Officelessness

Like a lot of avocational writers, I don’t have a room of my own — well, OK, there’s a corner of the basement with a desk, but the desk is piled high with kid stuff and craft supplies and my own mess of half-drafts, notebooks, and swag. I do much of my writing in the living room on a laptop, either early in the morning or late in the evening, when the kid is still blessedly sleeping.

On days I dedicate to writing and revising, like yesterday, I venture out into the wild in search of wifi and outlets. Coffee shops, cafes, and library “quiet” rooms.

I wonder if it would be better to have a regular place, a writerly cove with a pinboard of inspirational quotes and photographs, or if the essential itineracy of my writing life is a good thing: the mixing up of scenery, the people watching, the unexpected inspiration in an overheard conversation or discovery of a new place. Stagnation is its own kind of death. Plus, the homeless feeling gives me and my writing a desparate edge.

I sometimes wander out with really no idea where I’m going. I am Robert Frost, simply taking the least-traveled paths… I set out yesterday for one library, and ended up at another. After seeing the backed-up cars waiting to get on one expressway, I turned down a side street that veered in a different direction than I expected and dumped me on a different highway, under construction, with an infinity of cars crammed into one lane, so I took the first right and ended up at the library on Winnetka.

It meant no coffee (intended library has a coffee shop) and different/less-exciting lunch plans (first one is near my favorite sandwich shop). But it proved to be worth it — I was inspired at that library on Winnetka, and believe I first saw the light at the end of the tunnel with regards to these revisions. I went in feeling like Sisyphus and left feeling like I’d crested the hill by accident and sent the ball rolling the other side. I feel like something there made the difference — running into a colleague, seeing an interesting art print. Maybe just being sort of across the street from a TV studio where one crucial scene takes place, remaining in the radius of my characters’ lives.

I know I’m not alone, and that many writers find themselves writing not only in the scattered free minutes of busy lives, but also at whatever “office” they can find for a few hours. It’s not such a bad existence.

3 thoughts on “Officelessness

  1. My office is my dining room table and although I wish I had a more permanent place to file/leave messes there’s a good view and the coffee is good and cheap.

  2. I think there’s a fantasy of the uninitiated, and a sort of misguided assumption among non-writers, that you need the perfect environment in which to create your art. When I have my cabin and a roaring fire and a sleepy lap cat and a gentle snowfall, I can finally get started on my novel. It’s a romanticized view of writing. I don’t know many writers who can afford to arrange these conditions, or to wait for them. I enjoy writing at my home office but I also enjoy writing on set during a shoot, which is something like writing in the middle of a hurricane while being mauled by a bear.

    But more to your point, I don’t think I get out into the world enough to take the road less traveled. You become blind to the things you see every day, and that’s death for a writer.

  3. I, too, have a space that I don’t use. I once used it, occasionally, but it’s upstairs in the corner away from the rest of the house. OK, I realize that sounds ideal, but I guess I need some connection. The downstairs of my home is open and bright and that’s where the dog likes to hang out, and I like to hang out by my dog. So kitchen table it is.

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