My Desk

...A Black-Hole in Reverse

Peter E Taylor ©2004

What does your desk look like?

"I'll buy you a desk with rubber legs!" a boss once told me. "When it collapses you'll have to tidy it."

I have to admit my desk is always messy, and I couldn't imagine it being any other way. No, that's not true. It's cleared at Christmas, when we re-arrange the house and the desk's commandeered for the family get-together - and very very occasionally when I can't find something …because someone must have moved it. It's not that I am untidy - though not all would agree with that - it's just that …well, …things get attracted to my desk.

Let's start with the essentials. A jar of pens. This could be smaller, but I like to have a choice. Besides, if there's only one or two, they spontaneously vapourise, so I need a bulk supply. Pot of pencils (I wish they all had points), …pot of erasers, …jar of useful things like scissors, scalpel, …a bowl with really useful things like 'sparkle-chips', calculator, glue-stick, three films that I intended to get processed a month ago and a scrap of paper with a web address that I must look up some time. Then there's a small tray that at one time probably had only a few paper-clips, staple remover, pencil sharpener and bottle of liquid-paper in it - but they are now camouflaged for it seemed an obvious place to put a packet of seeds, some screws that were left over from putting up the curtain-tracks, the windscreen that fell off a kid's toy and a few other things with no obvious home to go to. Oh, yes. Then there's ink, my pocket tape recorder and tapes, sticky-tape, paperweights, and a hole-punch that at present is a paperweight on a pile of bits of coloured paper that I will file when I've nothing useful to do. Now no-one could say that they weren't essential and organised.

At the end of the desk is a pile. But it is rectangular. Yes, I'd definitely call it rectangular. It's all writing stuff, like a folder of 'Writing For Success' newsletters, folder of receipts, some letters from publishers, notes from the Festival, stories that I'm editing, info that I've printed out from websites. All things associated with writing. The clipboard, magazine and packet of shoelaces on the top don't count because I'm going to put those somewhere else.

The magazine box next to the pile is tidy. That's why I like boxes. Boxes are guaranteed tidy. I have no idea what's in it past the end couple of sheets, but I haven't needed them for a while and they don't fit into any category of my filing system, but they need to be kept. The video tape I'll put in the mail in a couple of days, and when I've had time to look at them, I'll return the pile of books I've borrowed. So they won't be there for long. And the stamps I've torn off envelopes - I'll give to my mother-in-law. I should file the business cards, …and the address that's been ripped off the back of an envelope. Hey, you'd be proud of me. You know all those pens? Well I've just put them back in the pot. The folder of negatives will be filed. The job I've completed for a client will be collected, I hope, and all the other pieces of paper are hard copies of emails for which I'm designing a new system. It's nearly complete, so when I need to use the space I can just make a neat pile of those and everything will be hunky dory.

The next table is the masterpiece. All my ingenuity has gone into this one. The first layer is supposed to be work and things that must be done. If I can't see it, it can't be important and it won't be done. When I get really busy with jobs for clients, and I haven't paid the bills (which seem to arrive at twice the speed that cheques do), these tidy piles have been known to overlap, giving the tiniest appearance of being in disarray. Oh look, they've crept over the top of the receipts that should be filed (how boring would that be?) - never mind.

It's also close to my light box, my other working area, so this table can also be used just as a temporary resting place. I've moved the phone, so that's cut down half the rubbish. They really are temporary. Now there are times when I don't feel like doing important things, so the upper layer is a mixture of important things in progress and things that I have chosen to do instead …a couple of things I don't know where to file …and the mystery pile.

The mystery pile is so named because, one, I have no idea what's in it, and two, it's like the Bermuda Triangle, or a black hole, but in reverse. I have no idea how it grows. It started out this week with only a few things left to file. I did try to get rid of the pile completely, but I might chose from the latest offers from the wine club, there's a few brochures, an invitation, a couple of things to file, an old Christmas card, a couple of newsletters, a couple of bills (I'll transfer them to the urgent pile when they get urgent), a couple more brochures, a couple of forms to fill in (I hate filling in forms), an explanation of why my pension super-fund has lost money and why I should give them more money to squander.

I won't tell you what else is in the pile or you'd think I wasn't organised. I think there are some things underneath it too - tubes of paint, probably. I haven't seen them lately, or needed them, so that's where they must be.

I have two computers. Each is on a separate desk - though one shares the phone, diary, scanner, printer, boxes of discs, loose discs, paper, a couple of folders, and pot of pens and a book I was reading yesterday. And some things I've printed but not yet filed. And a folder of business cards, a tape-rule, and some of the kid's homework. The other computer only has a pile of CDs next to it and the three piles of photo's that need to be put in albums - when I've made them. Now, after I've thrown away the print-outs with errors on them, I'll be all set for creating. I feel really creative today …so I'll tidy up later. I'll just spread out my notes, spread out a few books, spread out what I've done so far …