Resolving to Return to a (Work) Routine

As I begin writing this post, I can’t help but sigh heavily. To say that August has been a whirlwind of chaotic activity would be an understatement. But as it comes to a close and my special collections research ends (or at least is put on hold), I find myself struggling to get back into my old routine of writing and reading. Or rather, I need to find a new routine. Either way, productivity is down.

Part of this is simple burnout. I want and need a break. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I have approaching deadlines that require that I continue working and accept the last two days as break enough. As Tim Gunn says, “It’s time to make it work!”

So, since I’m not simply falling back into a work routine, reflection is in order to push past the feeling of being overwhelmed with “stuff” to do. What do I need to do? What is the first step(s) to getting it done? What is my priority? What can wait a while?

And to make this official, I’m sharing my “To Do” list, in prioritized order with any formal (or informal) due dates:

  1. Organize desk top. (It is a mess from the move still.) [X]
  2. Register for conference in Sept. [X]
  3. Reserve shuttle for Nov. conference. [X]
  4. Read and incorporate secondary sources into my current dissertation chapter. [in progress]
  5. Polish my current dissertation chapter.
  6. Submit to dissertation director before meeting on Sept. 15th. [X]
  7. Condense to conference presentation and submit to graduate student presentation contest by Sept. 18th. [X]
  8. Begin creating colloquium presentation (PowerPoint or Prezi) while on the topic.
  9. Attend and present at conference Sept. 25th-28th. [X]
  10. Finish preparing 40 minutes colloquium presentation paper/notes and visuals by Oct. 16th.
  11. Jump into next chapter (already begun but put on hold last semester), in particular to prepare for Nov. conference presentation.
  12. Prepare conference presentation by Nov. 5th.
  13. Attend and present at conference Nov. 5th-8th.

I think at that point in November I can afford to take a week or two off to recover.

And, just as I’m about to publish this post, I realize I left all my job application materials off the official list, so . . .

*1-13* Scatter job application prep, search, and submission throughout.


Optimizing My Writing Space: DIY Desk Makeover

This is the reveal of my new and improved desk!

I discussed some ideas I had for optimizing my writing space in this post, and after an at times hellish week, my desk revamp is now complete. The process of repainting and stenciling my hand-me-down laminate desk was more time and energy consuming than I originally thought it would be, but I’m very pleased with the end result, and I’ve learned *a lot* about painting (laminate) furniture.

Here is what my desk looked like when I began the project. (You can see that I tested my metallic paint on the keyboard shelf by the time I thought to take a “before” photo.)

plain laminate desk before paint


And here is the end result, after spray painting, stenciling, and sealing.

Painted and Stenciled Laminate Desk




Create an inviting and inspirational workspace to make the idea of sitting and writing for hours on end more appealing.


  1. Laminate Desk
  2. Spray Paint (I used 4 cans of Krylon Fusion for Plastic in Metallic Shimmer on the base and ~1.5 cans of Krylon Dual Superbond Paint + Primer in Ivory Satin for the desk top.)
  3. Stencils of choice
  4. Acrylic Paint (I used three colors I had laying around from a previous project for the stenciling)
  5. Foam Brushes to apply acrylic paint
  6. 1 spray can of Minwax Polycrylic in Clear with Satin finish (to protect desk top)
  7. 220 Sandpaper to sand between coats of polycrylic
  8. Tarp to protect garage floor
  9. Boxes to stand furniture on while painting
  10. Internet Access for continual research

Process (actual not necessarily recommended):

  1. Research via Pinterest for tips on painting laminate
  2. Decide spray paint is the answer to “easy” furniture makeovers and that you want your desk to be a metallic copper
  3. Run all over more than one town looking for the only spray paint that explicitly states it is made to work with laminate (Krylon Dual Superbond Paint + Primer) only to find it is unavailable at most locations and is definitely unavailable in copper
  4. After being lied to by a sales associate regarding the presence of the desired paint in silver, settle on a silver paint made for plastic (because plastic and laminate are basically the same thing, right?)
  5. Also purchase a can of spray polyurethane that is not the polycrylic you thought you needed only to discover you were correct and that the purchased product needs to be returned
  6. Test the paint on the keyboard shelf to make sure it doesn’t simply refuse to stick
  7. Talk father into helping to paint the desk he gave you
  8. Run out of metallic spray paint after base is painted (desk top is still original laminate)
  9. Decide the metallic paint is darker than you expected and so desk top is going to be painted ivory and stenciled (because it should be a simple process, right?)
  10. Do more research regarding stenciling furniture
  11. Run all over more than one town (again) looking for ivory paint made for laminates (found at 1st store, score!–along with foam brushes and sandpaper), correct spray polycrylic (found at 3rd store), and stencils (found at 6th store).
  12. After spray painting desk top ivory, spend 7 hours painting the stencils in a filthy garage in 90+ degree heat, bent over the desk top and unable to sit
  13. Decide the stencils can be cleaned later because your back is killing you (they are still waiting to be cleaned and I’m still in pain)
  14. Due to pain, ask dad to help again by applying polycrylic to desk top and sanding between each coat (3 were recommended, 5 were applied and then the can was empty so we–he–stopped)
  15. Have dad move the desk to new apartment, put it back together, and take picture of end product…1 hellish week complete!

Lessons Learned & Tips for Future Projects:

  1. Plan ahead. *Way* ahead.
  2. When trying a new technique (all of this was new to both me and my dad), begin with a smaller project (like a box, a frame, an end table, etc.).
  3. Don’t attempt to complete entire project in 1 week.
  4. Purchase all needed materials ahead of time, perhaps via the internet to avoid driving around everywhere only to find your desired materials are unavailable.
  5. Painting wood furniture instead of laminate furniture would also make purchasing materials easier, as there are many more products available for painting wood.
  6. Choose more temperate weather for outdoor projects (meaning not humid and 90+ degrees)
  7. Hmmm, I know there are more but I’m drawing a blank, so I’ll end with have fun with it and enjoy the final product of all your hard work!


Although this was a difficult and trying process, I’m extremely pleased with the end result and look forward to using my pretty new desk (once the desk top has plenty of time to dry). It was certainly worth all the work.

Now I find myself eyeing up various pieces of furniture as possible future projects. I won’t be taking them on any time soon (after all, I have some smaller crafts in the works to continue upgrading my work space) but this project definitely has not turned me off from painting and/or stenciling furniture in the future.

The possibilities seem endless…and I have this end table that would look lovely in a metallic copper!

Sources of Inspiration and Information (in no particular order):

  1. Everything I Know About Spray Paint!” and “Painting Furniture 101” by All Things Thrifty
  2. How to Spray Paint Furniture Like a Pro!” by Classy Clutter
  3. Bling for the Bedroom–A Silver Nightstand–Sold” by The Ordinary Made Extraordinary
  4. Painting Laminate Furniture” by Gluesticks
  5. Table Redo for $12–Holla! + My Best Tips on How to Spray Paint Furniture” by The House of Smiths
  6. DIY Desk Makeover” by The Chronicles of Ruthie Hart
  7. DIY Thrift Store Desk Makeover (Using Silver Leaf!)” by LiveLoveDIY
  8. Make It Nice Again” by Pinterest & the Pauper

Optimizing My Writing Space: Paint & Plans

In a previous post, I discussed how having a dedicated and comfortable writing space was improving my productivity as I compose my dissertation. I mentioned purchasing a separate keyboard to use to increase comfort when typing as my desk is setup with a keyboard shelf and therefore not super conducive to typing on a laptop resting on the desktop. (I switched to the keyboard halfway through the first sentence of this post, so it was a very good decision!) In this post, I’d like to compile and discuss some of my plans for improving my writing space (aka desk).

In a week I will finally be moving into my “permanent” apartment (yay!) and so will have the opportunity to reorganize my work space. This is what I currently have in mind:


To begin with, I’m painting my current desk to make it more aesthetically appealing. The desk was a hand-me-down from my dad, so I really had no say in picking it out. Also, because it was free for me, I’m not opposed to putting a bit of money into painting it.  What color, you may ask? I’ve decided on metallic nickel!

I’m excited for the transformation and have been “researching” how to spray paint laminate furniture (mostly on Pinterest). This backfired a bit as the paint I wanted, and the copper color I wanted, was unavailable in my area. I was able to find the metallic nickel color, however, and the paint, while not formulated for laminate, is made for plastics and other “hard to paint surfaces.” I tested it on the keyboard shelf yesterday as an easily removable and mostly unseen piece to paint and perhaps ruin, and so far so good! Hopefully, the results prove equally pleasing when the rest of the desk is done!

messy workspace, painting in progress

Part of my current disaster of a work space. You may notice the newly metallic keyboard shelf at the bottom.


In addition to painting my desk, I’ve been considering new ways to organize my materials. During this recent in-between time (crammed into a one-bedroom apartment with another person–my bed is in the dining room actually and my desk is located at its foot) my desk has become out of control–simply a huge jumbled mess of random stuff (see photo evidence above). While this may do for now, I want a better system in the new apartment. Enter Pinterest (again)!

I came across some pins from a Better Homes & Gardens slideshow called “Home Office Storage on a Dime.” This simple organization system using some labeled clothespins appealed to me.

While the article suggests using the clothespins as a weekly schedule, labeling the clothespins with days of the week, I think this setup could be perfect for organizing various notes, quickly jotted thoughts, questions or directions, and/or quotations. Each pin could be labeled according to article or chapter topic or even sub-topic (for instance, Literary Annuals, Mary de Morgan, Theory, Introduction, etc.). Additional pins could be used as a to-do list or even a series of goals. Really, the possibilities seem endless.


The same article also suggested turning canvas artwork into a memo board. It explained, “Don’t spend money on a corkboard — instead turn an artist’s canvas into a practical memo board. For a magnetic surface, attach a sheet-metal square. Hang it above your desk to keep important items visible” (“Home Office Storage on a Dime“)

I like the idea of a “prettier” memo board. But more than that, I like the idea of creating my own piece of artwork on a canvas and transforming that into a memo board. I’m currently taking a watercolor class at the community art center, and I think this may be the perfect way to utilize my newly acquired (basic) watercolor skills. Or, for more pop, I might use some basic acrylic paints, or even just wrap a canvas in a favorite piece of patterned fabric. Plus, I can choose whatever size I want and/or need.

Moreover, should I go the magnetic route suggested by the article, I could glue magnets to the labeled clothespins and skip the hanging twine altogether!


Finally, I’m considering a motivational quotation, perhaps in the form of a wall decal. has several options, but I kind of have a specific quotation in mind and am having trouble finding it in decal form. It’s from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:

Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

Not only is this quotation motivational as it encourages perseverence in the pursuit and completion of goals, but it also is rather calming in suggesting that there is a linear process to an end, whatever that end may be. I simply love it. So I might need to order a custom decal with this quotation. Or I might get an extra-large canvas for a memo board and incorporate the quotation into my artwork. 🙂