My Pretend Workspace and the Desk of Doom

Thanks to a recent twitter conversation, there has been a small flurry of blog posts from writers talking about their writing spaces. So far Lou Morgan, Laura Lam, Andrew Reid and Stephen Aryan have shown us around the rather lovely places where they do the bulk of their writing work – I recommend going and having a look. There is something infinitely pleasing about a creative space, and the things they choose to fill it with.

The truth about my writing space is, I don’t have one. Or, more accurately, I take it with me. I have a (slightly battered) netbook and a (less than sane) number of notebooks, and they all get shoved in my enormous laptop backpack and dragged to a variety of cafes, libraries, and the sorts of pubs that open at 9am. I find it difficult to concentrate at home, you see. I prefer to be in an anonymous space, where the cat/the washing up/the xbox aren’t staring at me in attention-seeking tones of mute accusation (there are things living in the tea cups, Jennifer, and when are you going to finish that eighth playthrough of Mass Effect?). I like being out and about anyway, because strangers can be dead interesting. Anyone who follows my twitter feed knows that you get some fascinating characters in pubs at 9.30 in the morning.

But I do have a writing desk at home, in the tiny yellow room we call the Box Room, and I have written at it – mostly at weekends, when I’m feeling virtuous. Mainly though, it serves as a place of totems and charms, a place that I can exist in and think about stuff. It’s a tip most of the time, as are most places that are connected to me, but I have taken a few pictures of the main features for the curious, and will attempt to explain some of the mess.

nano certificate

 

Pictures are quite important to me. I use a lot of blu-tac. Here you can see my first ever Nanowrimo certificate for the book Bird and Tower, which was back in, I want to say, 2008? Bird and Tower was a children’s fantasy book, a sort of gender-reversed Rapunzel with some genetic engineering thrown in there. My other Nanowrimo certificates are above this one (for Ink for Thieves, Dead Zoo Shuffle and The Snake House I think) and I like to have them up there as a reminder that I am utterly capable of writing 50,000 words in a month. Sometimes you really need reminders like that. Below the certificate you can also see a postcard from my final year at art college – the project was about depicting weird memories from early childhood, and this one was about a boy who remembered feeding a giant slug in his back garden. To the right of that are some postcards from Spirited Away, one of my favourite films ever, and a quote I printed out from George R.R Martin about Fantasy being written in the language of dreams. You know the one.

the boys

I like action figures. And video games. These guys are some of my favourite characters, and when I’m struggling with something I like to ask, “What would Marcus Fenix do?” Well, blow the fucking shit out of everything, obviously. From left to right we have Thane from Mass Effect 2, Duncan from Dragon Age, Garrus from Mass Effect, Marcus Fenix from Gears of War, an armoured alligator with a sword, and down in front, The Chamberlain from The Dark Crystal. Beyond the D20’s you can also see one of my dad’s belt buckles, a shiny green eagle’s head.

fafhrd

This is probably one of the most important pictures in my writing space. It’s a portrait of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser from Mike Mignola’s comic, and I love it. There is so much I love about Fantasy in this picture – the darkness of it, the various belts and weapons, the overly confident poses. I always look at this and wonder what a version with Wydrin and Sebastian would look like. They would stand exactly the same way I think, only Wydrin would be smirking and Sebastian would probably look faintly long-suffering. The Copper Promise is a love letter to Fritz Leiber’s kind of sword and sorcery, and looking at this picture always reconnects me to that.

oathbreaker

Here you can just about see the hilt of my larping sword. I named it Oathkeeper, although when labelling the photo I called it Oathbreaker, so I think it has a bit of a dual personality. When I’m writing lots of action scenes it’s pleasant to be able to pick up a sword and swing it about a bit. It’s not as heavy as a real sword, obviously, and I’m in no danger of decapitating anyone, but it gets me in the mood anyway. Also on the wreckage of my desk, not pictured, is a real dagger (pointy, but not sharpened) called Frostling, after one of Wydrin’s claws. It is very cool.

pinboard

Just to demonstrate that some actual work does happen in this room, here is my pin board, currently covered in bits and pieces about the sequel to The Copper Promise. It isn’t attached to the wall because I like to carry it around the flat sometimes, so I can do planning in the living room or the bedroom (the Box Room is bloody freezing in the winter).

And finally, the cat. She normally hangs around in the Box Room until she decides that the things on my desk all look better on the floor, at which point she is hurriedly booted out the door with a few well aimed swear words. She does look quite cute in this picture though.

pyra

 

So what about you? Do you have a space where you work, and it is filled with lovely things? Blog it and tag me and let’s all be nosy. Oh, and infinite cookies of win to anyone who can name any of the unnamed toys and pictures…

Being a Geek, Being an Angry Geek, and Being a Tiresome Assclown

Gandm

You know, I am quite proud to be a geek. I grew up a geek, with my glasses and my Star Trek novelizations tucked under one arm, and yeah, I got bullied for it, but it didn’t stop me. And these days being labelled a geek isn’t the insult it once was – we rule the cinema listings and reading comics is cool now – and yes, I am proud to be a geek.

I see being a geek as being filled with enthusiasm for something. Loving a thing so much – loving a story, essentially – that you want to know all the details of it, that you spend time discussing it and pondering the history of that story and its future. You surround yourself with stuff that takes you to that story in an instant; this is why my desk currently features action figures of Garrus, Marcus Fenix, Duncan from Dragon Age, and The Chamberlain from The Dark Crystal. It’s why above my desk there is artwork from Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and the Discworld books.

I love being a geek, and I consider other geeks to be an extended family. My people, if you will.

Which is why I’m filled with dismay when fandom seems to tip over into trolling. Yes, we’ve all had our moments of being horribly disappointed with where the story you love is going. Anyone who knew me a few years ago knows all about my extreme upset over the end of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I threw the book across the room, I wrote essays on how outraged I was. I had, in short, a tantrum of silly proportions. I didn’t like Prometheus either, and spent days afterwards listing all the many ways in which it didn’t make sense. But…

But at no point did I seek out the creators of those things to hurl abuse at them. Why not? Because that’s not what being a geek is about. If I can have a moment to be a little bit soft? Being a geek is about love, not hate.

There’s nothing wrong with being disappointed or even angry. Of course not. Rant about it all you like. Sometimes we get angry because we love something so much – my anger over the end of the Dark Tower was all about how much love I’d put into the series. But there is a line that once crossed means you are actually behaving like a pissy little child with poopy pants. A pissy little brat that enjoys bitching about something and spreading misery, more than they ever enjoyed the story. I didn’t spend secondary school being bullied for that to be part of being a geek, thank you very much.

So, you know what? To me, these people aren’t geeks. I take that label, the label that means so much to me, away from them, and instead give them the title of Tiresome Assclowns. Geekdom is better than that.