I think most people would agree that writing is a solitary endeavor. I personally need a quiet room, no music, no distractions. The coffee shop and laptop situation is not for me; I’d be too busy people-watching to be productive, not to mention eating all the scones. So I sit at a rolltop desk with a pretty big desktop screen and little tchotchkes that mean something to me—a fingerpainting by my youngest granddaughter, a tiny china pig in sunglasses making a sandcastle, favorite family photographs. I keep a scented candle from Southern Elegance burning most of the day and pretend I am southern and elegant.
Occasionally I dust the keyboard, remove the crumbs, and tidy up the papers I set aside “for later.” Later really never comes, and after a few weeks they get tossed out without much serious examination. About four or five times a year, I throw everything that’s on the desk to the floor (except for the computer) in a vain attempt at reorganization.
I find notes I wrote to myself pertaining to the work in progress that I cannot understand since my handwriting, once so exemplary, is now practically indecipherable. I was able to read HUMOR FUN !!! because I printed those reminders, but “Charles reinheaiy—damn dos” took me quite a while to figure out. It turns out it says “Charles overhearing—damn dog,” but I honestly have no recollection what Charles was supposed to overhear, or why I’ve damned the poor dog.
Speaking of which, I constantly see other writers’ pets on social media obstructing their owners’ work. Cats are notorious for lying on top of desks and giving the stink-eye. Think you’re going to type today? Think again. Dogs look up imploringly from under the desk hoping for some of those keyboard crumbs or a pat or a kind word.
My dog Fitz lies wherever I want to put my feet, which proves somewhat useful in the winter for keeping them warm. It is remarkable though that a fat dog can sandwich himself into a small space and be completely oblivious to his exasperating effect. There is a dog bed in the room. Heck, there’s a human bed in the room, but he much prefers to literally get under-or-overfoot.
Fitz came to us twice-rescued and thrice-named by the age of 8-ish months. He was originally owned by someone who called him Festus. He must not have met their expectations, and they got rid of him. A young couple adopted him from a shelter and renamed him Fisher, which, we all have to admit, is an improvement from Festus. But when their mold-infested trailer was condemned, they couldn’t take any animals to their new place.
This is where we stepped in. A plea on Craigslist before they put him back in the shelter drew us to that mold-infested trailer. A skinny, black and white dog that was reputedly part border collie barked and shed all the way home. Since one of our granddogs was already named Fischer (different spelling, but I’m afraid dogs will never win any spelling bees), we changed Fisher to Fitz, assuming he’d just think we had a speech impediment. And he’s been barking and shedding and getting fatter ever since.
A dog named Fitz appears in The Lady Adelaide Mysteries, and he’s not much better-behaved. He’s based on my childhood dog, a wire-haired fox terrier named Tippy, who would spin in circles until he keeled over. But real Fitz is weaseling his way into my new book. I just have to figure out what to name him. It won’t be Festus.
Do you have a companion too? What’s on your desk?
Maggie Robinson is a former teacher, library clerk, and mother of four who woke up in the middle of the night, absolutely compelled to create the perfect man and use as many adjectives and adverbs as possible doing so. A transplanted New Yorker, she lives with her not-quite perfect husband in Maine, where the cold winters are ideal for staying inside and writing historical mysteries and romances. Her books have been translated into French, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Dutch and Italian. Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime and Maine Romance Writers.