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A Day at the Desk: Why You Can’t Find Gemütlichkeit On Pinterest

For years now I’ve been doing freelance writing. Mostly in the form of music journalism, but also published poetry and arts journalism. It’s a blast being a freelance writer, but I also love blogging because of the autonomy. I’ve had some great editors and some not so great editors, but as a blogger I’m in control of my content – my image. It means I can write about all the feminism I want!

Living in London is all about conservation of space, much like living in NYC, and doing it on a budget. So I thought I’d show you what my workspace. Today I’m working on a hush-hush announcement for one of my favourite musicians! Sorry, can’t spill the beans.

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I like to work surrounded by things that inspire me. I’m nostalgic and a bit sentimental. I’ve always been preoccupied by anything relating to self-image, for better or worse.  I used to imagine what it would be like for someone to peer in on me – what did I look like, what did my space, handwriting, hair style, say about me? For years I’ve worked in coffee shops, but sometimes my work, or my mood, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of environment. I was always quick to mention, to any barista who asked, that I was there to work. I don’t know why, or what I felt I needed to prove. In the end, people aren’t that interested in each other (especially not in strangers).  When I moved into my current flat in Stoke Newington, my flatmate graciously gave me the bigger bedroom so I could have my own work space. I decided to make my space something I love, not something bearable, and to make it uniquely my own.

One of my favourites is my Cat Calling print by thumb_IMG_6465_1024Kelli McAdams, whose work I’ve featured before. She’s one of my best friends and she’s very talented. An outspoken feminist with a great eye for combining cute, kitsch, and serious stuff. I was lucky that she gifted it to me! But I think splurging on something is worth it if it holds value beyond money.

In my old flat, all of my pictures were thrown up helter-skelter. I’ve gone for a more organised, square approach. Because I’m working on a budget, I scoured papers and magazines, as well as art galleries and coffee shops for freebies. You’d be surprised what you can get – a lot of marketing is now heavily intertwined with art, and postcard sized fliers are a great free way of getting cool prints.

Marlene Dumas

From a free monthly illustration magazine in Bristol is where the two comic’s you can see come from. One is The Loneliest Guy. The other is the final panel of a comic strip, whose name I unfortunately can’t find! I love it because of the colours. It fits well with the other pictures: – a photo my mum took in Rome, a tear out from the recent Marlene Dumas exihibit at Tate Modern, and my ticket for my walk up Saint Peter’s. The other comic strip features the quote:

“Running into the cold water, watching the rocks shimmering in the sea-mist. Bright and white and wide as the world.”

On the desk itself are a few things that are both practical and pleasurable. For my M.A. I’m writing a memoir about my relationship with my dad – so I have a stack of his old poems, restaurant reviews, academic papers, and military records. The one on top is called “Aor an Aged Friend in the Hospital” and has a lot of his own edits hand written in it. This is probably my favourite piece of paper. It’s both close and personal, but also helpful for research and reminds me why I’m writing what I am. I love having the papers so close to me – they’re not organised the way they should be, but there’s something fun in rifling through them (even if it is time consuming / procrastination!).

You can also see the two books on the go, and my Strand pencil case. The giant knitting needles are just there for fun! I used to carry a notebook with me everywhere, and i’m only just now getting back into the habit of it. I have my typewriter, hidden at the moment because I just got new ink and don’t want it to dry out! The cards are an assortment. I like saving them, in fact I have a bag back in NYC full of them. Each of these cards reminds me of a part of my life. Cards are another easy way to add something artistic or visually interesting (or, as in the big butterfly card, just plain sentimental).

thumb_IMG_6466_1024When I first moved to London I bought these floating shelves. A year later my boyfriend helped me put them up (he put them up). Drying flowers is a great way to get extra time out of a bunch you’ve bought – some supermarkets put ones that are on their way out on sale. The wooden tulips, from Amsterdam, were a gift from the bf. I was lucky that some stuff was given to me as gifts. The clock was 9£ from TK Maxx, and the cacti were on offer at the end of the day from Colombia Road Flower Market!

When I set about decorating my room in this flat, I wanted to cull the stuff that was purely sentimental but had little aesthetic appeal. It’s hard – there’re things I love that I chose not to put up, like my Nirvana print, because they didn’t visually suit. But some things I could swing – like the rail tickets to Brighton, because they fit.

All of the things I’ve put up here are here for a reason, and I love having the freedom to make my work space my own. I’ve always been preoccupied by image – in good and bad ways. It makes me anxious, but it also makes me proud when I feel I’ve put something together in a way that I like. Over the years I’ve tried to lower the amount of anxiety I feel about how things, and I, look. One way I did this was to accept my limitations (money and lack of DIY know how) and work with what I was good at. Comparing my room to a pinterest board is never helpful; I’m happy in it – and that’s what matters.

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