Health Aids That Live At Your Desk, Because So Do You.

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Home sweet home.

Bonus: none of these are location dependent. Work in a coffee shop? You can do this! Standing desk? Sure, you hipster douchebag!* Hunched up on your bed with your laptop? All this shit fits on a nightstand, next to the lube and that serious book you want your one-night-stands to think you’re reading.

Tennis Ball. Use it for self-massage, releasing whatever that shoot pain in your hip is, rolling your probably overworked forearms and hands on, and throwing at people. Really, for a couple of bucks a can, you can’t get a better multi-tasker. Plus, apparently there’s a game you can play with them or something?

Water. Not coffee. I’m sorry, coffee, you know I love you, but you are not a replacement for water. Bonus: drinking more water makes you retain less water, so you feel less like a bloated sack of crap when you leave your desk to go be human among the humans for a while.

Fitness Tracker. Entirely unnecessary, but it does add a certain “futuristic cyborg” element to the day. Mine reminds me to move occasionally, presumably because it thinks I’ve died. My selection process boiled down to “this one looks the least like shit, so I’ll probably actually wear it.”

Eye Drops. Working at a computer leaves me with eyeballs that feel like marbles covered in sandpaper and then dipped in hot sauce. Get some drops so you can stop peering at people like you were just accidentally awoken from cryo-sleep.

Stretches. We’re all going to be hunchy gargoyles before too much longer. Stand tall above your peers and stave off vulture neck by occasionally doing some stretches and exercises.

*I did the standing desk for a while. I liked it, but found that it only worked for certain types of work. First draft writing was great, editing not so much.

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The Totally Objective Ranking Of Things To Eat At Your Desk

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FunDip is not included in the ratings because it’s not food. It is awesome, though.

1. Fresh Fruit. “Nature’s candy”, as natural food enthusiasts will tell you when you ask, and even if you don’t. Pros: Infinite variety, tastes good, pretty colours, actually fucking good for you. Cons: sticky juice hands, obnoxious crunching, equally obnoxious sense of superiority to those inhaling Cheetos around you.

Rating: 3/5 Hungry Rats

2. Vending Machine “Cookie”. This isn’t a real cookie. Real cookies don’t hang out in a metal box waiting for your willpower to drop at 3 pm. At best, it’s sugar glued together with vegetable oil and boiled hooves. At worst, it’s already home to a cockroach which you will discover only when it’s half a cockroach. Pros: Sugary, quick energy, can be dipped in coffee, comfort food if your idea of comfort is being kicked in the lower intestine twenty minutes from now. Cons: expensive, tastes like regret and cardboard.

Rating: 1/5 Hungry Rats

3. Trail Mix. Suitable even if the closest you’ve ever been to hiking is that time you got an allergic reaction watching Naked and Afraid. Sweet, salty, both…there’s a mix for everyone. Or you can just throw a bunch of chocolate chips and almonds in a bowl and go to town. Pros: Tasty as fuck, customizable, probably not deep fried. Cons:People with allergies will stab you in the neck; also, everyone’s got that friend who picks out the stuff they like and leaves everything else, which clearly violates the social contract.

Rating: 4/5 Hungry Rats

4. Chips. Like cocaine to us salt addicts. Pros: Available fucking everywhere*, cool regional varieties, enough salt to de-ice a road. Cons: Salt bloat, that asshole who “just wants one” and then takes a handful.

Rating: 4/5 Hungry Rats, minus 1 for having to go up a belt notch.

5. Coffee. As a starving student I learned the age-old truth: with enough cream and sugar, this can be a meal. These days I drink it black because I lost my taste for sweets. Plus I’m lactose intolerant and soy milk is a crime against nature.** Pros: Keeps you awake, cool mugs, your only friend on lonely nights when your face is lit by the neon glow of your laptop screen and you can pretend you’re in a noir movie. Cons: NONE DON’T YOU DARE SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT MY BELOVED I WILL FUCKING CUT YOU.

Rating: 11/5 Hungry Rats SHUT UP.

*Except the graduate pub of my old university, which banned unhealthy snacks but still served beer. I dunno, man, my eight pint while I drank away my thesis stress just didn’t go down right with celery sticks.

**Soy milk tastes like drinking smugness and dishwater.

10 Things To Make Your Workspace Less Of A Soul-Sucking Shithole So You’ll Actually Get Some Work Done

1. A scribble pad. For all those ideas that need a place to live.

2. Something you enjoy writing with. I got my first fountain pen last year, and I heart it so hard. Here she is.

Lamy 2000

Matte black and very sharp, so I’m, like, 90% sure this is a spy pen.

Aside from being beautiful and a genuine pleasure to hold, I’ve found that it actually helped my hand pain. Less pressure to write = less pain for me. And for someone who always does their best thinking in a for-real notebook, that’s a big deal.

3. Something nice to look at. A window. Some good pictures. I have a framed blueprint of the arc reactor from Iron Man. See?

Arc Reactor

A surprising number of people have thought this was a blueprint of a real thing.

Oh, and some pictures of people or something. I don’t know who those people are. I’m definitely not married to one of them.

4. Toys.

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There are weirder episodes of Supernatural than this.

Dean: What the hell, Sammy?

Sam: I don’t know!

Nightmare Moon: EVERYPONY SHALL BOW TO ME.

Dean: Screw this, let’s just kill it.

5. Motivational Poster.

Whatever Bitch.jpg

Cross stitch by Kat Nicholson.

Or cross stitch. As the case may be.

6. Headphones. Very necessary equipment. Whether I’m listening to heavy metal, Taylor Swift, or stereoscopic thunderstorms, I don’t want to be able to hear my neighbour’s reciprocating saw while I’m working. Or his kids. They’re both loud.

7. Stress Relievers.

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These are foam and silicone, FYI. Real brass knuckles are still stress-relieving, but also come with jail time.

A d20 because I’m a nerd. Brass knuckles because I’m a nerd who can kick your ass.

8. Breath Freshener. No one likes your six-cups-of-coffee-and-two-cigarettes breath, man. No one. Not even the cat, and he licks his own butthole.

9. Places for all your shit. Corral that crap lest your desk disappear beneath a thousand thousand pen caps and paper clips.

10. You.

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S’up.

If you avoid it, it’s not a workspace; it’s just a place you store crap you don’t use. And that’s what the pit in the basement is for.

Hit The Road, Jack: 5 Benefits To Getting Away From Your Desk

I swear, he was here just a second ago…

I know, I know. I just wrote a post on the benefits of having a dedicated writing space, and now here I am, writing about getting out of that space. I’m a living contradiction. Deal with it.

For reals, though, there are some serious benefits to occasionally shaking it up and moving your writerly ass to a new location. *blows trumpet fanfare* FOR EXAMPLE:

1. Step Away From the Reflecting Pool, Narcissus. Your space is sometimes so you that you lose sight of anything else. Your books, your radio, your music, your mechanized death ray security system. But not everyone has those, or even thinks they’re necessary.* There’s a whole world out there, buttercup, and it doesn’t revolve around you. Get out of your space and experience someone else’s. It’ll freshen up your brain and maybe give you some new ideas.

2. HOLY SHIT I CAN FINALLY BREATHE. Your space is also the place where everything tends to accumulate. Work, writing, other obligations like paying bills and having a family, the occasional court summons or contract killing. Burying your creativity under that mountain can stifle it, until you’re reduced to staring blankly at your computer screen, putting things in your Amazon cart and taking them out again. Get out and get some space.

3. Ghost Mode Enabled. If you’re always in a certain place at a certain time, then other people know where to find you. Which means they can interrupt you. And they will, because Murphy’s Law of Interruptions states that anything that can be interrupted will be interrupted. Leave your accustomed hidey-hole and you might just get a nice, uninterrupted block of time in which to crank out an entire chapter. Don’t forget to erase your tracks or THEY’LL FIND YOU.

4. Go Dark.  Man, I love Wi-Fi, but it has killed my productivity. Some days I just turn it off at home so I can get stuff done without wanting to pop onto Twitter every eight fucking seconds. Benefit of leaving my little writer nest: there is no guarantee of Wi-Fi. At least not free Wi-Fi. And at this point I’m as likely to pay for internet access as I am to pay for water: only if I’m desperate, and I’ll still complain about it.

5. Fresh Meat For The Writer Stew.  People-watching is a seriously underrated form of entertainment. The clearly hungover man three tables away from me, in a rumpled Armani jacket and a red silk tie that he’s tied too short, will probably appear in some story of mine eventually, if only because he cuts such an interesting figure slumped over his cell phone. And an entire platoon of small children just wandered by wearing sequinned devil horns. What the ever-loving fuck, universe. I wouldn’t see this crap from my living room.

I’m on vacation at the moment, but what’s your excuse for getting out? Where do you go? And why?

* Though people who live without music are like aliens to me. How do you do it?

Planting Your Flag: Making A Writing Space Where You Can Get Shit Done

Shown: future location for my Writing Lair. Laser sharks optional.

1. X Marks The Spot. If you can, have a dedicated writing space. I know this isn’t possible for everyone. Hell, it wasn’t for me for a long time. I’ve done most of the writing in my life sitting cross-legged on my bed or couch, because there was no damn room for a desk. Or, in most of my university apartments, even a table. But these days I have a desk—a drafting table, actually—that is solely mine. You can tell it’s mine because I painted it Really Fucking Red and have robots standing guard on the corners. Not having a dedicated place is no excuse for not writing, but, speaking from experience, having one makes it easier.

2. You’re Not A Fucking Toddler, Pick Up Your Shit. Just because you have a desk doesn’t mean you get to bury it under a pile of crap. If there’s no room to work, then guess what? You won’t. You’ll take one look at the bloody mess and do something, anything, else. So organize. Put your stuff away: books on shelves or in boxes, credit card statements in the filing cabinet or the paper shredded, the skulls of your enemies neatly arranged on a shelf somewhere. What’s the point of collecting all those skulls if you’re not going to display them properly?

3. All You Need Is Love. And Pens. Whatever you need for writing—laptop, paper, pens, skulls, whatever—have a place for it on your desk. Pens in the cup, notebook on the left for referring to, scratch pad to the right with a pencil standing by, coffee on the coffee mat, stereo remote next to it, computer in front. If you have what you really need nearby, then you won’t waste time looking for it.

4. Reset, Don’t Rage Quit. At the end of every day, reset everything in your space to zero. Put the pens you used away. Close the notebook so the cat doesn’t puke a hairball on it. Tidy away any scraps of paper, used coffee cups, full ashtrays, candy wrappers, and other miscellany of the writing day. Clean that shit up and reset properly. Even if you had a crappy day and all you want to do is throw it all, laptop included, into a trash compactor. Don’t leave it. Start the morning with a clean, organized desk. Otherwise, you’ll waste time and energy cleaning.

5. Headphones Are Proof That The Universe Loves Us And Wants Us To Be Happy. They block out so much: traffic, coffee shop noise, conversations you don’t want, the sound of my neighbours screaming at each other again. I’d get a lot less writing done if not for my headphones. They’re getting a page in my dedications.

How do you make your writing space welcoming? What does your dream desk look like? Don’t pretend like you haven’t thought of it.

The Definitive Ranking Of Places To Write

I’ve either seen this at church or airbrushed on the side of a van.

Desk:  This is your writing sanctuary. It’s got everything set up just the way you like it, with the pencil holder and the computer and the caged marmoset that you can unleash to get you coffee. This is your place.

Pro: It’s your territory. Try not to urinate on anything, though.

Con: Unless you are vastly different from me, any flat surface in your house is quickly colonized by half-read books, drawings of rockets, robot statues, and Cats of Unusual Size. You can either clean or attempt to write on top of this mess, neither of which is great for focus.

Rating: 7/10 because of cat hair in my coffee.

Bed: It’s comfy. It’s cozy. It’s got pillows that you can make into a fort. And thanks to Wi-Fi, you don’t even have to get up to do your research. And by research, I mean watch Netflix.

Pro: Coziness, especially with the upcoming cold dark sarcastic months.

Con: Falling asleep without backing up and realizing that you accidentally deleted everything when you rolled over on the laptop.

Rating: 5/10 because the cats followed me and are sitting on the laptop.

Coffee Shop: It smells like boiled adrenal glands and, these days, Pumpkin Spice Badger Nads. If you can score that corner table and get the friendly barista who periodically checks in to make sure you’re still alive, the buzz of a good coffee shop can get the juices flowing.

Pro: Never far from a supply of caffeine.

Con: Presence of others makes casual porn viewing unwise.

Rating: 6/10 because I actually like Pumpkin Spice Badger Nads.

Work: Whether you’ve got your own office or you’re part of a cube farm, if you have some free time and  access to a computer, you can peck out a chapter here and there. Just make sure to have a cover window available for when someone comes in without knocking.

Pro: You’re already getting paid, so you’re ahead of 98% of writers.

Con: Constant checking for your boss can lead to neck strain and severe paranoia, which 98% of writers already have.

Rating: 3/10 because Doing Personal Things On Company Time Is Wrong. Or something.

Church: Nothing like the haze of incense* to free your mind. If the Latin chanting doesn’t lull you into a coma until it’s time for the free wine, it is possible to hide a notebook in your hymn book and write.

Pro: Lots of weird stories being told to give you inspiration, especially if you write fantasy or horror. Burning hedges that talk! Walking dead guys! Some kind of seven-headed child-eating dragon that destroys the stars!

Con: Risk of eternal damnation.

Rating: 5/10 because no one gives better stink-eye than old church ladies.

Space: Picture yourself floating free above the earth, the panorama of the stars your backdrop. The chains of gravity no longer tether your body to the earth, and the chains of normalcy no longer tether your mind. You can write anything.

Or check Twitter and YouTube. Whatever.

Pro: Chances of being disturbed by your spouse, kids, friends, family, nosy neighbour, or dog are slim.

Con: Chances of survival without a spaceship or space station of some kind are also slim. Also: alien parasites.

Rating: 9/10 because it’s fucking space.

*Virtually all my church experience has been Catholic, with its arcane rules and incense and chanting. Feel free to substitute the religious affiliation of your choice and adjust accordingly.

Monday Challenge: Misplaced

English: A yellow couch on a rocky cliff beach...

Something’s not quite right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am coming to you this morning from a strange location: the couch.

I know: I work at home, so I must fucking live on the couch, right? I must wallow in its cushioned embrace until its corduroy lines are imprinted over my tattoos. Its seat must contain lost pens and index cards and story notes to the point where it will someday be examined by future generations as the only known example of a sentient, book-writing piece of furniture.*

Not the case. I mentioned ages ago that I was switching to a standing desk, but even before that, I didn’t usually write on the couch. For one thing, it’s too goddamned comfortable. Too much time on this thing, especially in warm weather, and I’m down for the Odin Sleep. For another, it just doesn’t feel right. I prefer to work at a dedicated workspace.

In other words: couches are for reading, sleeping, and having sex on. Not for working.

The problem at the moment is that I am in the process of replacing my old desk, a lovely 1940s piece, with a big-ass drafting table that I bought from a friend’s mom. The drafting table had to be repainted, so it’s out on the deck waiting for the third coat of Gloss Apple Red–also known as Really Fucking Red–to dry. The old desk is currently enjoying its new life as a bar. Which leaves me with the temporary standing desk I was using for the last couple of months, but there’s so much junk around from the process of moving furniture and reorganizing that I can hardly fit the computer on between the photos, pellet guns, and brass knuckles.

The point of this complaining is that I am, at the moment, out of place. This is not where I should be.*** And the cognitive dissonance is weirding me the fuck out. I might as well be writing in my bathtub. Or in bed.

Today’s Monday Challenge: write someone who is out of place. They are somewhere they do not belong, and they know it. Where are they? Why are they there? What are they going to do about it?

I’m going to go check and see if my desk is dry yet.

*King of Naps: One Couch’s Perspective on Recliners and Other Pretenders To The Throne by Thaddeus P. Chesterfield.**
**Shit, I think I just named my couch. Now I feel weird about sitting on it.
***I will note that I am perfectly capable of writing in other places outside my home. Those are fine. I mentally categorize them as ‘temporary workspace’. The couch, on the other hand, is resisting all attempts at relabelling and insisting that I must be here for a nap.