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Alternative Desk Ideas

In On Writing, Stephen King talks about making the leap to being a professional author by buying himself a big 'ol honking desk, "the sort of massive oak slab that would dominate a room ... a T. Rex desk."
I imagine it looked something like this.

Problem was, putting that much emphasis on his writing upset the balance of his life (at the time King was in the midst of a six-year bender, so he wasn't able to appreciate the desk, or much else). Once he cleaned up, King swapped the T. Rex desk for something smaller that he put in the corner of the room.
Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around.
Stephen King, On Writing (p.94)
Not many writers can afford to go the T. Rex desk route, or claim much dedicated work space in their homes at all. But here are a few ideas for non-traditional desks that don't take up a lot of room, and will keep your inspiration going along with (not in spite of) your busy life.

The Offi Mag Table doesn't take up much room, and when flipped on its side it creates a great functional surface for a laptop or pen and paper right in front of the couch. Or use it with...

A professional massage chair might help those of us whose typing posture resembles the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Fewer back-aches mean more marathon writing sessions---and if you live with a family of Samaritans, they might take the bait and give you a massage while you're at it!

A portable kitchen island (like this IKEA version) gives you room for writing accessories on top, and research materials or your to-be-read list to be stored beneath. It's a mini-desk with storage options that you can wheel into a corner when writing time is over!

We've blogged before about the dangers of sitting down for long periods of time, and one awesome way to solve that problem (and get a truly multi-purpose work area) is to set up a treadmill desk. Lots of YA authors (including Courtney Summers and Jessica Spotswood) have changed their work space to be more active.  And there are great tutorials online about how to construct a pretty cheap desktop onto your treadmill.

I don't think King was alone in dreaming of a dedicated room where writing would get the space it deserves. But it might not be the best idea to seclude yourself away from friends, family, the outdoors---all the things that inspire. 

Got any other unique ideas for work space? Where do you write when you're at home?
Sarah Enni

Sarah is a young adult author and host of the First Draft podcast. She is represented by Sarah Burnes at The Gernert Company.

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18 comments:

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    1. Agreed. I could really do with some working out while writing!

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  2. ...I want Obama's desk. Then I could get all my stuff on it :P

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    1. HA! I would clutter that desk up so fast...

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  3. Oh this post really made me smile. I have a desk as well as a lap desk for my comfy chair and depending on how I am feeling one can work better than the other. Don't know why. Now I have a stand in front of my treadmill to put the computer on as well, really simple really my dad was super sweet to build it with odds and ends pieces he had at his place, but I admit I haven't found out how to type and walk...normally I use it to walk and watch TV online.

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    1. Typing and walking would definitely be the difficult part. That was so sweet of your dad!

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  4. I would absolutely kill myself on that treadmill desk.

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  5. I totally want a treadmill desk. If I could be coordinated enough to use it, it would be great to multi-task writing with exercising. :)

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  6. Interesting...desks.

    Just for the pictures, I'm putting this in my weekly round-up.

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  7. I write at a desk in my bedroom. It's always cluttered with book, knitting projects and general litter so I'm in no danger of becoming totally writing centred!

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  8. Sadly, I work sitting in a chair with my laptop in my lap. But I think the most effective place for me to do any work would be somewhere that I could not have access to the internet! If I actually want to get an work done, that is.

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  9. I've used a treadmill desk for a long time and I find drafting on it to be a pain but REVISING is great! Somehow having your mind on the difficult task of revamping words takes your mind off the walking and vice versa. Win win, thin thin! (for the thighs and the manuscript, of course)

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  10. Ha! I just sit at a cluttered-by-everyone-in-the-family computer desk with the hunchback of notre dame posture. Although I want to get a laptop (I know! I don't have one right now!) so I can write in bed again. Words flow when I'm on my bed.

    And my posture is actually better in bed because I have all those pillows to lean against.

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  11. My favorite is the walking machine desk.

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  12. I love that little Offi Mag table! Great idea for something to keep by the couch :)

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  13. Definitely want me a ghetto treadmill work station. I write at the gym and find exercise makes me think more clearly, but my handwriting is so sloppy and my writer's notebook gets sweat stained. Gross.

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  14. I took the DIY treadmill desk route for a few weeks. It took awhile to get use to but once you do, you'll start noticing some things. Walking itself won't make you lose a lot of weight but your lower back pain goes away from not sitting and the energy you get from working improves. Especially after eating a heavy lunch. The DIY desk broke on me so I decided to get one made specifically for this purpose (LifeSpan TR 1200). The price is much higher than the DIY route. Stick with the DIY if you don't have much on your desk. If you have a couple of heavy things on there, I'd rather be safe than sorry and get something more durable.

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Item Reviewed: Alternative Desk Ideas Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sarah Enni