cramped, is not conducive to work!

But this past week my working space has transformed. Although my “office” is in my bedroom, the little corner by the window now feels like a proper writer’s study, and all thanks to the addition of a new desk, and some accessories.

Here you can see an overview of my new and improved writing area. On the wall is a calendar and whiteboard which I use for daily, weekly and monthly planning.

Along from that hangs the caricature of me my brother drew for my 30th birthday, in a style that resembles Edgar Allan Poe, my favourite writer. Beneath these is the large and surprisingly cheap desk.

I’ve had computer desks, and “built-in desk solutions”, but I have never had a proper, dedicated desk in my life. It looks like something from 100 years ago. It looks like history, and decades of graft. It looks like work. So let’s take a closer look at this desk.

At the right hand side we have some essentials. My spider plant reminds me that life flourishes and thrives if we get out of its way and let it do its thing. Given my track record of killing plants, my wife Julia bought me this as they are, reputedly, nigh indestructible. And to prove the point, it’s producing a pup that I can plant up in a month or so.

For when darker evenings draw in I have a beautiful table lamp, a traditional banker’s lamp Julia bought me for my birthday one year. I also have a clock to keep me on schedule and my large coffee mug—if I need to explain why that is vital, then you’re clearly not a writer!

Finally I have a few photographs to remind me that there is a life away from the desk, the computer, and the world of work.

Now we arrive at the first two accessories I received this week that help to fix in my mind that this is a writer’s desk. Firstly, a desk mat with blotting paper, and above that a wooden desk set, with two ink wells, a blotting rocker, and space for fountain pens. Last year I rediscovered the power of writing longhand, and since then I’ve had a hankering for a deskset to go with my fountain pens. On the desk are two of them. One, an engagement present from my wife, I use with black ink for personal correspondence. The second was a thank you present from a good friend (who may wish to remain anonymous, as it was a thank you for some legal advice), which I use with blue ink, for writing fiction.

It is these, combined with the look and feel of a desk that, whilst new, feels old, that most invoke in me the feeling that this is a writing desk, this is a place of work. Maybe its the image of the writer working in pen and ink, from Shakespeare with quills to Dickens with dip pens. Perhaps its the image of the writer that never existed. Regardless, in my mind it evokes the sense of purpose and commitment that, I freely admit, has been lacking of late in my writing life.

On the other side of the desk we return to business, with two phones, one my mobile and the other the landline phone. It takes me longer to get from the desk to the phone in the living room than the answermachine allows, so with a second handset won’t miss any calls from publishers telling me they want to publish my work for £10million. If any publishers are reading, I’m still waiting for that call…

I also have my appointment diary, and being a stationery snob (I use fountain pens and a deskset, of course I’m a stationery snob!), it is a Moleskin diary. Moleskin is to stationery what Apple is to computing—gorgeous, elitist, and twice the price of its competitors without doing appreciably more, but dammit it looks soooo shiny! Speaking of Apple, you can just make out my iPod in its docking cradle with speakers. I need music when I’m working to keep me calm and focused.

However, the accessory I’m happiest with is this strange-looking leather cube…

This is the “Writer’s Block” created by Emma Couch, an artist based at the Brentford Gallery. Emma is a bookbinder who creates gorgeous notebooks, often rescuing old bookcovers and legal documents to create her notebooks. The Writer’s Block is a variation on the dos-à-dos, but with three sides rather than two. It features pages from a Shakespearean dictionary, and I use it to collect inspirational quotes, phrases and snippets related to art and writing.

So there we conclude our tour of my writing desk. Please exit via the gift shop where you can purchase snowglobes recreating this wonderful scene. Or alternatively, perhaps you can post some pictures, or describe your working area. What would you change, if anything? What does your ideal writing desk look like?

Emma has her own online store, The Gift Shed, where you can view her catalogue of work, make purchases and contact her about commissioned work.
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6 Comments
  1. June 27, 2010 7:17 am

    I love looking at people’s desks. I like yours a lot and love you evoking older aesthetics to go with you embracing pen and paper. I hope you find it productive. But I must admit, I was still like “Where’s the computer?!”

    My desk is shared but it’s mostly mine, and usually a mess with papers and journals and books and pens and rubbish and protest leaflets and some messy unusuable shelves to file papers and such.

    I’ve been shopping online for some suitable posters to add around it to increase the mood to go along with the Tim Burton figurines I bought on Thursday.

  2. June 27, 2010 9:29 am

    Hi Paul.. thanks so much for sharing this… I’ve created a post over at my site with a few photos and some explanations..

    http://annieonwriting.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/my-writing-space/

    I have a VERY large desk – plenty of room of coffee pots full of the dark seductive stuff and plenty of room to breathe and ‘be’.

  3. June 27, 2010 3:42 pm

    Ben, if you look at the top photo, right at the bottom of it you can just about make out some wires hanging down from a shelf just under the desk, that’s where my laptop sits when I’m not using it. And I’m trying not to use it for first drafts, but to work purely with pen and paper.

    Annie, love the bookcase in your office! I want an office that is just that, not a shared part of my bedroom. I want an office, with wooden bookshelves, my desk, and a coffee machine in the corner!

  4. June 27, 2010 5:03 pm

    Count me in as another who loves looking at fellow writers’ desks … had to link! ;)

  5. June 27, 2010 11:26 pm

    Hey Paul.. the coffee machine is my next investment.. just have to sneak it in past my hubby.. behind closed doors who KNOWS what those strange noises are?

    and the empty chair – has your name on it.. you are welcome to sit with me anytime….

  6. adampb permalink
    June 28, 2010 3:04 am

    My writing space is either the dining room table, once cleared of detritus. My other space is in the granny flat (or garden shed, as the council knows it), which houses the junk from the house, but more importantly houses my desk and drumkit. Might try getting some images. For the clean freak (which is me), the images may be disturbing.

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