Article from ‘Writerly Quarter’, the magazine that tells you all what you should be writing and never how:
Every writer daydreams at least once about it. Big and imposing, or small and sleek, or “chabby chic” (if Ebay is anything to go by) – we all have our vision of what our perfect desk looks like, even, and especially if, we are employed at an office. Sod’s law says it all – we never have that perfect writing surface, and we will always want it.
Admittedly, there are other things to take into consideration when designing your workspace. Light, for example. View, not so much – you’re not supposed to be looking out the window, after all – but a big window right by your desk does wonders for the soul. Chairs are also important, though less so in recent years. If you are not of the treadmill desk persuasion, you probably want something that you enjoy sitting on (so that you’re not tempted to go for a walk), and a nice back support for the rare occasions you straighten up from whatever it is you were working on.
But any chair choice depends on what desk you have and how much room you can work with.
General rule of thumb – leave plenty of space for your legs. Even if your mojo is to sit Turkish-style on top of your chair, you’d want your knees not to bump against anything during the process. And make sure there is plenty of space for you to sit spread-legged. Ladies, this isn’t Mad Men – there is no need to sit all prim and proper, unless you want to. If anyone has issue with seeing your knickers, they may get out from under your desk and leave you to work. (Notable exception – if your desk is in front of a full-length window and there is no modesty panel. In which case – turn your chair or your desk and carry on as usual.)
Speaking of room, this depends on everyone’s style, but it’s a good idea to leave some space for your elbows, if only for those moments when you drop your head in your hands and wonder why you didn’t take up accounting instead. The rest… well, it’s up to you. Do you keep a lot of reference books on hand, or are you a one-thing-at-a-time person? Do you like the visual imagery of only one thing in a big empty desk, or do you tend to fill it up with random bric-a-brac? (Conversely, do you want less bric-a-brac?) Do you consider reading stands genius, or a waste of money? Do you do your typing outside of the home, or the other way round?
Finally, consider your reading choices. Coffee or tea? Filter or press? Plain water from a screw-on bottle, or do you only rehydrate after washing your hands? Are you a smoothie drinker? A juicer? If so, do you use Mason jars, or are regular cups good enough for you? Consider how sticky any mess can be, and plan for it.
If you have an important talisman or a favourite book, of course, pick a desk that allows them to have a place of honour. I emphasise the latter for a good reason – we writers, especially in the throes of a block, may be prone to commemorating every milestone with a souvenir. First 1000 words. First manuscript. First agent rejection. There are so many stories that you can tell about these talismans. BUT without some discrimination, you may just drown your desk in coffee mugs, and there won’t be room for so much as a post-it to write on. Your desk is where you do your present work. Pick the things that will ground you to it.
Finally, for the love of all fuck, do not put “instagrammable” anywhere near your list of requirements. There is a good reason why writing is likened to childbirth – everyone is in awe of the result, but nobody goes into the delivery room unless they have business there. Gawking onlookers are rarely welcome, and they certainly have no say in what the delivery table looks like.
And let’s face it – writers write on anything. Windowsills, cramped trains, sitting on their suitcases, in a moving car, breathlessly dictating notes halfway through a run, on the midnight queue for a new Harry Potter book. I myself write this standing by the kitchen counter, occasionally changing my standing leg and taking a swig of cold coffee. We don’t wait for an agent or a publisher, sometimes, sending our writings into the ether on blogs, or self-publishing on Amazon. Many write before they can write – telling stories to their dolls or the shadows underneath their beds.
If we don’t even wait for written language, why should we wait for a desk?