I just rearranged my desk.
It was getting cluttered and needed to be organized anyway, but once I began shifting things around I just kept going and going until eventually the surface was unrecognizable. My desk is big—one huge slab of fake reclaimed wood (ish), suspended by simple crossed wrought iron legs. I love it because it is massive. It takes up space in a room, but it’s simple. It’s like a blank canvas that I can decorate as I want.
For a long time, I kept things pretty standard. When I started my life after college I got a desktop computer, where I planned to do my “serious writing”(lol). Around the computer, I placed a few photographs of my family and my boyfriend—people who mean a lot to me. Beside my keyboard, I fell into the habit of keeping a notebook because sometimes I just need to write things down with a pen. My best friend from college bought me these cute Disney princess plastic clocks. She actually found two of them! I couldn’t believe it. Those were next to the photos. I also kept a porcelain antique teacup that reminds me of Beauty and the Beast next to the clocks.
That was my desk; my place of solitude. It was my haven of creation, but over time it began to take on many more roles. It was the place where I sorted through important documents. After a while, I also kept a box on my desk with my checkbook, gift cards, and other little financial tidbits inside. When we moved to our new apartment my desk also became where we set the mail. Sometimes that pile would get pretty high and I would elect to write using my laptop on the couch rather than deal with the clutter.
I think this happened because I never really made that space mine or something. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe a better way to do it is to tell you that I used to have a desk in my room at my parent’s house. Being a teenage girl, faced with a white desk, it seemed only natural at the time that I would write on the white surface. By the time I moved out that thing was coated in nail polish and sharpie—names of boys I loved, names of boys who broke my heart, quotes, little spirals and shapes, all told the story of my youthful years. That thing was always cluttered with crap. There would be empty DVD boxes (yeah, remember those?), the aforementioned bottles of nail polish, scraps of paper, journals, pens, stickers, empty cups and mugs, plates left over from the sandwich I brought downstairs—you name it, at one point it probably took up space on my desk for a week or so at a time.
But that was not where I wrote.
I also had two tables on either side of my bed. One table was on the side where I slept. The other…well, that one wasn’t really used for anything. It was tucked away beside the window to the outside at the end of the tiny little alley between my bed and the wall, only large enough for one person to really stand in at one time. One day I discovered that, if I sat on this little box I had where I stuffed all of the cords for which I could no longer remember the use, that table could be used as a kind of small desk. Better than that, tucked into the corner beside the window, it was quiet and peaceful. Somehow the noise of the house and the noise of life couldn’t reach me there. It was in that little corner of the world that I built my creative space.
Though the exact configuration of objects changed and evolved over time, there were a few things that remained the same. I always kept a painting I did once that I liked against the wall because it reminded me of what it is like to be a creative person. My collection of old fountain pens was always within reach, and I often used them to write, relishing the black and blue ink stains on my hands because they made me feel connected to my art. I also kept books in my writing space—books that were special to me at that time. The only book that I never moved was In the Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce. No, not Shakespeare or Brontë or Dostoyevsky or even Rowling (though each of those authors spent time with me over the years). My favorite book. After all, true book love doesn’t care if people study it in college.
There in my little corner of the world, I wrote pages and pages that have been lost now. I’m pretty sure I’ve since thrown them all away. You may think that’s a shame, but I don’t. It was never about all of that—grades and contests, books and publications, agents or editors. It was just me, the words, and the characters I created who taught me how to feel, how to love, how to hurt, and how to continue living no matter how painful or challenging life can be. We created magic together on my little makeshift desk. When I left for college I cried to leave it behind.
As I ventured out further into life, I found myself sacrificing that magic space—little by little, square inch by square inch—until nothing was left. Yesterday as I began to organize my desk I kept thinking of that beautiful little corner and almost without realizing it I had cleared a space. Led by my heart, my hands selected objects: my teacup, my collection of fountain pens, new artwork to hang on the wall, and books. My Norton Complete Works of Shakespeare takes up a considerable amount of real estate, but the place of honor still belongs to my tiny, worn paperback copy of In the Realms of the Gods.
I left my little corner when I was eighteen, and nearly nine years later I have finally created a new space to call mine. I swear, when I finally sat down to write yesterday I could feel that old shiver of magic in the air. I had thought that claiming a space for myself would be selfish or simply juvenile. No, I would tell myself, I just need to tidy up a bit. But the truth is, I need my magic corner of the world. When I see my little collection—my shrine to the art of writing—I feel like I’m looking at little pieces of myself, and for the first time in a long time, I desperately love what I see.
In the end, it all boils down to taking up space. As I get older, I find that I want to welcome more things into a world that used to belong just to me. I love my life, and the people in it, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to take up space for the things that feed your soul. It’s okay to rope off one tiny little corner of the world and just say “This is mine.” Paint the walls what you like, move the furniture around, keep the dishes in a different cabinet, just don’t touch this one small square. This one is special.
Magic happens here.
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