And now a guest article from award-winning blogger, lifestyle expert and bestselling self-published author, Maisy Donnington. This article first appeared in International Socket Set Digest in June 2009 and is reprinted here by kind permission of the man who stands on the roundabout in Telford town centre screaming the word 'antelope' at passing buses.
Maisy Donnington here with some more wit and wisdom to help you get through your day. So here's a question for you - what's in front of you at the moment? If you're reading this at home then you're probably sat at a desk piled high with paper, dormant coffee cups, half-eaten sandwiches, discarded soup tins, old prams and assorted rubble. In short, not the sort of setting that facilitates a productive day!
As a writer, I understand how important it is to create a clean and tidy workspace. A cluttered desktop is not only a distraction but can also be a health and safety risk. I learned this the hard way some time ago when I reached out for my cup of coffee and put my hand through my desk fan. Luckily, all that ensued was the bruising of several fingers and the spillage of a hot beverage, but it was nevertheless something of a shock and I had to go and lie on the sofa for an hour and eat custard creams.
It was all the more traumatic coming so soon after a similar incident, in which I got my nose caught in a cross-cut shredder while hunting in a drawer for paperclips. On that occasion I found myself unable to function for the rest of the day and it took two packets of Hobnobs and a bar of Dairy Milk before I calmed down. And I never did find those paperclips.
Ever since, I have striven to maintain an orderly, uncluttered office. These days, before I sit down to write, I take a few brief moments just to prepare my 'space', as I like to call it. Starting with my chair, I ensure that it is in an upright position and at a comfortable distance from my desk. Too far away and I overextend myself and am likely to fall off. Too close and I run the risk of crushing my chocolate digestives, which I always like to have on hand in case I get peckish mid-paragraph. I used to have a swivel chair on casters which, quite frankly, was just asking for trouble. Not only would I frequently find myself facing the wrong direction, significantly interrupting my workflow, but more often than not would spend far too much time sliding randomly around the room, ricocheting from the walls and furniture.
It was after one particularly frenetic writing session - in which I shot out of the room, juddered down the stairs and ended up in the street, sitting behind a milk float at the traffic lights - that I decided that something needed to be done. These days my chair is firmly bolted to the floor and I strap myself in for that extra bit of security. So far these measures have been largely successful and I have only fallen out once.
Of course, my preparations don't end there. The determined writer can still significantly damage herself if she is prepared to put in the effort. A misdirected pencil can easily hook out an eyeball, a keyboard can cause concussion when swung with enough enthusiasm, and there is a reason that we writers commonly refer to the humble office stapler as the 'death-bringer'.
Even paper cuts should not be taken lightly - it's ludicrously easy to lose a limb if you mess around with the business end of a sheet of white vellum, as my friend 'Pegleg' Peter O'Pendlesham will tell you. I try to avoid anything weighty or with a sharp edge. Bubblewrap is the writer's friend for those items that it is particularly difficult to do without, such as a phone or monitor, and I have also invested in a sponge desk. I certainly don't have scissors lying about. Not any more. I'm still getting the searing headaches.
Writing is a dangerous business - or at least, it is the way I do it. I've been in this game long enough to have witnessed some very real casualties: the kind of literary injuries and clerical misdemeanours that no one should have to contend with. So my message to any young writers starting out is simply this - be careful out there. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, so before you start wielding it you'd better learn how to use it. Either that, or use a crayon instead.
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