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What’s on your desk, Adia Watts?

Copy editing amid art

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If you’re not a writer or an editor, you may not appreciate how important copy editors are to publications. They are the ones who keep us from making fools of ourselves with bad grammar, bad spelling, or bad sentence structure; they also often act as fact-checkers. If you do a lot of reading on a variety of sites, you can usually tell which ones use copy editors and which ones do not.

Adia Watts is a copy editor for The Verge. Like the rest of the staff, she is currently working from home, and we asked her to talk about her workspace.

Tell me a little about yourself. What is your background, and what do you do at The Verge?

I make up one-half of The Verge’s copy desk. My official title is “video copy editor,” so I make sure our video captions, graphics, and titles are clean. That includes videos on our YouTube channels, social videos, and videos you may see playing on screens in malls (if you’re still going to the mall these days). But I also edit The Verge’s social media copy as well as our daily articles, features, and any other words that may show up on our website. The Verge is my first job out of college, so I’ve had the typical student jobs before this one, but I studied journalism in undergrad and have some experience with audio and video production as well.

How did you decide where and how to set up your workspace?

I currently live at home with my mom, as many young millennials do these days. My bedroom has always had this small extra room attached to it. Before I came along, the room was my mom’s office, then a place to do my homework when I was a child, and most recently, it was just a miscellaneous storage space where we put things that didn’t have a rightful place. So once the pandemic hit and I was home all the time — working and taking classes — I decided to finally tackle this room and make it into something I enjoyed using. I’d already been working from home since 2018, but the added time inside made me really want a place to do work other than my bed or the dining room table. So I made it my summer renovation project to turn it into a home office for myself.

Tell me a little about the desk itself.

It’s a hand-crank sit / stand desk from a company called Mount-It. (The frame and the desktop were ordered separately.) I would have loved a motorized desk like the ones at Vox Media’s New York City office, but I don’t have many power outlets in this room, so I didn’t want to eliminate one by having something constantly plugged into it. Plus, when I do use it as a standing desk (which, admittedly, is rarely), the turning motion gives me a tiny workout. The desk is about 60 inches wide, and it can be adjusted to about four feet tall. It’s the perfect size for my height, and it has enough space for all of my computers, books, and various desk knickknacks.

Fully desk chair
Fully desk chair.
Under the desk: an ottoman and a wire drawer set
Under the desk: an ottoman and a wire drawer set.

That’s a very interesting-looking desk chair.

It’s called the Fully Desk Chair. (Fully is the name of the company.) It’s very adjustable: the seat, arms, armrests, and back all move and slide in various directions. It also has a plastic sliding lumbar support in the back of the chair, but it really doesn’t stay in place that well. The seat cushion is comfortable, but overall, I find myself fidgeting and changing my sitting position a lot in this chair. I frequently lean to one side to rest on my elbows while I’m sitting, and I find that the armrests dig into my ribs when I do. I wish there were a way to push them down completely. I tried to find a used Herman Miller chair, but they were still very much out of my budget.

I see you use the space below your desk for storage. Is the cushion for your feet?

Yes! I am not a tall person, so when I adjust my desk and chair to the height I like, my feet just barely touch the floor. So I bought this Lory pouf ottoman from Target to have a comfy stool where I can rest my feet. The wire drawer set with all of my many charger cables, pens, pencils, crayons, etc. is also from Target. It’s actually in-closet storage for sweaters and other bulky clothes, but it was perfect for this room, so I couldn’t pass it up.



Okay, now it’s time to talk about your other tech: your computer, display setup, mic setup, and other tech stuff.

I have two computers here: the 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro that was given to me when I started at The Verge and my new (old) late-2012 21.5-inch iMac. I bought the iMac because I wanted something that would work well with my daily workload of Chrome tabs, Slack, and Spotify, as well as some Adobe software, without kicking up the fans or getting too hot.

Despite working at The Verge for three years, I am not tech-savvy, so I can’t tell you which spec on the iMac allows it to work so smoothly. But it has a 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-3770S, Nvidia GeForce GT 650MB 512GB, 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. It works well so far, and I enjoy having such a large screen so I can easily look at multiple windows at once. Having a desktop also gives me a good excuse to get up in the morning and not work from my bed.



Then there’s an Anker Ultra Compact Bluetooth keyboard. The key setup is almost identical to the keyboards on MacBooks, so it feels very familiar to my fingers. The key travel is a little deeper than the shallow clicks of the MacBook Pro, but otherwise, it gets the job done.

My mouse is a standard M510 Logitech wireless mouse that I might have also picked up from Target. It has an extremely easy-to-lose USB adapter that slots into the USB-A port on my iMac, so it’s not Bluetooth. It has side buttons that sit next to my thumb for navigating through webpages, a scroll wheel, and rubber grips on either side. It’s very comfortable, convenient, and easy to use.

I’ve got a Western Digital 1TB external hard drive that I’ve had since college that has yet to be filled up. Once my personal laptop (an early 2014 13-inch MacBook Air) began slowing down and threatening to give out on me, I started saving everything directly onto the hard drive. Now, I use it mostly to save my personal audio-visual projects that can comprise many storage-eating clips.

Desk tech
Beats Solo Pro and an Anker keyboard
A desk of tech

A desk of tech, including a Beats Solo Pro and a Sony Alpha A6000 camera.

Speaking of audio: my headphones are Beats Solo Pro, one of The Verge’s picks for the best noise-canceling headphones. I use them while I work, along with a lofi hip-hop playlist, if outside noise gets to be too much. I actually don’t care for noise cancellation because I like to be aware of what’s going on around me, so I enjoy the Transparency Mode, which uses the Solo Pro’s built-in microphones to allow me to hear ambient sounds.

The microphone is a Blue Snowball that I bought in college when I thought I wanted to be a podcaster. These days, I use it to record audio for TikTok videos in my free time. Like everyone else, I was sucked into the social video app at the beginning of the pandemic, and I use it to share visuals for poetry I’ve written.

The camera is a Sony Alpha A6000. I’m no photographer, but I like to take pictures, so I use it mostly when traveling or for special occasions. It currently has a Sony 30mm macro lens on it that I bought when I thought I wanted to be a food blogger and take close-up pictures of delicious meals. Now, I just take pictures of food with my phone like everyone else.



I see you have some interesting crafts on your desk, including a vase and — is that a candle or an incense holder?

It’s actually a wax melter. A little tealight candle goes into the opening on the other side, and you can put a wax cube or even oils in the basin on top, and the scent fills the room. The vase that is holding my faux flowers and moisture meter for my plants is a handcrafted piece by an artist who goes by akilspots on Instagram. I picked it up last summer in Brooklyn at the going-away sale that he held before he moved to Los Angeles.

And there are also some really nice art objects on your corner bookcase.

Thanks! The bookcase used to be a set of drawers that I deconstructed and painted. The green triangle piece is just some scrap wood that I found around the house and decided to do something with. I tried to do a cool landscape scene, and I think it actually came out pretty nice. On top, I have a wood constellation plaque that my best friend bought me for my 25th birthday. It’s the Cancer constellation (because I’m a Cancer), and underneath, it says my name, my birthday, and some positive traits that Cancers share. Next to that is a zine from CRWN Mag, a natural hair magazine tailored to Black women, which also happens to be where I did an internship in undergrad.

You use the space on your walls particularly well. To begin with, you have some pretty impressive certificates. Can you tell us about them?

Sure. There’s my diploma for my bachelor of science from SUNY Oneonta, a certificate for honors in mass communications, and an award from the Africana & Latinx Studies Department for my “courageous advocacy of equality and civil rights.”

A deconstructed bookcase
A deconstructed bookcase.
A mirror, an award, and a photograph
A mirror, an award, and a photograph.

The art is lovely as well. I especially admire the photograph of the three hands.

Thank you! The photo of the hands is a piece by photographer Samuel Trotter. It was part of the Black in America archive from See In Black, a collective of Black photographers uplifting and celebrating Black lives and Black art. The collective came together during all of the racial injustice and protests that were occurring last summer as a way to create community and a little positivity for Black people during a tremendously difficult time. Proceeds from the sales of the prints went to several activist organizations working to aid Black communities in America. To me, the hands represent coming together and the self-healing that happens within Black communities and family units whenever there is collective anguish like there was last summer, which continues to be an unfortunate reality in the Black American experience.

The Toni Morrison print is from an artist named Zoë Sinclair, who goes by Frequency of Love on Etsy. She has an entire collection of prints like these, featuring Black historical icons surrounded by colorful prints reminiscent of African fabrics like kente and Adinkra cloth. I chose Toni Morrison because, as a writer, her moving, descriptive stories inspire my own.

And finally, I see you have both a whiteboard and a corkboard.

Yes, I do. My corkboard usually features different mementos or reminders I need. Right now, I’ve pinned up a vision board that I made at the beginning of 2019, which is slowly but surely coming to fruition. My whiteboard is also for reminders or pieces of information that I need to know. It always contains my Wi-Fi password (which I’ve covered in the picture with markers) for guests and for myself because I can never remember it. But I also use the whiteboard for writing down new ideas that might come to me out of the blue. I once woke up from a nap and wrote the entire introduction paragraph to an essay on it.

A Toni Morrison print by Zoë Sinclair (on the wall, left) and Medusa, the snake plant.
A Toni Morrison print hangs on the wall at left, above Medusa the snake plant.
Keeping up to date with a corkboard and whiteboard.
Keeping up to date with a corkboard and whiteboard.

Thanks! Is there anything else interesting about your working space that we haven’t covered?

I think that’s it. The only thing left to mention is my sad, dying snake plant. Her name is Medusa.

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