One writer's fans got a sneak peek into his guarded life today, when an image of Japanese author Haruki Murakami's desk made its way to the Internet. Murakami's post to his website is the most recent in a series of public interactions from the famously reclusive author, who, until a limited-attendance interview in 2013, had not appeared in public in Japan for 18 years. Earlier this year, Murakami began an advice column that has since grown into an 8-volume book.
Murakami's desk appeared on the author's interactive website, allowing his cult following to explore notable fixtures. And just let me say, the man is cool. I expected more kitsch from a writer with such an off-beat and whimsical reputation, but Murakami sidles up to that line with poise. His pencils are yellow #2s, perfectly sharpened, housed in Miles Davis-themed rocks glasses. Behind them — hidden in the original image — other office supplies are tucked away in a ceramic jack-o-lantern. That's just the right amount of novelty, Mr. Murakami, and I respect your careful selection of desk decor.
Some of the most intimate aspects of Murakami's desk aren't highlighted. Take, for example, his mouse pad. Its design appears almost abstract, until you notice that it's ACTUALLY A FREAKIN' MOOMINTROLL COMIC STRIP. I need emoji to adequately express how happy this makes me, but I hope you get the idea. Then there's the novel, open to the red Borders bookmark. You can't tell that it's a copy of Raymond Chandler's hardboiled detective novel, The High Window, until you zoom in on the Alfred A. Knopf paperweight. The magical realist reads pulp, as it turns out.
As anyone who has worked in an office environment knows, you can learn a lot about someone just by looking at her desk. Cursory glances will tell you if a person is neat or messy, sure, but if you take a closer look, you're sure to find out a lot more about the owner. Here are five things any writer's desk will tell you.
Whether or Not She's Writing Right Now
Believe it or not, you don't have to catch a writer pounding away at a keyboard to know she's working on a project. Do you see a lot of reference books open on her desk? Is she googling strange things, such as "will ant poison kill you" or "was Jane Austen possibly a lesbian"? Are there a lot of handwritten notes or thought maps lying about? If so, she's probably in the middle of a writing project, or gearing up to start a new one.
How Long Her Attention Span Is
Sitting at a desk can be frustrating for people with concentration difficulties. Even the most perfectly lovely workspace can become constricting and distracting if you're neuroatypical. Want to know if the writer you know has trouble staying on track? Check for fiddle objects that provide sensory feedback, such as IsoFlex stress balls, Tangle toys, and Koosh balls.
What Inspires Her
Not everyone keeps an inspiration board in her space, but the lack of one doesn't mean you can't tell what stimulates your writer friend's creativity. Some people prefer monastic spaces: white walls, minimal art, very functional. Others want to bring the funk into their workspaces, with colors, textures, and typography. A writer's desk and office will always pay homage to the people, places, and things that inspire her.
How She Reads
Every writer worth her salt reads, but — like all individuals — we all read in our own ways. Check out your writer friend's workspace. Does she focus on reading only one book at a time, or is she a multitasker? Or perhaps she prefers to use an e-reader? Does she read outside her genre, or deeply within it? You can learn all about her reading preferences just by looking at her desk.
Cats or Dogs?
Yep, you can find out whether a writer is a cat or a dog person just by examining her desk, no forensic hair examination required. Cat people will often keep a few toys nearby, and will have a place for Mister Mittens to lie down so he doesn't pick the laptop keyboard for his afternoon nap. Dog folks, on the other hand, tend to keep a dog bed or favorite blanket on the floor, with a tug-o-war toy and some kibbles or bits stashed away in a desk drawer. And if your writer friend has a goldfish, she might be a low-maintenance pet person instead.
Image: The Guardian/Twitter; Giphy (5)