When I think about my writing space, I think about a space constantly in flux, a space that is neither permanent nor temporary, a displaced space, one that can be shared and occupied.
My writing space has never truly felt like my own. It was in a coffee shop, lunch hours in a busy library, or words hastily tapped on a screen while waiting for the bus. When we were sent home in March 2020, my writing space suddenly became my workspace or, rather, the workspace of two. This blending of space, mixing of lives, amalgamation of two 9-to-5 jobs suddenly consumed what was once my writing space. It became a place of endless video calls, non-stop pings from colleagues, of 3pm team check-ins, and a space that I alternated with my husband.
Nevertheless, my writing space is a large mid-century modern desk, teak, something we found at an antique store on Commercial Drive in Vancouver years ago. For a while it was the most expensive item we owned, and I still think it’s the nicest thing we own.
The desk was once nestled in a corner of the living room of our 1-bedroom apartment and sticks out like a centre piece, because that’s what I like to think writing should be – not something shoved into a closet or hidden behind the laundry room. It should speak for itself, be bold, be oozing with charm, and this desk does that.
But the desk is too large for our one-bedroom apartment, and it has been moved to every corner of our living room because of my husband’s obsession with the sound of his speakers. Each time he would spend a Saturday afternoon shifting our couch, the wall mounted bookshelf, the television, the plants, the rug; we would end the day off with an action-packed movie where he would blast the speakers and ask, “Can you tell the difference?”
“Yes,” I would say each time, but the truth was I couldn’t hear the difference.
“It’s in the details,” he would add. Of course, three months later, as if with the changing of seasons, my desk would somehow migrate to the other side of the room and trade spaces with the speakers.
“Can you hear the difference?” My husband would ask as I tried to orientate myself.
In November, the opportunity to take over my parents’ rental unit came up. Over the holiday season, when health officials told us to hunker down, we did just that by stripping old wallpaper, ripping up old carpet, putting in laminate flooring, figuring out dodgy electrical. With some hard back-bending work, I now have a separate space to work and my teak desk has a semi-permanent space of its own.
Donna Seto is a writer and academic from Vancouver, BC. Her work has been published in The New Quarterly, Ricepaper Magazine, and academic journals. Donna is working on her first novel and a collection of short stories.
Photos courtesy of Donna Seto.