Writing Would Be Perfect if I Lived in that Catalog*

Elizabeth Ames Staudt
August 2, 2010
Comments 3

It’s lovely to look at other people’s bookshelves and desks; I could do it all day. I also love any article where writers describe their work habits, or their favorite tools, or where the contents of somebody’s handbag are dumped out, photographed, and annotated.

alphabet pencil sculptures by Dalton Ghetti

[via]

Daydreaming about how much writing one would get done if only one’s space were as clean/spare/cozy/colorful/comfortable/resplendent/equipped-with-remote-control-mountaineer’s-harness as someone else’s is, like nearly every form of procrastination, aided immensely by the Internet (aside: Ping-Squirt-Sabbath-Saturdays are a success so far). While virtual home tours cannot replace the intimacy of estate sales or the strange, cookie-dough-candle-scented sterility of open houses, you can look at a whole lot more in less time, and you don’t have to feel quite as creepy about pawing through the silverware of the recently deceased, or taking a home tour when you wouldn’t even have qualified for a subprime loan in 2006. The Internet supersizes fantasies.

new yorker cover august 9 2010

Dropped or tossed?

One of the best things I got from the Transient Tour 2009-10 (a period of 11 months where my name wasn’t on a lease) was an ability to write more easily in places that were not my home. In graduate school I always preferred to work at my desk, in silence. I envied my roommate who could bang out beautiful, lyrical chapters of her novel-in-progress even while Extreme Home Makeover: ??ber-Emotionally-Manipulative Wooden-Boats-for-Bedframes Edition played in the background. I still haven’t reached that level of focus, but I’ve come a long way when it comes to working in public places or other people’s guest rooms.

catalog living 'tempted by it' screenshot

Lots more about Elaine (& Gary) here.

Now, though, the tour is over and I’m putting down semi-permanent roots outside of Boston. I have the opportunity to start fresh with my workspace. My desk has nothing on it yet but my laptop; a small wooden box that holds pens; and a wonky, mustard-colored lamp that needs replacing. But I unpacked entire crates of old desk-related things: office supplies by the boxload (Seriously, does anyone need any stationary? Post-its? Pens that might have a month or two left in them?); quotes and poems and pictures and posters, all meant to move me in some way; tchotchkes and totems that I have a hard time believing did, at any time, anything more than remind me of my own mortality (moving can be a little bit grim, no?). I don’t know. Maybe I’ll hold off on unpacking and let new knickknacks earn their places, crowd around the lamp and penholder. Maybe I’ll finally kick my packrat tendencies and have a nice, spare workspace. Maybe it will be just like in the catalogs–everything perfectly in its place, everything beautiful, nobody there.

*Post title tweaked from Meghan Daum’s new book, Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in That House.

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