To Desk, or not to Desk

For the last few weeks – it might be longer than that actually if I’m being truthful – I’ve eschewed my carefully ergonomically set up workstation in favour of just the PocketCalculator on the living/dining room table. Well, WiFi means I can browse anywhere in Meadow Towers and there is a power socket near the table, so why not? I can be merrily computing away whilst Moose is watching something on the TV just a few feet away – companionable, but separate. Perfect.

Plus, the living room is a bit warmer.

OK, the main reason I haven’t been sitting at my desk lately is that I can’t actually see my desk for the mounds of crap that have accumulated all over it. I’m not sure which came first, the not using the desk, or the mounds of crap, but right now it’s gonna take a concerted effort, with backup teams of sherpas and medics standing by at base camp, just to find my keyboard, second screen and laptop stand under all the mess, and frankly sitting in the living room is just nicer.

I am seriously contemplating putting my computing life back where it belongs however, if only because Moose wants to make a cover for the sofa this weekend, and needs to set the sewing machine up where the PocketCalculator currently resides. Plus, you know, RSI is no laughing matter, and I’m just courting disaster with the setup I am using at this moment. And it might be nice to be able to eat dinner at the table without having to push my desk-crap to one side every time.

But… Well, here’s the rub. I have realised that I don’t like to write on the fancy duel screen set up, with the full sized keyboard and mouse. It doesn’t feel right to write like that. I much prefer the intimacy… no, intimacy is the wrong word… immediacy, of using just the laptop. I’m right there. Just my fingers on the keypad and the words appearing on the blue screen right in front of me. No distractions (when I’ve got the second screen up, it’s invariably the ‘browser’ window). Just me and the words. There’s more to it than that, I know, but at the root of it, the feel is just wrong. I never used to feel that way, then I spent a week writing, just me and the laptop, and realised that this was my preferred writing method. There wasn’t anything wrong with the other way and I demonstrably can work that way, but…

I’m not expressing myself very well.

I’m thinking back to that piece the Guardian did a while ago about different writers and their workspaces. Some people took away from that how different writers can/can’t work with computers and hailed it as the death knell of one form or the other. What I took away from it is that I’m not the only remarkably territorial writer out there. Everyone of them had a workspace that was uniquely theirs. It had to be set up just so, so they could write their best. Now, I’m not saying that what I’m bashing out in my spare time is even remotely decent or will ever see the light of day, but I do write. It’s inescapable. Writing, I have come to realise, is my thing. When I can’t do it I feel grumpy. When I don’t do it I feel grumpy. And when it’s not going well (for however you measure ‘well’), I feel grumpy.

So there’s my dilemma.

Put my computer back where it belongs on the shiny, ergonomic goodness that is my proper desk with the dual-screen setup; return the living room to being, well, the living room; maintain harmony at Meadow Towers; but not feel totally comfortable writing. Or stay on the living/dining table, court RSI and a pissed-off Moose, but be happy writing.

Logic would suggest that I go back to my desk and just not use the dual-screen etc, but since when have I ever been logical?


I’ve answered my own question really, haven’t I? It’s time to go back to the desk. Because after all, the PocketCalculator is just that – a laptop – and supremely portable. Just because I am doing the majority of my computing where I should be, it doesn’t mean I can’t make the odd excursion to the living room when the muse has descended. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to perform an archaeological investigation of my desk. If I’m not back in three hours, send in Indiana Jones will you?

11 thoughts on “To Desk, or not to Desk

  1. why am I pissed off? other than when you watching trailers or other noisey things when i’m sat on the sofa trying to read it hasn’t bothered me – and it’s not like you do that often.

  2. You’re not pissed off. Yet. But frankly it would annoy me – I mean, I have a perfectly decent desk, why aren’t I using it?!

    For those tracking my progress, I am back at my desk and it doesn’t feel right 🙁 I’ll get used to it again I’m sure, but… *sniff*

  3. aw hun

    I know what you mean about wokspaces. I have to have my desk at home and at uni just so, or I can’t do anything! I apply archaeological thought to my desk too. I have a ‘stratigraphy’ in mind. When I loose something (which I inevitably do) I know in theory what arrived before/ after it, so when I get too far down in the pile of paper work I know we have hit the wrong ‘layer’- a bit like realising you’ve hit a Roman level when you are looking for Saxon stuff. So I stop looking there and try somewhere else.

    It works, but only if I’m the only person who tidies….

  4. Perhaps desk = work and you don’t want a work-like mindset creeping in to your writing.

    I just purchased this chaise lounge to give myself a little nook for resting and writing. I’m situated near the entrance to the building, so when I’m in need of inspiration I just watching the comings and goings of my apartment-mates and make up stories about their lives.

    Oh, and mine is in a black and white damask-style print, not pure white. Because that matters.

  5. Neko – I know exactly what you mean by stratigraphy. It’s actually the way my filing works at work. And the mound of post works here at home!

    Oooh, Abi – that chaise lounge is setting my furniture-buying senses a-tingle! I have actually always wanted a chaise lounge. If only there was room at Meadow Towers. *le sigh*…

    For those worrying about my comfort at my desk, I have reached a kind of compromise, as suggested by the ever practical Moose. I am at the desk, but the laptop is on resting on the desk, not it’s stand, so I am using the laptop keyboard and not the external one. I really am happier typing at it for now, even though it was this typing like this that gave me RSI in the first place!

  6. PocketCalculators? Blue screens? Have you regressed a decade or two? I think I may need pictures for that.

    Matter of fact, pictures of the entire layout would come in handy too. And diagrams, indeed.

    Only thing I can say is the advent of my laptop changed things for me. I suggest you just carry it around and write everywhere. Stop thinking “spaces”, think output. Go mobile, nomadic, store everything online and write in the fountain in the park.

    We need to get you out of this desk/no desk cycle.

    After that things will fall in place. I think.

  7. Nils – I use an old 12″ PowerBook G4. It’s very, very cute and I adore it, but it has a surface area about the same as an open hard back book. It was jokingly dubbed the “PocketCalculator” a few years back and the name has kinda stuck. As for the blue screen reference, I use a program called WriteRoom for the majority of my writing, straying only into Word when I have to make fancy formatting.

    A picture of what it’s like when I use the external keyboard etc (with notes, though old keyboard).

    And I would love to be all mobile and nomadic like you suggest. However my battery can now hold a charge for about… ooh, 15 minutes before it dies. With no warning. One minute 80% charge, the next zero. I did check out the cost of new batteries – £80 to be mobile? Nah, I’d rather just grumble.

    That being said, I am seriously looking into getting a smart phone so I can do some moblogging and the like. But then I’ve been seriously looking for an external harddrive for three years and only got one on Thursday, so it could take me a while 😉

    And Moose – we can take it in turns to be practical.

  8. I get it now. The PowerBook still looks okay, though. You could run Leopard on that!

    As for all the gadgets the true nomadic lifestyle would involve (not to mention the effort and cost), yes, I know what you mean.

    I’d heard of WriteRoom indeed. These days, I only use Google Docs, though. At least, I’m ready to become a nomad as far as that’s concerned.

  9. I could indeed run Leopard on the PocketCalculator (possibly with a little bit of memory added first!) – before I do that though, I do need to do a completely fresh install of Tiger. It’s never been totally happy since I just laid Tiger over the top of 10.3 – there’s some performance to tweak first.

    And then, there’s nothing actually singing to me from Leopard. Tiger works for me pretty nicely to be fair.

  10. I recently used WriteRoom (actually I used DarkRoom for Windows) as well. I loved it. It just blocks everything out of my sight. I dislike my desk too, it is cluttered with cables, harddisks, memory cards etc etc. Sometimes I think my desk is too small but I think i just have too much clutter. Finding the perfect working spot is hard, I think you should just try what feels good. You can always return to your desk in two weeks if RSI really starts kicking in.

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