Of Ravens, Riddles, and Writing Desks

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Most of you will probably recognize that riddle. It was first queried by the Mad Hatter in the book Alice in Wonderland. If you know the answer to it, then you’re doing rather better than either I, or the Hatter himself. Because as he declared not very long after, “I haven’t the slightest idea!”

Fans have since come up with several possible answers to the nonsensical riddle, like “Poe wrote on both” etc, but we can discuss all that another time. The real riddle I’m here to address is of a slightly different kind. It goes like this:

“When is a writing desk NOT like a writing desk?”

See if you can figure out the answer from the following fairy-tale.

Once upon a time in a land somewhat far away, depending on where you’re standing, there lived an aspiring young authoress. When she had finished her formal schooling, she was given several monetary gifts, as is often customary. And with them, she decided to purchase a writing desk. But this young lady had a great weakness. Though in general a rather practical person, she occasionally, without rhyme or reason and with no warning whatsoever, fell in love. (Thankfully only with items, not with people.) In other words, she would set eyes upon a random piece of pretty furniture, or an arbitrary article of clothing, etc, and be instantly certain it was the one she had to have. At that point she ceased to make studied, thought-out evaluations of its practical offerings, and became blinded by a magical spell known in the common tongue as: “Form Over Function.”

Unfortunately for the authoress, this bedazzling spell came over her just as she laid eyes upon a certain writing desk in an antique market one day, and in less time than it takes for a dormouse to drown in a well full of treacle, (if you don’t understand that reference it may have been too long since you read Alice in Wonderland) she became the owner of a beautiful combination writing desk and bookcase that looked something like this:

desk, closed desk, open

Ok, not just something like it. Very much like it. Well, to be totally honest, it looked precisely like it. Because that IS the writing desk. And you can probably now guess who the authoress in the fairy-tale (which isn’t actually fairy-tale) might be, can’t you?

Yep. Me.

So now for the riddle again: “When is a writing desk NOT like a writing desk?”

Answer: “When you never actually use it to write on!”

It is still a lovely piece of furniture to look at, and holds books very well. But I just never use it for writing on. Why? Several reasons. For one thing, I usually write on a lap-top. And the desk part is so narrow that my computer alone basically takes up the entire thing. There’s no room for anything else on the desk, and even if I don’t technically need the space, it just makes me feel cramped. I really, really like elbow room.

When I write letters or in my journal, I do occasionally use the desk, but not often. Partly because, again, there’s just barely enough space for the paper and pencil alone, and partly because the place it sits in my house never gets direct sunlight. It always feels just a little bit dark, which is not all that pleasant for writing (to be fair though, that is the fault of it’s location, not the desk itself).

So, my conclusion? I need a new desk. And should also probably rearrange my furniture before I get it. I still like the idea of one that combines shelveblankpagesmalls for books and a writing space though. And I do think it’s very nice if it can close up like my old one so that everything looks spic and span even if you didn’t get that twelve-page letter finished yet and just had to slam the cover shut before unexpected guests walked through the door. But it WILL have to be wider. Lots wider. Wide enough for my laptop, my book of writing notes and research on my latest project, a vase of flowers if I want one, and of course, a bit of surplus elbow room.

Maybe kind of like this.

Of course, if I really let myself dream, I could fill up a whole room and end up with something more along the lines of this.

But then this really would be a fairy tale!

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