footer_bio_white.jpg

Jason Gurley

By day, I'm a user experience designer; by evenings/weekends, I write novels from my home in Scappoose, Ore. My newest is Awake in the World, due February 2019 from Roaring Brook Press; my most recent, Eleanor, was published by Crown in 2016 and has since been translated into German, Portuguese, and Turkish.

Desks analog and digital

I discovered Austin Kleon's work earlier this year. If you don't know him, he's a writer and artist from Austin, Texas, who has written a few books (Steal Like an ArtistShow Your Work) and a fascinating blog and newsletter about, among other stuff, making art. Quite a lot of his writing is about the process of making things, and along the way, he's revealed a lot about his own methods. 

And this one totally fascinated me: 

I have two desks in my office. One's analog and one's digital. The analog desk has nothing but markers, pens, pencils, paper, and newspaper. Nothing electronic is allowed on the desk. This is how I keep myself off Twitter, etc. This is where most of my work is born. The digital desk has my laptop, my monitor, my scanner, my Wacom tablet... This is where I edit, publish, etc.

(Kleon also discusses this a bit in the wonderful Hurry Slowly podcast, which I've just recently stumbled upon.) 

My office has one desk in it right now. My laptop is there, and a big monitor, and four big external hard drives, and a keyboard and Wacom tablet and a Bluetooth speaker. Lots of opportunities for distraction on that desk. Writing by hand at that desk is an inconvenience: I have to shove aside all the things that are already there, taking up space, to make room for a paper notebook. The notebook never quite fits; it's always bumping into the monitor stand or the keyboard or the laptop stand. 

But if I had a second desk, one devoted to writing by hand...

The challenge is this: my home office, while larger than the one I leased, is an odd, narrow rectangle. There's not a lot of room in it at present for an extra desk. Today, though, Felicia was at IKEA with a friend of hers, who was considering buying a yellow wingback chair. Just...like...the one in my office. If I were to give our friend the yellow chair...I might have room to put a second desk in my space. 

You can see where this is going. Our friends are going to pick the chair up right away. I don't have a desk to put in the space yet, but that's okay. Squish is a little sad we're getting rid of a chair that she often sits in to read or play games when she hangs out in my office—but she's also excited that doing so will make room for a desk of her own. (She always wants to work at my current desk, which is difficult because I work at that desk, and where's a six-year-old supposed to get some work done?)

I'm limited, still, in where the desk can be stationed in my office, mostly because I made the mistake of over-personalizing my office when we moved in two years ago. The walls are blanketed in framed art and photographs, which means if I ever want to rearrange furniture, I will have to pry that art from the walls. I used a lot of those picture-hanging strips when I placed that art, since those strips claim they'll come off a wall without a trace. Well, last weekend, a picture fell from my wall because one of those strips gave out. And the strip totally tore a layer of paint from the wall when it did. Which means if I want to rearrange, not only will I need to remove art from the wall, but I'll probably have to repaint the whole damn room. And if I'm going to repaint, I should probably rip the linoleum floor up—I hate it—and replace it with something more pleasant. And if I'm going to do that, then maybe I should put a layer of planking over the walls to give the office a cozier feel. And if I'm going to do that...

Sigh. All for want of a desk at which to write in a notebook.

I knew my recent pencil-and-paper fixation was going to cause problems. 

But they're good problems. They're all making me work better. Maybe even a little more smarterer.

Update 8/14: 

Writing as verb and noun

Bald-headed stranger