Last week Taylor Lorenz had a round-up in the New York Times Styles section about people taking to their beds, during the pandemic, to work. I was so happy to see this because I’d been giving myself a hard time (I never run out of ways to be hard on myself) about recently swapping out the desk and chair in my office for a futon/couch we’d gotten a few years ago for guests, and a big coffee table I scored at a yard sale at a fancy house in Rhinebeck.
No matter how many times I do this (and it’s basically my default mode of operation), I’m always amazed when I realize I’ve placed power outside of myself, endowing some imaginary, highly judgmental force with the authority to decide whether I’m doing something the wrong way or the right way. Seriously, who cares whether I write sitting at a desk or lying on my back?? Why did I attach shame to it, when it was clear that I was struggling to generate my own writing while sitting upright?
It’s not the first time I’ve approached writing this way. Back in 2013, when I was working on my NYC anthologies and other projects, I was going through a hard time on many fronts. I found myself naturally gravitating away from my desk and toward a different shitty futon we had then. There was something about being cozy-comfy, under blankets, propped up with pillows, that made me feel less depressed and anxious. It helped me get a flow going. Nonetheless, I felt bad about it—like I was cheating or something by not sitting at a desk like a real writer.
The Times piece helped me validate my choice and stop beating myself up. It also reminded me that two different therapists I had in NYC had me lie on the couch, facing away from them psychoanalysis-style, rather than sitting upright. Before they each suggested that, I’d been struggling to open up, and sometimes laughed hysterically when it was more appropriate to cry.
There’s something emotionally freeing about lying supine. Hey, it worked for Edith Wharton, William Wordsworth, Marcel Proust, Truman Capote, and who knows how many others. So I’m going to own it.
🌟 🌟 🌟
In the mean time, would you like to see more of my office? I really love it, and would be happy to give you the nickel tour…
I recognize that the wallpaper is culturally appropriative. I didn’t choose it—it was here when we bought this old house, two-and-a-half years ago. My office was a teenager’s bedroom. Notice the word “asshole” scrawled in pencil and crossed out. I covered it up with promo posters for my books.
I have a chair and stools for visitors, obviously an impossibility right now. Just having them, though, implying that some day someone could come by, makes me feel a little less lonely.
I have lots of books! More than I can count. There are more bookshelves in other rooms of the house, too. Here are some bookshelves, and also a “Fine Lines” cross stitch by Kat Brzozowski Miller that writer Jen Doll got for me when I launched the Fine Lines series at Longreads. There’s a portrait of my husband, Brian, painted many years ago by a friend of his. And there’s a bulletin board where I am storyboarding my book.
Come on in. Have a seat. Or maybe you’d prefer to lie down…