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A Desk with a View: On Ideal and Realistic Writing Environments

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I read an article with advice on how to create the ideal writing environment. Sometimes I fall for these things, even though I've known for years that all I get out of it is guilt. Guilt about not having a beautiful desk. Guilt about not being more organised or productive or creative.

I've spent the best part of my 20s dreaming of the day I'll have a house big enough to fit my very own desk and maybe even home-office. My ideal desk in those daydreams would be organised and clean. It would face a window, out which I will be able to gaze and attain inspiration. I would have a scented candle and tea and a couple of shelves with reference books, but not too many so that my thoughts would not be cluttered.

Then, I spent the best part of my 30s trying to work in my very own home-office. I organised and re-organised my home office, to contain my lovely desk facing the window. I had several shelves with books and papers. I carried my tea there every morning. I played my classical music and sat and stared out the window, waiting for inspiration to come. The problem was, sometimes it did come, so when it didn't I thought maybe I'm just not trying hard enough. Or maybe I need a different flavour of tea.

Here's what I learned. I work best at the kitchen table. In the middle of the messy, sometimes chaotic kitchen. In the heart of the home. That's where I sat and worked as a teenager. That's where I sat and worked as a university student. That's where I'm writing now. My kitchen got bigger after we had kids, but basically, the kitchen table is my ideal desk. My books are upstairs, so I'm not tempted to research each and every word I write. If I look up, I see the piles of dishes and laundry and think, well, maybe I have a few more words left to write. If I want tea, I'll finish the post and then make me some.

My writing environment is far from "ideal". But it works for me. My kitchen table is where the magic happens, both in my writing and in my family life. Sure, it's not "instagrammable" (even my spell checker refuses to recognise this as a legitimate word). It's not pretty, and it won't make other people jealous. And I think that's a good thing.


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