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Aesthetics And Desks | On Looking Like A Writer (And Why You Don't Need To)

After the champagne has gone flat and the last specks of confetti have fallen, many of us get started on our resolutions for the new year. For some, that means finally sitting down and writing the book they have always dreamed of.

A common step for new writers is researching tips and tricks for getting started. Finding someone to show you the way.

In the age of the internet, this is more accessible than ever. A quick search will conjure up thousands of books, blogs, podcasts, videos, and social media pages dedicated to sharing all sorts of writerly know-how.

These resources can be incredibly helpful for writers, whether they're just starting out or are seasoned pros.

But they can also rouse this blog's favorite foe: impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is a pesky form of self-doubt. That nagging feeling that you don't belong in a creative space because you haven't earned the right to be there. It may even lead you to question whether or not you can call yourself a "real writer."

For the record, if you write, you are a real writer. Simple as that.

However, social media has a habit of influencing impostor syndrome because of how it can make you feel like you have to measure up to expectations you didn't know were set.

In these videos, it's not uncommon to see creators filming their content from a space that matches their vibe. Jenna Moreci's backgrounds over the years have been darker, fitting her dark fantasy series, and features her books and some author merch on the shelves. Abbie Emmons leans more towards lighter colors, often in her clothing as well as her space, which I feel coincides with the tone of her videos.

The same can be said for many writers' posts on Instagram and similar platforms.

But why the focus on aesthetics?

Social media has become a vital tool for networking and marketing, and you'll sometimes see writers being advised to treat our online presence like our brand. That you need to give off a particular feeling that suits your genre or your books. That you have to establish your aesthetic and maintain it in every post.

And it doesn't take much to get caught up in trying to make it perfect.

In the past, I've said that not having a camera-worthy setup was one of several factors as to why I haven't started a YouTube channel. It's also a reason I held off on joining Instagram (which I finally did last summer). And in the first few months, I seldom posted photos of myself or my writing space. I just didn't have that "writer's look."

Impostor syndrome reared its ugly head yet again.

I spent a chunk of my Preptober period ahead of NaNoWriMo worrying about assembling outfits that put my own twist on the writerly aesthetic I had begun to see more of since joining Instagram. Somewhere between dark academia and cottagecore with a hearty dash of what I call "Regency-bounding," often including pinks because that's what seemed the most romance-writer-ish to me. I knew I wanted to be posting more during the challenge, and I would also be attending some in-person events, so I really felt like I needed to look the part. Dress for the job you want, right?

But those write-ins were so casual and chill that I was frankly overdressed. Jeans and a cozy sweater would have been absolutely fine, and I certainly didn't need to adopt a whole new aesthetic to fit in or prove myself as a writer. Because attending those events and participating in NaNoWriMo (and having a love for writing in general) is enough to be a writer.

And the truth is, most of my writing gets done in pajama pants with my hair in a messy braid and no makeup on. The way I write with casual clothes on isn't any different than the way I write when I'm wearing something more elaborate.

Writing doesn't have a dress code. I didn't need to don what could be compared to a costume in order to attend those write-ins.

I knew this. It's not something I typically stressed over before creating my Instagram account, but I fell into the stress of adhering to an aesthetic.

The same goes for where you write. Some people are able to have a whole room they can dedicate to writing. But others may be curling up on the couch or sitting at the kitchen counter to work on their WIPs. Or they might be lucky enough to have a quaint little indie coffee shop or library nearby. They may not be as grand as an official home office or writing room, but they get the job done.

I have two tiny writing spaces in my current household. The first is my bedroom. The second is known as The Hollow.

Sounds fancy, right?

In a lot of ways, I was able to make it my own. There's a whiteboard on the wall. I have one of those little electric fireplace heaters in the corner. My desk is a small but serviceable rolltop. One of my grandmother's paintings is on the wall, as is a framed print of the Mr. Darcy portrait from the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

But it's also not my ideal space.

It's in a corner of the laundry room that's off the garage. I'm only able to work in there for about half of the year because of the temperatures. I'm sharing the space with the washer, the dryer, the furnace, and the AC unit—which leaked the summer before last, and the water damage caused quite a bit of chaos in my corner...

Here's the thing: The Hollow is a for-now writing spot. It's imperfect, as is the little desk in my bedroom that my monitor barely fits on.

And you know what? I'm already envisioning my next writing space, wherever that may be.

One with a wall large enough to accommodate the portrait of my grandfather that is currently tucked away for safekeeping. A space where I can display my Jane Austen bust without the fear of a laundry basket careening into her and sending her to her demise. I'm thinking a dusty rose gold for the paint and have a few peel-and-stick wallpaper selections saved in a list on Etsy titled "Accent Wall." Truth be told, this is the most time I've spent on Pinterest since I was in college!

And of course, many of those Pins are desks.

I've pretty much always wanted an L-shaped desk in my writing space. Whenever I play as myself in The Sims, the first room I put together is my in-game writing space, and one of the first things I do is input the bb.moveobjects cheat so I can overlap furniture and create an L-shaped desk.

But if that doesn't happen, it's okay. Because the size of your desk does not determine your talent as a writer.

That was actually the inspiration behind this post.

There's a picture of Danielle Steel's desk from a Vanity Fair article that circulates in my feeds every so often.

It's made to look like a stack of books—specifically, her books. And I freaking love it.

Steel's desk certainly gives off those writerly vibes. But what about other successful authors? What do their desks look like?

Mark Twain's desk on display in his Connecticut home is arguably pretty average in size (and, fun fact, they open up his library for writing sessions a few times each year). E.B. White's desk was much more minimalistic, as seen in this image of him writing on his houseboat.

via Jane Austen's House

I would be remiss if I did not mention Jane Austen's desk.

It's almost hard to believe that some of the world's most beloved and revered novels came from such a tiny desk.

Especially when put next to Danielle Steel's very bookish desk!

But Jane's desk worked for her. Small as it may be, that did not preclude her from writing such impactful and timeless works of literature.

Your space and style need to work for you. Right now, that means a chair I can sit criss-cross-applesauce in and comfy sweaters that don't trigger my skin sensitivities. And if it looks cool or fits into an aesthetic or niche, that's just a bonus; in reality, though, I think I'll be shifting my focus back to redefining my style instead of trying to match what I'm seeing on social media.

It doesn't matter what you wear as a writer or where you write, or which genre your heart calls home. Whether you write your stories by hand in a one-dollar composition book or type it up on the newest PC available.

Through the sheer act of writing, you are a writer.

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