Just a short note: Rusty, in his usual chair, is my co-author while I’m writing at my desk. 

In my mid-fifties, I decided I wanted a desk built by my father. He was skilled at wood working and he made beautiful pieces—bookshelves, afghan racks for quilt displays, chairs, and small doll benches for his grandchildren. For years, I had wanted him to make a writing desk for me. Finally, he agreed. “Really simple Dad,” I said as I roughly sketched my idea at their kitchen table. I didn’t want anything more than four legs, one drawer, and an average-sized top. I dreamed of placing it in front of a window, gazing outside as I wrote.

It was a few months before the desk was complete. My mother told me over the phone it was finished. “It’s beautiful,” she said.  Living in Arizona with them in Nebraska, I couldn’t wait until my visit the next month to see it. My parents and sister, who was also visiting them, were sitting at the kitchen table when I entered. My mother excitedly said, “It’s in the sunroom,” as if there had been a new baby in the family. We three went into the sunroom, my father following. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was incredible. Made of oak, it had scalloped lines, four small drawers on top, one on both sides and a large one in the middle. A curved foot rest was added. It had been repeatedly varnished and shone like a newly waxed kitchen floor. 

And then, my chest tightened, and tears started, soon to become sobbing. My sister and mother had tears, also. “Thank you, Dad,” I repeated over and over. He never directly looked at me and I knew not to hug him, he didn’t like it. I also knew it was his hindered way of attempting to mend the painful, long-lasting relationship we’d had since I was a child; that he could not, nor would he, do anymore to address it. 

It was all I could expect of him and it somehow healed a deep wound inside. Once in a great while, I find myself disappointed he didn’t listen to what I wanted, not a fancy one, just a simple desk. He overrode me, but that’s how our relationship was. He had final say. He didn’t know me at all. Still, I am grateful for the desk. It’s a reminder he tried and I was able to forgive. Isn’t that what we all want? To forgive and be forgiven.

The Writing Desk

Watercolors, paintbrushes, easels, canvas, and oils—a desk was not necessary. That’s all I needed from grade school into my late twenties. In the early 80s, as I applied to elementary schools for employment, I went late at night to my husbands’ office to practice on a typewriter, then eventually bought my electric one. Thank goodness it had a backspace that auto-deleted. This Marmaduke sat wherever I could find a spot.

Later on, during a short break between jobs, I decided to take two-semester classes, Writing 101 and Beginning French, and a six-week non-credit course in Creative Writing. I used the bar area in our kitchen, perched on a tall stool to do homework and write while my son was at school, and my husband was at work. By the late 1990s, I had acquired a simple smaller used office desk, with two drawers on each side that my husband and I shared. I began to write and paint less.

When I got a ‘room of my own’ as Virginia Wolf cried out that every writer should have,  I wanted my desk with privacy. Shortly after my husband and I drove back to Illinois to visit family. While there, I found this little treasure in the cellar of my grandparents’ farmhouse. It wasn’t exactly a writing desk, but it had history, a story. I toted the desk with four water-soaked legs up the stairs to a local wood restorer. I planned to pick it up on a future trip back to Illinois from Tucson. This piece was probably a hall table or a small kitchen side table. The restorer did wonders in reviving its pale wood to a walnut luster and its surface smooth as a worn stone. I used an old table chair (found in a barn) and this became my writing space. The desk was just long enough to house my small laptop, a notebook, pens, disks, and one cat, which much of the time sat on my notebooks. We both wrote happily in my studio with no phones, no TV, and no visitors unless invited.

In time, a piece of property became available two houses down the street from where we currently lived. We bought, remodeled, and added a studio off the master bedroom as before, but a bit larger. I seriously wanted to replicate my ‘room of my own’ and I now wanted a true writing desk. The little farm table could fit in the entryway. I shopped in person locally and in other states as I traveled. Online, mail order catalogs until one day, two years later, I found it from a pop-up advertisement on my computer. The depth of the desk was narrow which I liked. Everything looked as if it could be within arm’s reach with space in between. It had three file drawers, two smaller ones, and a long middle drawer with built-in wood dividers. I called Pottery Barn and indeed they had a floor model. I threw on my shoes and went to see. I chose the white wood and the desk was delivered within two weeks. I lingered in glorious hours and days arranging files of to-be-written novels, blank and filled notebooks, cards, pens, sticky notes, an antique magnifying glass, submissions accepted and rejected, past and present short-shorts, scribbles, notes and our writers group history and so much more. One of my favorites about the ‘look’ of this desk is three of the six drawers are louvered which match the master bath and closet doors. Such perfect planning, or a happy accident?

The second feature was the extra length of this desk. At first, I hesitated because this was uncommon for an office or writing desk. It turned out to be ideal because it lent itself to my new paper cutter, a few reference books, more cups full of colored pens and pencils, and most importantly, company at each end to muse and amuse as I write. 

Prompt 12-29-22

Where is your writing place?

All writers need a place. As Virginia Woolf famously wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” She ultimately found that the room she created specifically to write did not entirely do the trick. She often contemplated and wrote outdoors. She imagined stories while walking the quadrangles of Oxford or strolling through a garden. But the quote in part has come to signify the importance of a solitary place to write. In fact, I know writers who thrive on writing in busy coffee shops that are the antithesis of quiet sinecures of contemplation. They create their own solitude within an impenetrable shell of concentration. I am entirely too distracted in that setting by people-watching and eavesdropping. Each to their own I say. Personally, I like to write while sitting on my patio in the quiet of early morning with only birds as my background chorus. I also have a room of my own. When I close the door, the muse cannot escape; it is trapped in the struggle of my creative tug-of-war. To quote Mrs. Woolf again, “a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself”. In my room, I have a desk. My desk once belonged to my mother and I treasure its history. My desk is cluttered, unlike its life with my mother. When I think of writing, especially if I plan a long period dedicated to that pursuit, I think of my desk. It is my place. PROMPT: Write a short essay on your writing place, your desk – whether it be in a room of your own, in the kitchen, at a library table, a notebook on your lap – wherever. What does it mean to you? Our writers’ group will each write about their desk in our blog posts next week.