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Where it all starts...

Writers often like to talk about their writing spaces, which means, of course, the space where they write, a room with a view, writers’ retreats, coffee shops, forested cabins or beachside cabanas. For many writers, this means everything, and the act of writing cannot be completed without the right vibe, the right space, the right feng shui. For other writers, this idea is not such an important one—the iconic Eudora Welty once said in an interview that she could write in hotel rooms, that she often wrote on scraps of paper that happened to be at hand. Anton Chekov was a medical doctor, and scribbled out his stories between patients, on the backs of his prescription pads. I’m more in the latter camp, perhaps because since I first started publishing short stories, I have lived in 10 different dwellings spread across three different states.  But one thing has always been very important to me, and I’m not sure I could write without it…


My desk.

It’s not much of a desk; in fact, it’s not really a desk at all.  It doesn’t have any drawers, not even a top drawer for loose paperclips and staples and pens. No drawers, no cubbies, no rolltop. Technically, it qualifies as a trestle table—just a flat slab of wood held up by pillars on either end.  But here’s the thing…two things, really.  Every piece of writing I have ever completed and published has been created at this desk, and the desk itself was a creation of my own hands.

In other words…I built this desk, the first year I started taking writing seriously.

Let’s make one thing clear:  I don’t have any woodworking skills. I don’t have any woodworking tools. I made this from a plan I found in an old copy of Popular Mechanics, pre-internet days. I had to borrow some tools from a neighbor, including a drill, drill bits, and a socket wrench set (yes, it’s bolted together). I sanded it by hand, stained it in my tiny apartment with polyurethane.  And I have been writing on it for close to 40 years now.

You can see in the photos enough to give you an idea of what it looks like. Of course, the photos themselves are a kind of fiction, because I cleaned up my desk before I took them (pretty much every writer in the world has a messy desk). But you can see the bolts, you can see the poly finish, you can see the 2 x 4s and butcher-block top that comprise its parts. 

So why did I make this thing I love instead of just heading to the furniture store or Lowes and buying a desk like a normal person?

Honestly, I’m not sure if I could have articulated it at the time, but I knew it felt important. Somehow, this desk makes the whole process of writing feel more organic to me. Like the roots of a tree pushing deep into the ground, giving rise to leaves and flowers and fruit, this desk—a creation of my own hands—has given rise to hundreds of thousands of words, supported late nights of frustration and joy, carried the faint scars of scratched out notes and coffee cup rings. It has done so humbly—there is nothing beautiful or ornate about this desk, but every time I sit at it, I feel my own need to put words to paper rising up through it, like sap in the spring.

A few times I’ve talked about replacing it. I mean, drawers would be nice to have. But—as I’m sure you’ve realized by now—that’s never going to happen.


Comment below, and tell me about your writing space, your desk, your special pen or laptop or typewriter. I’d love to hear it.












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Gast
03. Juni

It’s a good desk and looks to have served it’s creator or fabricator well.

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