Casey Grisez

November 2, 2022

Sticky Notes Lesson #2 - Surroundings

I signed up for a month-long, email-based writing course from Cole Schafer of Sticky Notes, Honey Copy, and Chasing Hemingway fame.

He sends a lesson and prompt every day. I’ll have 10 minutes to read and consider the prompt, 40 minutes to write, and 10 minutes to edit before posting publicly.

I’m posting here to not drown my Casey's Notes content. On to day 2...


Everyone has heard the anecdote from the famous David Foster Wallace graduation speech. The one about the two young fish swimming around one morning. They swim past an older fish, who says, "Morning, boys. How's the water?" The two younger fish smile and nod and keep swimming. Eventually one asks, "What the hell is water?"

I'm sure I butchered the story, but the point is that, like the younger fish, we are often unaware of our environment. Our water could be mental, like our upbringing, our mental defaults, or our assumptions. Our water could also be physical, like our neighborhood, home, or inside of our car.

How often have you had your parents or in-laws show up and point out the the dirty baseboards you didn't even see?

Today's writing prompt for the Cole Schafer writing course is to describe where we do our writing in as much detail as possible. Thanks to the Covid pandemic and a fully remote job for a while, where I do my writing now is the same water I spent a couple of years swimming in.

I sit at an old desk (I think it's real wood?) that I bought from Staples in 2008 or 2009. I have moved it from Columbus to NYC back to Columbus and it has lived in five different homes. That's too many for a cheap desk from Staples. The legs aren't entirely attached anymore and the bottoms of the drawers are falling through. But the thing still works and it has some war stories to tell. We've seen some things together.

My chair puts the desk to shame. Right before the pandemic, I bought a nice new desk chair -- I think it's a Steelcase model of some kind. The Gesture, I think. It retails for well over a grand but I found one for less than half that on eBay. I planned to work from home more after having kids, and didn't quite realize just how much I'd work from home. This chair is phenomenal. It has all the right tilt and adjustments and everything. Easily the best, most perfectly timed purchase I made for my desk setup.

The overall setup of the space is a copy of a room at the Jumeirah hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. The room is set up with the desk facing the back of the bed. I thought it was brilliant and loved the flow compared to normal hotel rooms, where the bed and desk are haphazardly placed in the room. So, I copied it when I lost my office when the boys were born. I love the space and it feels like I have my own office within the bedroom. The separation of space is key for me.

I'm surrounded by pictures of my kids. My wife is big on crafts so I have lots of handmade gifts, plus a cube with pictures of all of us from a recent vacation. I'm not big on clutter, but pictures of my family are always good motivators.

The rest of the decor is pretty standard home office stuff. Stacks of books, a pen cup, a few pads of sticky notes, an OSU Mr. Potato Head that my mom bought years ago. I also have a couple of over-loaded bookshelves next to me -- I tend to reorient my computer for video calls to get the bookshelves in the background. I'm told bookshelves in the background are required these days.

There's a stack of manila folders on the floor and a trash bag from when I cleaned out the top drawer of the desk a few months ago. I can't say those are intentional parts of the decor but they're part of the water in which I swim. And I didn't notice them until today.

My space is functional and utilitarian more than anything. But whether I'm working or reading, I know it's time to focus when I sit down. 

Even if I have an underlying fear that my desk legs will give out one of these days.