My Ultimate Badass Workstation

Stephen King correctly pointed out that you don’t need to have a fine oak desk in the centre of a massive library to be, or even feel like, a writer. And he’s right. A writer feels like a writer whenever they have a pen and paper in hand – or in my case a netbook computer. But I doubt that stops any of us from having a part of our soul that yearns for the oak desk.

Well, for me it was never really a matter of it being oak, though I will admit I’ve always wanted a den lined with bookshelves full of first editions and mementos of my travels, a giant globe by my desk and a stuffed bear in one corner that wasn’t really a bear at all, just a giant teddy bear that looked real. You probably picture me wearing a smoking jacket and a pipe in this room, but I’d probably just be wearing boxers and a hat unless I was being interviewed by the New Yorker.  Then I’d have a tie as well.

That is my dream den, and by dream I mean unrealistic expectations. As nice as those bookshelves full of first editions would be, it’s hardly practical, and I can count on both hands the number of first editions I would actually want to have (Lord of the Rings, Around the World in 80 Days, and The Count of Monte Cristo come to mind). It’s not even that functional when you picture it. Where do my old drafts go, in a hidden room I have to pull a secret book to open?

Actually, let me write that down while I’m thinking about it…

The other dream den I have is more realistic. It’s meant to have everything I need, but look just a little bit baddass at the same time. Not something that was cobbled together from bits and pieces here and there, but built with purpose.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe I now have that desk. Behold!

I showed this to you before, but since then I’ve had to sand and repaint the desk, and add a protective coat of Verathane to prevent the paint from chipping off. Aside from that I’ve added a few things: filing boxes underneath the left wing to store old drafts, a letter tray on top to deal with day to day business, file folders on the top shelf for my portfolio and various drafts in progress, and so on.

But the real change is one of perspective. I had planned on using my desktop computer here, but then I realized I use my netbook more than anything else, and switching files back and forth between the two could be a pain.

So I made my netbook into my desktop.

It’s simple, really. Most laptops and netbooks have a monitor plug in the side so you can connect it to a larger screen. All of my other peripherals – keyboard, mouse, scanner, printer – use USB ports. By connecting them to a single USB hub, I reduce the number of things to plug in from six to three (power, monitor, hub).

So when I’m at my desk even though I am using a full sized keyboard and monitor, I have the same familiar desktop layout, and all my files are exactly where I remember them. When I leave the house, the netbook goes with me and I can work on the road if I need to. But that’s not even the best part.

Rather than just use one monitor, I use both as an extended desktop. I can use the main monitor for word processing, while the netbook monitor runs a web browser, text/video chat, or even just the default desktop view (which has a mix useful apps running, such as time, news headlines, email alerts, calendar, weather, rotates family pictures, and so on).

Am I a Mac?  Or am I a PC?

The extended desktop is a surprisingly useful feature, since normally I have to jump between programs when multitasking.

The funny thing is, as high tech as this feels to me, it was old news even in the 90s. My friend J.D.’s dad had a black and white Apple computer set up like this. So it’s a high tech desk set up, but in a way that’s so old it’s almost retro. Heh.

Still, I love it. On the whole, I think it’s pretty badass.