On Resistance and Roll-Top Desks

I inherited my father’s roll-top desk over a decade ago, after my parents renovated their study. It’s travelled with me from apartment to share-house to apartment, sitting in lounge rooms or the corner of my bedroom, frequently serving as a site for storage and the accumulation of junk rather than an actual work place. This is the tyranny of a modern workspace where a computer is prominently featured, and the desk was designed for an era where computers weren’t really a consideration. It was always easier to buy a small computer desk that sits in the corner work there when I needed an actual desk,, and spend the rest of my writing time on the couch or the bed.

This weekend my problems with the desk came up against another problem: the PhD needs space to spread out when I’m working, layout out research books and notepads and index cards with raw ideas so they can be absorbed and synthesised into the current work-in-progress document. Compact computer desks aren’t ideal for that, and my original plan of going to the university campus to get work done has shown itself to be a problem due to the sheer number of distracting people to catch up with on campus.The two spaces in my apartment capable of handling that kind of sprawl were the roll-top desk or my coffee table, and my shoulder was already hurting from too much time on the couch.

And so I spent some quality time cataloguing all my points of hesitation about using the desk as a workspace, addressing them one by one in order to eliminate my resistance towards using the desk as it’s intended instead of dumping bills and pulling the top down.

The computer issue is much less of an issue now, thanks to laptops, but the older design of the desk still left me with a couple  of other problems I’d never really noticed. For instance, it’s a particularly high desk – the desktop is about 82 cm off the ground – and the seat of my office chair was only 41 cm off the ground. This made typing at the desk profoundly awkward and unergonomic, until I ducked down to my local office works and acquired a new office chair that sat higher and positioned me at a comfortable typing/writing height.

That’s not the only change I’ve made. Other shifts include rearranging one of the draws – the desk has fantastically deep drawers for storage – so it is the repository of the blank notebook archive, and moving the stationary draw I never really used from the left side of the right so I don’t have to reach across my centre line to pick up a pen or an eraser with my dominant hand; I invested in a sleeker, nicer in/out tray so that I don’t have the option of letting things stack up so much.

All of these are little things, yes, but they were still a slight drag on my process the moment I even thought of working at the desk that contributed to the feeling that doing something else was preferable.

Over the weekend I did the bare amount of changing and testing to get me working at the space, in addition to setting up a long-list of things to try as I settle in to really fine-tune the process. For now, it seems to be working okay, and it has a distinct advantage in its ability to literally shut down my access to work when it’s finally time to settle and relax without feeling guilty.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

The white-boards are basically running my life at the moment, keeping me focused on shifting priorities. I’ve got an application going in Tuesday and my thesis synopsis going in Friday, but I also want to get some short fiction moving again. Top of the list is a rewrite of a story that kinda started out as a version of Hills Like White Elephants on Mars, took a left turn through Film Noir, and now seems to be heading somewhere else entire.

What’s inspiring me this week?

Abstract, the Netflix documentary series about design and designers. 40 minutes at a time, with an individual designer as the subject paired with a different documentary director, with results that range from the brilliant (the episodes of illustration, architecture, photography, and typography) to the interesting (the episode about Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield) to the blah (the episode about Chrysler and car design), but it’s always got something in the episode you can take away as a creative.

And, honestly, if you can watch the episode about Bjarke Ingels without wanting to move into his figure eight apartment complex (or, at least, write a story set there), you are doing far, far better than I am.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

I’ve got two papers that need to be summarised for the PhD, which I’ve been putting off because they’re dense and complex and not as much fun as some of the other theory I’ve been reading. I really need to set aside a couple of hours to struggle with stuff that’s going to be much harder to understand and get it clear in my head.

Hornets Attack Your Best Friend Victor

Hornets Attack Your Best Friend Victor and Other Things We Called the Band is probably the longest title I’ve ever used for a short story, and it’s still shorter than the working title I used all through the first draft. The finished version is currently published at Speculate, the short-story series hosted by Evil Girlfriend Media.

The title for this one is a pretty direct homage to REM, who used the name Hornets Attack Victor Mature to book a secret gig in their home town back in the 80s. It’s the sort of thing one picks up when one is seventeen and obsessively reading band biographies, and it stuck in my head for twenty-two years before I finally started building a story out of it to justify the mental bandwidth it’s taken up over the years.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

I’m sent a story out to beta last week and got comments back, so my main goals this week are revising the story draft and getting my thesis synopsis together ahead of a meeting with my supervisor this Friday (and submitting it for assessment a week after that).

What’s inspiring me this week?

Man, so much theory and critical work could get slot right now, but let’s go with John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture. I’m barely a third of the way through Thompson’s examination of the publishing industry, but his break-down of the types of capital at work in publishing immediately got me thinking about how useful it would have been two or three years ago when I wanted to try and explain those concepts in classes. There is a strong possibility there will be blog posts in the next few weeks based upon my reading.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

Finally feel like I got a grip on everything over the last week, so I’m finally looking at the content of what I’m doing instead of my general need to be doing it in this section. In this case, I’ve got a short story revision that I’ve been doing for the last few days that hit a stall point when I realised that sitting down and revising it further would both be a) time-consumingly challenging to do, and b) increasingly likely to send it spiralling out past a usable word count where I can get the thing published. I’ve been reluctant to go back to it for about 48 hours now, and I’ll probably let it slide for much longer if I don’t actually think through those two problems.

Friday is a collection of small things

For the first time in a long time, Fridays are a day where I’m primarily writing and researching. Here are some things that have been on my mind this week.

  • Angela Slatter launched a Patreon this morning. It’s full of shiny options for supporting her career and getting cool things in return. You know what to do.
  • Cat Rambo is doing a re-read of a whole bunch of Doc Savage novels and making notes about her thoughts as she goes along. The first of them covers Doc Savage: Quest of Qui, and I’m largely flagging this here for my friend Chris who is my designated person-I-talk-to-when-I-talk-about-pulps.
  • Bloomberg has a guide to making incredible nachos that makes me excessively hungry and glad there’s a Guzmon and Gomez on campus.
  • Chris Hemsworth continues to be an adorable Thor, who is,in turn, a terrible flatmate.
  • Kat Mayo did an incredible piece on lazy journalism about feminism and romance fiction, to which I basically find myself nodding and going, yes, all of this, over and over.
  • Sending off a story to beta readers about six seconds after I hit publish on this post. This is the first in a long time, but I’m quietly hoping I can finish a second story before next Friday.
  • This weeks writing has primarily been done to the funkiest horn section in Metropolis.

Routines

My friend Allan has a useful theory about running weekly games when you’re in your all in your forties and people have lives: you don’t run the game for the people who aren’t there; you run the game for the people who show up. You don’t cancel because someone can’t attend, you game regardless and people will either start showing up or fall by the wayside.

It works incredibly well when you are the one who shows up every week, less effectively when the person running the game is the one most prone to flaking out.

Tonight, I’m running a session of my superhero campaign for the first time in about eight months. It fell off the weekly to-do list months ago, right about the time I started loosing grip on 2016, and by the time I was coherent enough to actually think about running sessions many of the players were doing other things with their Thursday nights.

I kept waiting for a clear spot in everyone’s schedule to restart, but no such spot exists. Even now, multiple people are going to disappear on holidays before the month is out. One of them will move house. We will spend the first few weeks working around absences.

Honestly, the only time February is good for is me, but…

Look, this week has been the first where I felt like I’m settling into a new normal. I’ve gotten things done for GenreCon; I’m writing regularly for the first time in months; I’ve answered my email and maintained my systems and I haven’t lived on pizza and chips and ungodly amounts of carbonated beverages.

This is the month where I add in habits that need maintaining, otherwise I the new normal calcifies and becomes the new routine until something comes along to break things up.

And so, tonight, we game.