What in the World is a DESK GUARDIAN?
Unlike a lot of writers I know, I’m not keen on collecting things to plant about my office for inspiration. I appreciate a clean sparseness so I can think. It’s something that my hubby and I clash over occasionally as he’s sentimental and has a fondness for knickknacks that connect him to an earlier day.
Me? I’m more of a here-and-now kind of gal, but I do have a few things that linger on my desk and in the corners of my office: the hourglass I bought when I was sixteen because it looked magical, the staff I cut when I was twelve because I thought it really was magical, and the candle that was on my mentor’s thank-you cake when we celebrated the end of our entire critique group going to a big writer’s conference where I found my agent. There’s a recorder/flute to remind me of old school Dr. Who and that integrity matters, and a pincushion to remind me of my mom.
A straining Pikachu that has dents in his ear from a long-gone cat is to remind me that writing is supposed to be hard; there’s an easy button I picked up in an office store in a moment of weakness. You know . . . stuff. About the only thing I ever touch apart from dusting is that easy button. It gets punched with a satisfying whop about once or twice a year when I finish a rough draft or rewrite. I’m planning on smacking that thing a good one next week, and I can hardly wait.
I think I’ve had my easy button for about fifteen years now, almost as long as Pika next to it. And as I listen this morning to my son scraping ice off his windshield and I take my pot of tea into my office for a last push on my rough draft, I’m reminded of why I strived so long to be able to work at home. Oh, that’s a cold, cold sound.
My son doesn’t stop to think that I did my share of scraping, or standing at a cold bus stop in the black of a pre-dawn Monday, or fingers so cold they don’t move but creak, so he doesn’t find it amusing when I make light of his unexpected morning joy of lateral reps. All he sees is Mom taking a pot of tea into her office.
Sometimes I just want to give him a shake and say, “How do you think I got here? An easy button?”
I’ve been asked before when I knew I’d made it as a writer. Was it when I signed that first contract? Cashed the check? Held my book for the first time? Saw it in the wild being enjoyed by someone who wasn’t a relative? I’ve done all those things, and each one was a flash of satisfaction, but even now I don’t feel like I’ve “made it.” I’m always “making it,” always challenging myself for the next step, but there is a moment I can point to where I found a level of peace. Those still trying to get published know exactly what I’m talking about because the longing to be published is an ache and a thorn, and I remember it, even though it’s been over two decades.
The peace came after I signed with one of the few remaining big publishers, after the toasting and the celebratory dinner out. It came softly, unexpectedly, while I was doing something I’d done a handful of times before, alone as a writer usually is: standing in line at the post office to mail out a manuscript. Back in the early 2000s, you didn’t email your work because you’d clog up your editor’s inbox. Even a copy on a disk was unusual: you mailed a ream of paper through the U.S. Postal service. It struck me that day as I sent off the manuscript for my first professionally sold novel to my New York editor that this was the first time I was sending my work off to someone who was actually, you know, waiting for it, wanting it, willing to spend time and invest energy into making it a success, eager to see just how far we could push this new thing, not for the money, though that’s important, too, but for the satisfaction of seeing someone new pick it up and . . . enjoy it.
And that, I suppose, is why I write.
BIO: Kim Harrison, author of the New York Times #1 best selling Hollows series, was born in Detroit and lived most her her life within an easy drive. After gaining her bachelors in the sciences, she moved to South Carolina, where she remained until recently returning to Michigan because she missed the snow. She’s currently working on the Peri Reed Chronicles and a Hollows prequel, and when not at her desk, Kim is most likely to be found landscaping her new/old Victorian home or in the garden.