Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The World Is My Office

I started thinking about this topic after reading Jewel's post about coping with one's writing environment. There was a time when I believed that writing could only take place within a designated “writing space.” If not a dedicated office with a door to separate me from the distractions of the world—or my household, at least—then at least a corner of one room where I could establish my work area, with “strict” instructions to the other denizens of my abode that “This is where I write. No trespassing, yo.”

When my day job called for me to commute to a corporate workspace, my home office was my primary writing realm. I had it set up just so, with oft-used references close at hand, a television and requisite DVDs and such situated nearby (one of the “hazards” of writing media tie-in fiction is the need to refer to relevant television episodes or films), and a fully-functional arcade game in one corner.

That’s for reference, too. Honest. I use it to…uh…choreograph space battles. Yeah, that’s it.

Then, my day job converted all of us cubicle dwellers into full-time telecommuters, and now I work at home. So, what used to be my retreat after a long day at the office was converted into my primary office for that work. I had to reconfigure a few things to allow for a second computer and its peripherals, shelf space was given over to work-related reference manuals and other assorted bits and items, and so on. Instead of being here a few hours a night and on weekends, now I’m here. All. Day. Every. Day.

By the time the schedule calls for me to sit down and write in the evening? I’m sick of this place. When the weekend rolls around, I want to run screaming into the woods behind my house.

Then, what had been obvious to everyone know, ever...finally dawned on me: I could probably write almost anywhere, if I tried hard enough.

This was not an easy sell for me, you understand. I used to make jokes about all the so-called “writers” who seemed to always be taking up space in the coffee shops and bookstore cafes around town, hunched over their laptops and trying to look accomplished and/or erudite while they checked e-Mail or updated their LiveJournal or played Solitaire or Tetris. Now, I aspired to be one of these people, if only for a few precious hours. I also hoped to be more productive.

I started with baby steps, with trips to the library one or two evenings a week and the odd Saturday morning. Of the various things I’ve tried, this one still seems to work the best. But, I like a little background buzz while I work, so I soon began experimenting with other locales. I used to go to the coffee bar at a local Borders book store, but soon after I started that, Borders imploded. I’ve avoided Barnes & Noble for that reason. Alternatively, I’ve made use of table space at a favorite restaurant, while being sure to order generously from their menu, of course. And hey! The game’s on! Fancy that.

At first, I was worried about the distractions which might come from such environments, but I long ago figured out that I’m able to tune out the worst of the chatter and other noises, even if I don’t have my mp3 player with me. After a few tentative fits and starts, I figured out how to write pretty much anywhere with little or no trouble. Airplanes, on a patio or in a waiting room, sitting on the bleachers while my kids take their Taekwondo lessons, and so on. Sometimes I even eschew my laptop and kick it old-school, pen and paper style. While I’m driving, I talk into a recorder and then transcribe my rough descriptions and dialogue into something more coherent.

Another option I’m considering is a “cowork” space, a few of which are starting to pop up here in the Kansas City area. One particular location that’s caught my attention seems geared to teleworkers and freelancers who are just looking for a change of venue as a means of boosting productivity. You can rent a desk and have access to printers, scanners, and copy machines, conference and presentation space, a business address for mail and packages and even a break room with complimentary coffee and tea. They offer pricing plans from half days to full months, with a sliding scale of amenities based on your plan of choice. Such a location provides a relaxed yet professional atmosphere that’s a step up from the library or coffee shop, and seems to present a nice change of pace from my home office. Plus, you never know; I might meet a potential client or two.

How about you? Are you adamant about your dedicated writing space, or can you wing it just about anywhere?


William Doonan said...

I hear you. It's easy to get caught up in the excuse game - if I'm not in my space I probably won't get anything done, so why bother? But the reality is that it's probably just an excuse. I think an arcade game is what I've been missing all along!

Seriously though, I've been thinking of getting an RV to use as an office. It's compact, it has a fridge, and..and it would just be kind of cool to have!

Unknown said...

Oh I love William's RV idea-- that's so awesome!

I am fortunate to write out of my home and have a cozy office I have designed to be conducive to my writing. But to jump-start the creativity, I'll head into town to the library or coffee shop a couple days here and there. Sometimes the external stimulation is energizing!

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't like the background buzz, although I can tolerate it if need be. I write in two primary places, a work office and home office, but frequently use my laptop to escape onto my deck, or into the living room or bedroom. I use the escape most in the summer when I'm writing long hours, and not much during the school year when I'm writing only short periods of time typically.

Dayton Ward said...

I have to say...I'm kinda diggin' the whole RV idea.

Unknown said...

Kudos to you Dayton, you've found your rhythm even without a dedicated writing space.

I met a few writers at a conference sometime back who use an RV. They get together for a long RV trip usually ending up at the beach and cowrite their books.

G. B. Miller said...

I seem to be a seasonal kind of guy when it comes to writing.

I find my writing suffers during the fall/winter seasons because I'm stuck indoors with enough distractions (in spite of closing the door to my den) to choke a giraffe.

But once the weather warms up, I move my butt outside to take advantage of the relative peace and quiet of suburbia to do my writing. I can deal with animals, the wind, the pleasant noise pollution in all of its hideous forms, when I'm outside.

Believe it or not, I find less distraction writing outside than I do inside.

Liane Spicer said...

I'm learning to wing it. I've been frequenting the library of late, and I've dipped my toe into the coffee shop waters but boy, those blenders are loud.

I like the sound of the 'co-work' space. If I can't swing a dedicated home office soon, something like that would be perfect for me.

Oh, and I too love, love, love the RV idea. My brother once offered his boat, but I'm yet to take him up on that.

Dayton Ward said...

Okay, I am totally down with the boat idea.