Psychology of Desk Management

Wow! That title sounds impressive doesn’t it?  It’s one of the elements of writing, the management of your desk or whatever place you choose to write.

The ideal of the perfect desk is, of course, to have a surface area unblemished with clutter and only the shiny laptop or similar instrument you use to record the diamonds of the mind.  Anyone out there whose desk fits that description raise your hand.  Now let’s take a poll on who has rings from sweaty glasses?  Sticky places left by sweet rolls or snacks?  A printer share the desk?  Is there a stack of miscellaneous printouts on top of the printer?  And maybe a stack of clean paper because when you filled it last time you knew you would need it so why not just leave it handy?  Do you have what started as a half dozen books or binders that you use often and want within reach?  And did they grow until they are a long line of various tomes that are now unmanageable and fall over or are in stacks that have to be moved hither and yon around the desk?  Sandwiched between them here and there do you have pamphlets or printouts or other information that you think, or know, you will need sometime — just not now?  There might be a pile of pictures and clippings destined for the family album that you didn’t have time to deal with and ‘just put it on the desk’ until you do have time to deal with it?  Have you had time yet?  Every desk has to have the bill holder or organizer or in and out box, whatever holds the unpaid bills or unanswered mail, sometimes from the last Christmas, or other things that will need your attention, right?  Have these things spilled over their container and now require a second pile?  There may be a business card file?  A container with pens and pencils and other miscellaneous?  A phone?  A desk lamp?  Kleenex box?  I personally can add a tape and CD player and a stack of items and binders and such that I fully intend to read before they are filed away in their final resting place on the bookshelf.  Now in the case of a writer you can add to all this your writing materials, the laptop or computer or whatever you use, your notes, charts, books and other resource materials, large paper or posters to keep track of things are used by some writers, (I do) and various sticky notes pasted everywhere the eye might catch them.

Whew!  I’m exhausted just putting all that down.  Imagine how tired I would be if I tried to clean all that up?  Occasionally I do have a day when I have a chance to work at doing just that.  I start by telling myself that I will get some of it out of the way once and for all.  This is where the psychology comes in.  One has to be a believer when one embarks on a mission.  As the hours slide by you are still stacking, moving, reading forgotten items and picking others up and thinking, “What the hell is this?”  The psychology starts to mutate at this point and you began to think that maybe just organizing the piles is, in itself, great progress.  Finally, you run out of time and everything but a few pieces of paper that made it to the shredder is still there and your psychology has further mutated to the point of being a nasty reactionary attitude.  With a few choice words, that your mama didn’t teach you, you survey the newly arranged piles and decide that is good enough.

The next step is when you sit down and like an animal turning round and round to make his bed before he settles into it, you do the same.  You put the pen container back where it was in the way, but handier, you spread one of the piles out across the desk because you may want to refer to something in it.  You move a stack of stuff off your outline or plot information and back to where it was originally.  Things get nudged here and there until you are back to the familiar and comfortable and you drift into the world of your characters and your surroundings fade and you again become a writer.  Your psychology has come full circle  — your desk never moved.