Desk Envy: Why Writers Get Jealous

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Do you suffer from ‘desk envy’? I experienced it recently after reading a series of author interviews. In each article, the worthy scribe described their favourite writing venue. For instance: “I sit by my pool in the Algarve with a G&T” or, “at the kitchen table in my French farmhouse with a large cup of coffee”.

I never knew that the humble writing nook could be so aspirational, so Homes and Gardens, dependent on décor, atmosphere, and even what one wears.

“Oh, I just slip on a caftan hand-embroidered with gold thread that I bought in a Moroccan bazaar” or “a onesie with fluffy slippers”. Eugh!

Actually, the most important element of a writer’s wardrobe is underwear, preferably the older and baggier the better. Think big knickers where the elastic parts company with the fabric for most of your circumference. Bridget Jones eat your heart out!

Of course, like most writers, I have fantasy writing venues such as a small pavilion by a stream or a venerable library that smells enticingly of old books.

But reality is far more humble.

Like me, I suspect that most writers are nomadic in their habits.

On hot days, you might try working in the garden. However, be prepared to compete with distractions such as traffic noise, wind, wasps and unsightly plants. (I can never resist the temptation to grab a pair of pruning shears).

Libraries work for some. But, unfortunately, not for me. I can never resist the temptation of a quick kip.  Years ago, when studying for law exams in my lunch-hour, I piled books onto the library desk only to end up snoozing with my head on my arm, enjoying a well-earned respite from the office. It certainly beat trying to get 40 winks in a cubicle of the Ladies’ with my head resting on the loo-roll holder!

Some writers work at the kitchen table. But how about all those people plodding in and out for a cup of tea? Or a biscuit? Or, worst of all, a chat? If you’re there, you’re ‘spare’ and therefore available for consultation on problems ranging from blocked drains to homework.

Other authors claim to write reams in coffee-shops. But unless you shamelessly string out one latte for five hours or have a balloon-sized bladder, you’ll have to leave your post at some point to re-order or visit the loo. And how do you do that without having to pack up all your kit and take it with you? On lone visits to libraries or cafes, I spend more time packing and unpacking than working.

When it comes to writing, it’s not so much the location that matters as finding a modicum of peace, a comfortable chair and a desk with sufficient space for your clutter. The best writing spots are also dictated by the type of work.

My favourites are:

  • a lean-to desk under the bedroom window (lashed up by my husband with just enough space for a laptop – ideal for writing without distraction);
  • the dining-room table (ideal for editing with plenty of space for files, plastic wallets, sticky notes etc.) and,
  • the ironing-board (adjustable, portable and perfect for books and research materials).

All of which proves that you don’t need a purpose-built studio or a swanky holiday home – just lots of application and a quiet corner. Wherever you work well is the best place for you.

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