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Better to jot this stuff down on paper: Monk's desk

Better to jot this stuff down on paper: Monk's desk

We continue our staff Deskie series today with our online director, Monk, whose tattooed left hand often appears in product shots, and whose home has been a backdrop for Omoi photoshoots over the years.

This interview is conducted by fellow online team member, Magali.

Magali: Monk! Hi! You recently moved into your own place. Congratulations! What kind of desk situation did you want to design for your new place that was different from your previous homes?

Monk: Howdy. I'm so glad I'm not pretending to interview myself—thanks for being the interviewer this time. 

Uhmm, so yes I recently moved into a one bedroom apartment in West Philly—it's cozy and cute but not that big (like a lot of places of this old post-industrial East coast brick city). Before I moved in, I asked the property manager if there was a floor plan. My plan was to make the large room my bedroom and the smaller room my office, but I needed to make sure everything would fit.

I've kept a writing desk in my previous apartments and group living situations, but it wasn't until this most recent move that I decided to prioritize my creative work by giving it its whole own room. The last time I lived alone, I was more invested in having a couch and a TV and living room, but I wound up spending too many nights falling asleep with NHK World on in the background. I do a lot of writing, and I do a lot of computer work, and I want to concentrate on my writing more during this in this stage of my life. So I was like, heck yeah I'm gonna finally get a big pro monitor and a HUGE desk and put it in the MIDDLE of the room!!! I actually put my original writing desk in my kitchen, and found a solid wood table of my dreams off a certain social media marketplace for sixty bucks. I really enjoy having two separate desk areas where I can sit at, write, read, work, and eat. 

desk and monitor uncovered

battle station

As Web Manager you’re responsible for making our website look neat and inviting, which means you’re very much at home in the digital space. But you also love customizable notebooks and analog tools. How do you mix technology and non-tech in your work space?

For my astrology heads out there, the ruler of my chart is Mercury. I'm a Virgo rising and I have a Gemini sun in the 10th whole sign house. My Mercury is in Taurus in the 9th. I frreeaking love information, organizing it, and the tools to contain, plan, and share it. But I can and have been overloaded by information technology. For over a decade I've lived with chronic bilateral inflammation of the tendons originating from the elbows. I've had to learn how to manage my pain so I can continue to work and enjoy my writing practice. One of the more important aspects of this management is an ergonomic workspace. So besides a regular chair, I I also use a kneeling chair adjusted to the height of my desk, a stationary trackball mouse, a split keyboard, and so on. And I write on paper to give my hands and eyes—my whole body—a break from the demands of the screen. 

left hand

In my workspace, I keep a lot of scratch pads and writing implements, scissors and rulers, clips, sticky notes—all that stuff—nearby. A lot of my work for Omoi involves juggling and prioritizing several dozen disparate, detail-oriented tasks: what new arrivals need photos, where was that typo in the copy, what are we promoting on Insta next week, what's the concept for Back to School this year, etc. A lot of times for me it's better to jot this stuff down on paper, using different colored pens, in no particular system other than it pleases me to use and look at. Pen and paper are essential companions to any computer work, for me... Yeah, I see some people's productivity/office spaces that focus on clean, minimalistic setups, and there's no stationery or desk supplies anywhere... Couldn't be me!

pen cups

You’ve been working with us a long time, and have seen Omoi through a lot of phases. What’s one product (or three) that has stood the test of time?

The freaking Mini Desk Cleaner—it's a little toy car that sweeps up eraser shavings and table dust. I bought one recently, finally, because I was telling myself ohhh no, I just swept the floor and I'm not about to brush a ton of eraser shavings onto it. I guess I could use a desk brush, but that cleaner is one of those just-for-fun things. 

Then there's the Apica Standard Notebook. We've carried this notebook for years and years, through a cover redesign even. I'm planning to make a mini post about the 100-page B5 one I used to write an entire novella draft. It has theeee best binding and the paper inside can take felt tip marker without bleedthrough, which I only just discovered after picking up a pack of Uchida markers from Five Below. 

notebook stack

In your opinion, what’s something every desk should have? A kitchy mouse pad? A snack drawer? A memento mori reminder to Live Laugh Love? Three glasses of water, all in various stages of consumption?

Definitely as many beverages as necessary. Sike—every desk should have space. Everything that needs to be on your desk should not take up the entirety of the desk, and if that's the case, I'd advise getting a bigger desk or reevaluating what your current setup is doing for you. Every desk should also not perpetually be covered in piles of stuff. Make a mess on your desk when are using it, but try to put everything up when you're done. That means having places for your things, trays and drawers and cups and so on.

I'm in the habit of tidying my desk when I'm done for the night. I cover my keyboard and screen with a cloth. Then when I go into my office the next day, stuff feels fresh and ready for the next mess. Oh, and while I am too fastidious about mice to keep a snack drawer by my desk, I do keep a pile of takeout napkins in a drawer. There have been too many times when I eat lunch or start snacking at the desk, and I realize I'm a filthy animal that forgot about the napkins. So, definitely keep some napkins handy.

office tidy

snack hand

What’s your most used item from the shop? What’s your favorite?

My Traveler's Notebook and my Stalogy Editor's pen, for sure. Followed by my Mnemosyne A5 and To Do List notepads. My favorite lately are the Kokuyo Campus notebooks we got in. I used these during study abroad at Kansai Gaidai, and I totally forgot how they are these thin notebooks that open completely flat. 

What’s your most used item not from the shop?

An urban camo BAGGU pencil case that they don't make anymore. We sold their pencil cases when they made them, but not this pattern. I bought it from their Brooklyn storefront years ago. It's like nine inches long, so it fits Blackwing pencils and markers like the Tombow Dual brush pen. I wish they still made them cause the capacity is bonkers. I just counted and I have nineteen(!) pens in there, plus chapstick, USB stick, a pencil sharpener, and some other little things. 

A cloth pencil case and a wood tray both full of pens and pencils on a colorful Mexican tablecloth.

Besides handling the website, you’re also an award-winning writer, a famously procrastinative occupation. How do you cultivate a productive space that helps you focus on your creative work?

I guess my main thing is that I keep my workspaces free of clutter. I have to be able to sit down at either table and open up my biggest notebook, and have space around that for my pencil case and my three beverages and the book I'm reading. Uninterrupted space!

desk keyboard focus

desk writing focus

Liz wants to know "How many mt tapes do you own, BE HONEST”

Oh my god. I KonMari'd a significant portion of my collection one of the last times I moved. I was studying in Japan around 2008-2009 when mt brand washi tape seemed to first hit the market there, so I've been collecting rolls all this time. But I just counted. I have forty rolls. I just bought three yesterday—sunflower print, shocking red, and shocking yellow. So good. I'm mostly using washi tape to label jars and tape ephemera into my journal pages.

If you could peep a celebrity deskie (historical, pop cultural, animal, mineral), whose would it be?

Oh! This—well, this isn't a celebrity deskie—but it reminds me, one of my inspirations for my current office was seeing Haruki Murakami's study, which is like, a long desk and a long couch in the middle of a room surrounded by a wall of records. What a way to prioritize your creative practice! I think his study stayed with me because I'm a renter in a time when rents are very high, and the concept of devoting an entire room to a particular range of disciplined activity outside eat and sleep seems so lavish. But it's important to give yourself that kind of dedicated space for personal contemplation and expression. 

goodnight desk

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  • Rhonda M White

    I got to this party late – but I love it! Great photos and advice about space/creativity.

  • Kathy

    Every word of this! Great post and the photos are just exactly what I needed today.
  • Lorien

    I love this series! Always exciting to see other people’s desks! And I love that Astro Boy poster.

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