On Ravens & Writing Desks

12 Feb

How is a raven like a writing desk? Well, in my case, they’re both glossy black and perch high, staring out at rooftops. Also? They both steal and hide all my shiny treasures.

It’s a funny thing. I bought a writing desk two weeks ago, and now all my shiny muses have gone MIA. I sit at the pretty little thing in the corner of my bedroom, surrounded by glorious windows, snowcapped mountains, miles of blue sky, and sunshine, and my mind is blank.

Then I start eyeing my old desk.

My old desk was my bed, pillows piled high behind my back, every spring in my ancient mattress jabbing me in most painful fashion, and a rather inadequate plastic bedtray holding my wheezing overheated laptop above my trapped legs. In this exalted spot, I wrote hundreds of thousands of words — many of them perfectly cromulent — but it was ergonomically lacking, and it often led to mountains of papers and books stealing my husband’s spot beside me. Furthermore, I couldn’t rise without the back-straining fun of lowering laptop and tray to the ground, so I rarely did. I wrote late into the night, woke in the wee hours with thoughts of my stories, and the first thing I did in the morning was lift that burden back onto my legs.

Since getting this desk, a strange transformation has occurred.

My bed is now…a bed.

I sit at my desk, and…oh, look at that cozy bed…  I lose the urge to write. I just want a nap. And, when I’m not napping, I find myself reading. I’ve read like a fiend from this intriguing new land of Bed. It’s been glorious, but when I wake in the wee hours now, my thoughts are full of these other novels. It’s kind of disconcerting. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about those words or characters. Three a.m. is not the hour for literary analysis or technical comparisons.

Damn if my mind isn’t trying, however.

(Especially since The Rejectionist inspired me to read Elizabeth Hand’s novella Illyria this week. It’s beautiful, haunting, and there’s a note of magic/mystery that I can almost but not quite get a grasp on. My mind keeps going around and around on it, and I don’t know if there’s any final destination to be had, or if it’s even important. But the wee hours are good for that circular sort of anxiety and confusion. Aunt Kate… Emerald rings… Sob-inducing voices… Theaters…)

And my own words. I have none. I’ve sat on the rug and made index cards for my storyboard. I’ve made one or two blog posts. I wrote a one-paragraph message to an old friend. But I’m just not feeling it.

I am a creature of habit. Change really throws me off-kilter these days. And apparently my muses are terrible at reading maps. Hopefully they’ll pull over for directions soon, reach this new desk, and this old dog will learn the trick of a new workspace.

Do changes in your routine throw you off, too? Do you have some sort of constant that eases transition for you (music, lighting, a space, a picture, etc.)?  Do you prefer variety? Do you know of a good GPS system for slowpoke muses?

2 Responses to “On Ravens & Writing Desks”

  1. Elizabeth Twist February 17, 2011 at 18:49 #

    Hey Caroline –

    I’m about to get a little woo woo on ya by sharing an anecdote. A few years ago, a friend who had studied feng shui did a consultation for me. He told me my desk was pointing in the wrong direction for me (this is based on an elaborate numerical calculation determined by your year of birth). I said, “But I like it where it is.” He said, “Do you use it?”

    I had to confess that I more often wrote at the kitchen table.

    He advised me on the direction I should face when I work. I rearranged my living room, which was also my study.

    Suddenly I was using my desk a lot more. It just…seemed more appealing.

    The short version of this story is: according to feng shui, we all have good and bad compass directions. Good directions keep us mellow, happy, focused and productive. Bad directions stimulate bad luck, confusion and fog brain. So I guess feng shui could be considered a GPS for your muse?

    I figured out how to do these elaborate calculations (in case you want to know, email me…or I might do a blog post sometime soon…hmm). A shortcut may be to figure out if you can point your desk in the same direction you sit when you’re in bed.


    • Caroline February 17, 2011 at 19:46 #

      Hmm… The two places I normally write (bed & kitchen table) both face north. My desk faces southeast. Interesting. My back is to the door — something I’ve never liked, although it’s usually because people in an office would look over my shoulder. Also, the writing into a corner thing could hardly be more metaphorical. It might be time for a bit o’ furniture shifting. I’ll email you. 🙂

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