Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Cabinet of Curiosities.

After being shamed in The Press last weekend about my bare office, I had to finally admit to myself that while I like the idea of a beautifully tidy office covered in inspirational pictures, diagrams and flowcharts, and all my research in orderly files and piles where I can find things in a second, the reality is this: I am a slob. Everything I need is indeed within easy reach, though, depending on when I last used it. Of the things strewn higgledy-piggledy on my desk, the items I used last will be near the top and the things I used when I first moved in here will be somewhere near the bottom. I do have a filing system - it consists of an 'outbox' where things will eventually find themselves if I have no immediate use for them. In 6 months time I will probably take half a day to sort through the outbox and put things in neat files in the filing cabinet, or they might just all go into a bag labelled 'for filing' to clear the way for more debris.

After having to sort through my father's papers, however, I have started to be a bit more ruthless with my own paper - not in the initial stages, but certainly when it comes to the filing cabinet. Because what I learned from my father's estate is that no matter who you are, you do not need to keep every single piece of paper that comes across your desk. I do have to give in to the initial hoarding urge (hence the 'outbox') but I think I'm learning to let go a little down the track, once I realise a piece of paper is never going to be of any use to me or my next of kin.

(As an aside: After having to sort out my father and stepmother's house, my husband and I have introduced a new rule in our own house which we put to good use when we were unpacking the boxes from our last house-move. If we look at something and say 'that might come in handy one day' then out it goes. We are sparing a thought for our son and any future children we have.)

But back to my office at Canterbury. To be fair, I hadn't yet unpacked my box of books that have now made it to my "towering wooden bookshelves": there is now one more very practical creative writing guide (good for brushing up when my subconscious and innate talent isn't doing the job) a book on mesmerism, a book on heavily tattooed men and women, a book to browse through when I'm taking a break called Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (what a wonderful name for a writer!)... OK, the shelves are still pretty empty, but I will soon fill them after all my trips to the library.

As for the bare walls, I was very happy to be able to kill all the birds with one stone, or at least cover all the walls, when I found this book of posters in the University Bookshop (for only $29.95, despite what it says on Amazon) and I gleefully pulled it to bits and covered my walls with the contents of Albertus Seba's cabinet of curiosities which not only make my walls look pretty but are relevent to my work and will therefore be inspirational.


Marianne said...

I enjoyed the article. Gave me a peak into your office and your new Christchurch setting. As for the shedding, I find leaving the country every few years is a great motivator for letting go of anything that isn't of real value. I object, by the way, to the use of the term "slob" to describe you. But only because of my own socialised aversion to that word. I'd say you were wonderfully able to focus on what matters and let go of the unecessary obsession with needless tidying...

I'm making my way through Old Friend from Far Away - Natalie Goldberg on memoir writing... but mostly I'm doing statistical calculations for my research paper, argh.

Anonymous said...

Are all writers slobs? I too have a dream workspace (this is the spooky part where we admit we've both been thinking about and blogging about the same things...weird. Perhaps there is a great unconscious after all and I have to adjust my world view), but I work in a small, cluttered writers nest feathered with paper. Did you notice that I haven't posted any photos my desk on my blog? For good reason my friend...
Last year when I was at Randell Cottage I worked in the writers shed outside. They had a row of portraits of past residents behind the desk which I had to immediately take down to was too much pressure to have them looking at me! Up with my noticeboard and whiteboard instead.
Perhaps it has taken a while to unpack because the office isn't really "yours" - like how I am extremely careful with other people's books but will happily dog ear my own. Put up your poster with abandon and claim your space!

Rachael King said...

Marianne - you are too kind. Maybe I won't call myself a slob but focused.

Whiti - how did the Randell Cottage year go?