Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Shane Neilson for DESK SPACE

What are these giant mounds? It may seem like a visual pun, but the truth is: I write on my laptop. I have no real desk per se; I write anywhere, when there is time. What if someone is in the same room, watching television? I just put earphones in. Papers are scattered throughout the house; books are piled up everywhere, so there is not a discrete picture I can send which is representative of a writer's space.

Why do I do this? Because I've found the very need for space claustrophobic. When the writing is going well, I take it as my due; when the writing is going poorly, I've found I begin to blame where I am, if that place is static. So I've stopped using a dedicated space and have become more flexible. My wife is happier with that arrangement; it doesn't create a resentful no-go zone for her. It used to be that I needed routine, I needed "space" cleared away; but now I'm taking Tom Waits' advice when he referred to the barroom phase of his career, when he found that his hands on the piano were like old dogs: going to the same old places. Time for new tricks.

This horrible floral couch is like a butterfly bush: I alight here sometimes. It is outside of shouting distance of my family, and if there is any locus of me being "away" from them it is here. Though I am often interrupted and am never really free. But really it's just me and the laptop; I don't think of this place as a refuge or den, merely a place where I am at just one remove. Again, there is no desk.

Acquiescing to the raison d'etre of this site, perhaps the most important desk in my life is the one that holds the accoutrements of writing: soda, coffee, remote control, pen, phone. I never write on it, it's too low and at the wrong angle, but the computer may rest on it when I'm done or about to start. Because it is not recognized as "mine", you might see snacks on it (my wife's) and tissue (my daughter's), as you do in this picture. We're messy!

I have purposely not shown bookshelves (boring) because these are technically not desk spaces. My own shelves are perhaps interesting because I have never sold a book; I have all the books that I have ever and never read. This means that I need bigger and bigger homes as the years pass. My poor parents- their basement is festooned.



DS When?

SN I was first a reader, and that remains inveterate. My first chapbook was published with Frog Hollow Press in 2003. My first trade collection comes out with Biblioasis in 2009. I like to think that there will be more, but when is so demanding a question, Miss Christie!

DS Where?

SN Anywhere. I am not the prissy ordered sort that requires a dedicated space. I write as my daughter bounces around, as my wife asks where I managed to lose the remote. I am interrupted often and only resent that a little. Music is always playing. Sometimes the CFL on TSN is on mute. Or the poor old Leafs. Or my wife, who has found the remote and switched on Coronation Street.

DS Why?

SN Well, I object to the smoking part of this question. I would. After all, I'm a doctor. Smoking is very, very stupid. But... I write anywhere because my wife feels I am more a part of the family that way: she hates me disappearing for hours on end. So I learned to write amidships.


Evie Christie said...

object away, Mr. Neilson!

Zachariah Wells said...

Ahem, that's Dr. Neilson to you, Evie.

Evie Christie said...

You both know that is just not going to happen.