#25: Where I write and dream of writing
Desks, spaces and expectations
For many, including myself, the desk took on a larger-than-life form over the past year. By and large a workspace, when called for, my work desk transforms into a dining table, a crafts nook, a jigsaw board, an extra kitchen surface, even a sorting station for when the laundry basket is overflowing.
The opening act of this desk was one of aesthetics fuelled by scores of Instagram ads and “X things to buy for your WFH desk” listicles. But as hours bled into days into Sisyphean weeks, its mise en scène has changed.
Potted plants have made way for legal pads; the pretty bowed out while the practical took up space. A terrarium has been rudely nudged to the end of the desk to make space for a sleek lamp and a huge monitor — aesthetically uncomfortable but practically, a blessing. The wood is lighter where the eastern sunlight claimed it day after day. This is a desk for grown-ups, for people who appreciate ergonomics, who don’t sit folded into their too-large chair like an Indian pretzel, who have their shit together.
My other, non-corporate desk, is a much closer reflection of who I feel I am — and hence a far cry from beautiful WFH vignettes in glossy magazines. This is my creative desk, a place I like to think is unsullied by capitalist demands and ventures. My notebooks are carelessly piled up against a pin-up board littered with posters, postcards, and post. The whorls in the wood might well have holes in them for how many times they’ve been pinned under my gaze while my mind was in overdrive. Stains speak of long hours spent over a chicken-scratch covered notebook. The etches are a cartograph of creative moments so inspired that property damage could not be further from the mind. It is a space for chaos and of chaos.
What do you find beautiful? Anything in which you can see the artist’s hand or the artist’s mind.
— Hanya Yanagihara, in an interview for The Guardian
Over time, I’ve parted ways with many a desk, but the fantasy of a creative space—one that channels pure creative force—is alive and kicking in my mind.
“When I imagine you writing,” my friend once said to me, “I see you sitting at a heavy desk, hunched over a typewriter with a glass of whiskey by your hand”. I think I continue to disappoint him on that front, writing most of my missives on a state-of-the-art laptop and sustained by the Switzerland of drinks, ginger ale.
Nevertheless, the image of a whiskey-drinking, typewriter-using writer at a heavy-set desk in an atmospheric room has tacked itself onto my mental mood board of creative spaces. A Lord Asriel kind of room; the likes of which rich men retired to in Jane Austen novels. Only instead of a heavyset man behind a heavyset desk, there would be me: a slight, wiry woman peering owlishly from behind oversized eyeglasses and a large tome.
One day, when I’m confident enough to get away with being pretentious and steadfastly Romantic (with a capital R), I will bring that vignette to life.
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