Wednesday, December 01, 2021

December 1


This framed poster sits on my desk where I can see it every day.

It's an ad for the New School. 

You might wonder why I framed an ad for the New School, let alone position it so I can see it every day.

I first saw it on the subway the first year I lived in New York.

(Today is the 20th anniversary of the day I got here, 81 days after 9/11, full of excitement and determination.)

The ad said exactly what I felt.

I called the New School and asked if I could buy a copy (this was long before cell phone cameras.)

They very kindly sent me what now sits on my desk, reminding me of how much I love this city, and how glad I am to be here.

You are here. Here, where Andy had his fifteen.

Where Nikita slammed his shoe. Where Ruth built his house.

Rand her Fountainhead. Here, where Lenny

made laughter dangerous and Lou made walking wild.

Where 'Trane unleashed his Tenor. Pollock his paint.


You are here. Where John imagined.


Here in New York City. The very wellspring of creative and

intellectual discovery. Ready to exorcise the ordinary.

To Cuisinart conformity. To claim your seat at the table

of giants and be greeted by a collective "Boo-Ya!" 

It's why you are here. It's why we are here, too.


--The New School


What sits on your desk to remind you of "why you are here."




Jonathan E. Quist said...

On my desk? Nothing so profound.
A high school yearbook. A decorative wooden plate that hung in my childhood home. Various tools of the trade. Not so much "why I'm here" as "where I've been".

Perhaps that's why there's also a couple of partial novel manuscripts on an old desktop PC that hasn't been powered up in several years...

Heather Wardell said...

Presents from readers. A tiny incredibly detailed crocheted doily one sent to me from India, a ceramic star with my name and the date we met painted on it, a polar bear snow globe... every time I see one of them, I'm reminded of why I write and why I need to keep going even when it feels impossible.

Joyce Tremel said...

That's lovely! My desk is very small so there's not room for much. I have my laptop, a small notebook, a few pens, my cell phone, and an Adams County Pour Tour coaster which holds either a coffee mug or beer glass depending on the time of day.

BJ Muntain said...

My desk is a tiny corner desk, with no room for anything but my monitor. The bookshelf beside it is full of books on writing, history, anthropology, and other interesting topics. On one shelf sits two tiny urns - my little dogs - and their memorabilia. On another is a heavy glass coaster I received after being at my last job for 5 years.

One of the history books I have is the Bowery Boys history book, with tidbits of NYC history. Although I've never lived in NYC, whenever I visit, I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be, too. It's an incredible feeling.

CynthiaMc said...

My desk is a corner of the couch. On the shelf next to where I sit is a sign that says "Explorers are never lost". I also have a tiny green elephant to remind me I can do anything one bite at a time.

PAH said...

Different GK Chesterton mugs and quotes. Props from commercials I wrote or directed. Cory and Topanga POP! dolls. And a little Saint Joseph vinyl toy.

KariV said...

On my desk there's a picture of my kids as babies. It reminds me every day who I'm currently here for. My computer sits on a runner my husband brought back from the women of Afghanistan. It reminds me of my privilege - to live and work in a country where I am free. Both of those items inspire me to do my best and make the most of every moment and every opportunity.

InkStainedWench said...

To keep me humble, I have an award from a Trivial Pursuit competition. Our team of newspaper editors won because our knowledge was broad, not deep. It reminds me that while I may know a little about a lot, I don't know a lot about anything.

nightsmusic said...

I don't have a desk because I work on my laptop while sitting in my chair most of the time. Sitting by that chair is my dad's Stetson and the last pair of boots and spurs he ever wore. They are a constant reminder of a man who had polio severe enough that he didn't walk until he was well past his third birthday and yet, went on to do everything he ever strove to do except the one thing he really wanted, which was to fight during WWII. Thanks to that same polio, the government wouldn't take him. He rode horses, bulls, motorcycles, braved those same bulls as a clown so other riders could get away from them, did everything a hard boiled cowboy would do, but the government thought he'd be useless. So every day those things are a reminder to me that while others might want to label me as useless or unable to achieve, there isn't anything I can't strive for and most of the time, I 'win'.

InkStainedWench said...

Nightmusic, that's a wonderful tribute to your father. Where did he do his rodeo things? My grandfather was a regular hands-on cowboy in Colorado, and his brother was a rodeo champion.

nightsmusic said...

ISW Really? How awesome is that?? My dad ran away from home so many times as a boy, my grandparents finally made a deal with him. Finish 8th grade and he could do what he wanted. And he did. He moved all over the west. This was in the 20's, 30's and 40's. He ended up as an extra in a lot of Hollywood movies. I knew John Wayne and Roy Rogers and a lot of old (figuratively and literally) western actors. I was young though (I'm old!) and don't remember a lot of his stories now. I wish I'd had the foresight at the time to write them down. He had so many. We'd travel during the summer. He had a wonderful Paint named Betsy that he performed on, tricks, all sorts of things. He'd gotten away from the more 'dangerous stuff' he called it, when I came along. He loved that horse. She was pretty amazing. He was coming back from somewhere, can't remember where now, went over some rough railroad tracks and the floor in the trailer broke. She went through it and broke two legs. Of course, he had to put her down and that was the end of everything. He sold our other horses and never rode again. They were as much his life as my mother and me. Maybe a little more so because they were his before we were.

I miss my dad. He was a real hero to me. The doctors said he'd be paralyzed from the waist down all of his life. Go figure.

Theresa said...

Nightsmusic, that's an amazing story about your dad. (My biography of Dale Evans, called Queen of the West, comes out in March. Roy Rogers makes an appearance--or a hundred--in it!)

On my desk is a copy of "Thinking Like Your Editor," sometimes inspiring, sometimes mocking, always reminding me of where I'm at. And if my new book proposal sells, I'll finally get to go to New York City for the first time ever. I hope to get that "The New School" feeling when I get there!

Hope everyone is finding some joy as the holiday season is underway.

glevin said...

Damn it, Janet — I was finally getting settled here in Sydney, and now, thanks to your post, I'm suddenly in a New York state of mind.

Btw, on my desk is a copy of the "welcome to the team" letter you sent along with our author/agency agreement in June 2020.

Forever grateful.

John M. Poindexter said...

There are several papers and handheld radios on my work space besides a big monitor. Good thing the keyboard is located under the desktop or I may never find it.

AJ Blythe said...

Nothing that reminds me why I am here, but I keep the three quotes on my desk that inspire - nothing quite so eloquent as yours, Janet, and just bluetacked scraps of paper, but very well read:

Give yourself permission to do it badly at first. Improve as you go. Don't aim for perfection - it doesn't exist. Perfectionism is a form of procrastination. If you give into it, it will hold you back from fully expressing yourself and kill your creative energy.

The most painful thing to experience is not defeat, but regret.

Never give up! Never surrender!

glevin, nice to see another Aussie here (even if a transplant). *waving from Canberra*

nightsmusic said...

Ah Theresa, while I was young and don't have many memories, the ones I have are fond. I look forward to your book :) And I hope you make it to NYC. Not only because it means you've sold, but because NYC is like a living, breathing thing. It's so much more than a city could ever be. My aunt (dad's sister) lived in the Century building right on Central Park for 40+ years and I spent many summers there. It was an amazing time and what an experience! You'll love it!

Mister Furkles said...

On my desk: an artist tempera of a Maine Coon: Mister Furkles. Above, several phots by my daughter and art by my mother, who graduated from Parsons at The New School. It isn't new any more.

glevin said...

Thanks, AJ. Great quotes, btw.

Katja said...

What a LOVE thing to have on your desk! And happy anniversary to you and New York City ❤💕.
I'm so happy for you to have found your home.

I don't have anything on my desk to remind me why I am here. Because I don't even want to be here but currently have no other choice.

I want to be in Zurich, Switzerland, because after having lived in quite a few places around the world, I now know that Zurich feels like a (physical) home to me. Husband is my mobile (emotional) home!

I'm currently very sad because Omicron has just cancelled our Christmas trip to Zurich. I had been very excited and wanted to go since April, finally readied myself for a huge OCD-fight that would come along with going to Zurich.

But Switzerland now imposed a 10-day quarantine on everyone coming in from the UK. That's too many days for us in this case. 😪

Craig F said...

I have a photo on my desk. I don't want to get into much about that photo; because it is a story to end conversations, not start them.

The smile on that photo seems to be a thing from before the shroud of the world;s pain falls upon one's shoulders.

It points to what all I want in my writing; the edges of innocence, something make people laugh, and cry, and emotional roller coaster that drags a reader down and then makes them soar.

It is what i hope to cover in the info-dump stuff I write.

Unknown said...

My family, my pets (literally), my huge print of the Madonna of the Americas hangs on the wall above, a little reminder to be grateful. My computer, stacks of books and general junk just so I'll have chaos to nudge me toward being a better writer. But, I can never find a pen.

Aimlesswriter said...

That is beautiful.
On my desk is a 5 x 7" painting of Poe I got at a Steam Punk fest in Jersey.

Kregger said...

The two things I keep on my desk probably say more about me than anything else. I have the obit of the first guy to sue me and an obit (plus the mass card) of a woman whose wake I attended simply to make sure. The animus I feel for these individuals drives every characterization of villains I write.
Worth it?

Julie Weathers said...

Thank you, Janet. That was beautiful.

On my desk. I have a large old wooden desk, 30"x60". Behind my monitor, I have a wooden bookcase filled with mostly Civil War books, one shelf of fiction (mostly C.J. Box, Kari Lynn Dell, Breeana Shields, and Anne Perry at the moment) two big old dictionaries, a big thesaurus, two books by Don Maass (highly recommended), two books of poetry in Danish with gift inscriptions from 1900 and 1902, In His Steps with an inscription and the receipt from 1909, Edwin Wakefield's book of prayer and a notation "born Oct. 22, 1838", The Greatest Salesman in the World, and Elements of Style.

There is also a sign on one shelf that says "Alcohol because no great story ever started with someone eating a salad", A picture of me holding a horse to remind myself not to eat that junk food and get off my butt and go exercise, a lifesize raven statue to remind me of Poe. On top of the bookcase is a bronze Quarter Horse statue.

On the desk is my microphone because I was going to start doing podcasts. Kari Lynn had agreed to do an interview with me then she got busy with branding and the book and I got busy and then...yeah. My son, bless him, is setting up some software so I can get back into that project.

My huge Asus computer sits on one side. A cup with pens and pencils. An antique hourglass I turn when I am starting a writing session. "Just write for thirty minutes," I tell myself. Usually, by the time the sand runs out, I'm on a roll and keep writing.

A "No Parking" sign is on the wall above the desk to remind me not to just park my butt in a chair and do nothing.

Mini statues of Malcolm Reynolds and Cara Dune stand atop my monitor guarding me.

Nightsmusic, that is fascinating about your dad. What a horror story about that Paint, though. My gosh, that must have been hard. He was truly a man you could look up to. Hugs.

Kitty said...

A picture of Marlon Brando from the movie "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Kate Larkindale said...

I don't have a desk, so there is nothing on it to remind me why I'm here. I write at the kitchen counter and I certainly don't want to believe that the dirty dishes and crumbs are there to remind me why I'm here.

Barbara Etlin said...

Great poster about NYC.

Three tiny Delft owls from Amsterdam (symbols of my first novel), an owl flash drive containing my WIP, a sodalite stone (for creativity), and a Portuguese coin (symbol of my WIP).

nightsmusic said...

Thanks, Julie. It was truly a horrible time. The anguish in our house was palpable. They tell you that you don't really remember much until you're a certain age, but I still remember it clearly. He cried for weeks. He dragged the trailer back with Betsy in the back, had a friend bring their tractor and buried her on the property. He had every intention of burning the trailer, I don't know really why he didn't. Bunyea Farms who he was close friends with, took three of the horses and the mule, Hubert took the Arabian and he left everything to rot. It really killed a big part of him because he felt like it was his fault. Side note? I should put that alcohol quote across the top of my laptop lid! ;) *hugs back

I haven't thought about all of this in ages! Funny what brings things up.

Julie Weathers said...

Nightsmusic, I hate that he got rid of all your horses, but I kind of understand in a way.

I went out to feed one morning and found Buddy, one of our studs, on the ground thrashing. Twisted gut. At first, I prayed we could save him. Then I just prayed for the vet to hurry up and get there to put him down.

Buddy was one of my favorites. We couldn't figure out why the half barrels we put feed in kept winding up over the fence and thought some kids were getting into the arena during the day. We turned the horses out during the day rather than keep them in stalls. Then one day we saw Buddy flip the barrel on its side and start rolling it. The other horses would chase it, kicking it or nosing it around the arena like they were playing soccer. When he got tired of playing, he'd pick it up and toss it over the fence.

He was an absolute doll and no one could believe he was a stud because he was so sweet.

After that, I said I'd never own another horse again. That was years ago and I'm getting to the point now I'd like to have another one.

Donnaeve said...

I can see exactly why you wanted the ad, and why it sits on your desk, framed, and where you can see it every single day. Swoon worthy.

What sits on your desk to remind you of "why you are here."

Well, obviously - my desktop where I am staring at a Word doc. :)

But in all seriousness, research books, two or three books by writers who floored me with their prose, and The Elements of Style. (of course)

Donnaeve said...

nightsmusic I shouldn't presume to know anything about what you might be writing with your father's spurs and boots nearby, but I would hope it might be about him, and your life around him. I'd read it in a heartbeat. My publisher keeps saying "Westerns are huge!" (Thanks to the series, Yellowstone)

Julie So sad about your horse!!! I've seen videos of horses playing with a big ball out in a pasture. It's funny, yet amazing - who knew horses like to play???

Casual-T said...

Strewn between a number of computer monitors, a music keyboard, a pair of audio speakers, and various items of ill repute, you’ll find... A foldable pocket knife from when I was a wee lad back yonder. A small Ziploc bag containing a multitude of twist ties of various lengths and colors, because it is better to have them when you need them than not. An hourglass containing enough sand to last exactly 57 seconds. Shoddy workmanship. It is meant to be used as a minute-timer, but is obviously faulty. A 26-piece set of Allen keys, metric and imperial, because you never know. A Yo-Yo with the words “Made in West Germany” embossed on the inside, from a time when the world was a different place. A conductor’s baton which belonged to a former roommate of mine. We shared an apartment while both of us were studying music in Vienna. Boy, could he cook up some delicious chicken! A small piece of fabric in a round, black frame, with the words “Rock On” hand-stitched on it. My son made this for me when he was 10 years old. He’s 20 now, and won’t speak to me. A Bob Ross bobble-head, because, as my mother always said, I wasn’t a mistake but a happy accident. A paper cutout of Albert Einstein, because, when you think about it, it’s all relative.

nightsmusic said...

Julie, I get it. I do. I'm so sorry about Buddy. Twist, colic, torsion, it's horrible and rarely when it's bad can one do anything about it. It's horrible. I bet he ran the pasture though by the sounds of it. Tossing the barrels made me smile. Had enough, I'm done. lol! I'd encourage you to get another but really, they do better with two and I don't know what stage of life you're at but I know I'm at the point where I don't want to go out early every morning anymore in the cold and snow. If I could build a barn with a door from the house out, that would be the ideal set up! I have a husband who does not see eye to eye with me on that though. *sigh*

Donnaeve Thank you. Truly. No one would really want to read my dad's stories though, I'm sure. My girls didn't know my mom, but they knew my dad for awhile and I tell them stories. That's enough. Maybe they'll keep him alive when I'm gone. That would be enough for me.

John Davis Frain said...

Sand timer. One hour. Reminding me to flip it and work.

(With a nod to Julie W!)

jerrianneh said...

My landline handset, an analog clock, two mugs full of pens & markers, lamp, document stand and, most significant, nestled among prompts, reminders, biz cards, etc., tacked to a cork board back of the credenza on which all of this sits, a small scroll with the poem "Don't Quit".

KDJames said...

I sort of envy those of you who know "why you are here" and have visual prompts to remind you. I have no idea why I'm here -- in this physical place or in this so-called profession -- and a big part of me can't help but feel relieved by that. If I knew my purpose, it seems there'd have to be some kind of accounting: am I doing it well, or even at all, have I failed, will I eventually succeed? But maybe I misunderstood the question or am just thinking too much.

Sometimes I suspect my "why" is to be comic relief. Or, more likely, to serve as a horrible warning. I'm killing it on that point, no reminder needed. :)

Mary said...

My replica of the Northern terminus monument of the Pacific Crest Trail. Which I got after hiking the whole darn thing. To remind me that I can do hard things.

John Davis Frain said...

If there were a LIKE button, I'd have been hitting it often reading these posts. Just sayin'.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I'm late to the party - been crazy busy at the new facility in NC - but I have to say what a joy is was reading through everyone's comments. And a little heartbreaking, too. (Julie, Nightsmusic, horses!)

Above my desk is an oil painting of my first horse. Cody. She reminds me why I write. Trying to make the world a better place for these remarkable beings.

And I concur with Mr. Frain. Hitting LIKE. Hugs to all...

Yvonne Osborne said...

Ha! My more memorable rejections, from a now absconded agent to the Paris Review.

NLiu said...

Having a blast reading all the posts!

I no longer have a desk; I have a new baby and had to abandon the desk to install a cot in its place. I guess my new purpose is keeping a very small person fed and reasonably clean? My "new desk" is a lap tray that sits on the end of the bed. My laptop just about fits on it, so that's it for desk objects, if you don't count dust.

When I did have a desk it was covered in junk and to-do lists. I really hope that doesn't have anything to say about my life's purpose!

nightsmusic said...

NLiu, if I haven't said it, Congratulations!!!

NLiu said...

Thanks nightsmusic!