I’ve been shopping for a new desk for my “home office” a.k.a. “room I throw all of my junk into to make the rest of the house look presentable.” It will be my first-ever new desk, and I think this is the most effort and research I’ve ever put into a purchase (and guys, I’ve shopped for a wedding dress).
I recently read Great House, a book centered around a group of characters who, over time, had owned the same heavy wooden writing desk. The premise struck me as wonderfully romantic, despite all the exhausting furniture moving it entailed.
Unfortunately my current desk is not exactly novel-inspiring. From far away it may look like real wood, but in reality it is a poser, just a bunch of cheap poorly-constructed particle board laminated with a plastic faux-pine finish and, these days, dust. It’s cluttered and disorganized. It is falling apart. It sags in the middle. I feel sad when I look at it.
This is quickly and unintentionally becoming a metaphor for my writing…
The desk was a hand-me-down from a good friend whose room, furniture, and social life I basically stepped right into when I first moved to Boston, as she was leaving for Chicago. In that transaction I also gained a bed (RIP), a bureau (RIP), and a sweet sweet TV/VCR combo (fond RIP). All of those were recycled or junked over time, but the desk remained. It was even paired with a comfortable charcoal-colored desk chair, an upgrade from my squat, wimpy rolling stool that whined when I sat down (now the only whining is my own). With such a fancy new companion showing it up, the desk should have been left for the following Monday’s curbside trash pickup.
On the contrary, it has survived ten years and two moves now: the first, to a room so small that I could slide from the end of my bed right into the office chair and be sandwiched against the desk; the second, into my current apartment and aforementioned home office.
Have I not replaced the desk because I’m lazy, or because I haven’t found a substitute I like better? It’s possible that it’s still here because I like to blame my writing inadequacies on it. If I had a better desk I would write more, I tell myself, but right now I still have this ugly, uncomfortable garbage desk, so it’s no wonder I can’t get myself to sit down and knock out a couple chapters. No, really, it’s all the desk’s fault. ….what?
So I search. I click. I consider. And I stop short of purchasing, every time.
At the heart of this hesitation is great expectation. The hub of a home office, a writer’s desk is an important piece of furniture. It has to be comfortable so you can sit at it for a while, whether you’re enjoying a burst of inspiration or a good cry because your muse has departed. It has to have plenty of storage for pens and notebooks and chocolate bars. It has to have a large enough top that you can spread out your computer and notes and pile of clothes that didn’t quite make it all the way to the closet. And above all, the desk has to be the crown jewel in your creative writing space.
As one of my favorite writers, Virginia Woolf, wrote in her essay A Room Of One’s Own, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I would add to that “a great desk.” (I wouldn’t really add that – Virginia Woolf was a master and I wouldn’t dare change a word – but you get the gist.)
In the spirit of her advice and my hunt for the perfect desk, here are five home offices in which I would love to (not) write:
This room looks the way the inside of my body feels when I’ve been guzzling coffee instead of typing.
I feel like I could really (pretend I’m going to) write some strong, direct, Hemingway-esque prose in this room.
Hi, I’ll just be over here on the couch-bed in the corner mapping out my story struc… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
This is the kind of desk setup that would inspire a visitor to think “oh, weathered wood, metal pipes, AND exposed brick? Someone must write impressive books here!”
FAKE OUT I would actually sit here to file my nails and cry.
DO: spread out a scroll of parchment paper in front of you to show you’re (trying to appear to be) working on something epic.
DON’T: spill your Special Storytelling Juice (red wine).