Tuesday, February 28, 2023

H is for Home Office

 1993 was a pretty momentous year. I got engaged (and married), faced three health crises (two of my own, one of my husband's), moved into a new apartment, and changed jobs.

It was also the year I first got serious about writing for publication.

My first "home office" was the small dining room table that pretty much filled the dining area off the small kitchen in our apartment. During that summer, I'd pull out my notebooks and word processor and work while my husband (then fiancé) was at work. I also worked a retail job that summer, saving up money for our wedding and honeymoon. It wasn't a glamorous existence, but it was a start, even if I had to set up and tear down my "office" every time I wanted to work. I wrote articles on spec (unsolicited freelance pieces) and made my first sale fairly quickly, only to lose it when the owner/operator of the magazine got into a serious car accident. I was disappointed, but profoundly aware that I had gotten the better end of that deal.

When we bought our house the next year, we turned the downstairs bedroom into an office. I upgraded from a word processor to a computer, which sat atop a desk we bought at an office supply store. Since my new job meant I worked only four days a week, I started every Friday in that office. I continued writing on spec, became a periodic contributor to an educational magazine and, when I landed a column at a (very) local paper, began spending more than just Friday mornings at the computer. A piece published in that now-defunct educational magazine became the germ of the idea for my first book, Acting Assertively.

Then my daughter was born. The desk collected dust, the writing files languished in the file drawer and the room became the catchall space for everything deemed off-limits for the baby. In relatively short order, my office became a playroom, and my desk and computer were relegated to the basement.

From that "office space," I created assignments for an online writing course or two, several of which became the foundation of my second book, Diverse Divorce. But my workspace was dark, damp, sometimes cold, and a bit depressing, so I was anxious to carve out a new space. Sometimes, I'd take my AlphaSmart keyboard with me and write in the car while my daughter was at a dance class or music lesson, but that wasn't the office remodel I had in mind. 

When we made the (very unpopular with my daughter) decision to enclose an open-air porch, the resulting office was initially a family space, but before long, it became my office. In that room, I tried my hand at novels, writing Jersey Girls Don't Rule for the age group with whom I spent my days and then eventually following Marita, Angel, Charli, and Bets through their adventures. Some days, when the lack of a door on the office made it too hard to concentrate, I'd relocate to my remote "office" at Starbucks or Panera. When I retired, the office became not just my writing space, but a space to do my school work as well, particularly once everything went online.

Then, a little over a year ago, we added a sunroom to the house, inspired by the screened-in porches I found so inspirational during our trips to the beach (yes, I write on vacation). Now, as an empty nester, I might work in my first office (now a family room instead of a playroom), or perhaps in "Mom's office" (the enclosed porch), but you'll frequently find me concocting characters and story ideas in the sunroom. 

Hey, there's gotta be some benefit to being an empty nester.

I marvel at the fact that my projects were once small enough (and portable enough) to be put away in a file folder at the end of the day, and am grateful for my laptop and the many work spaces that inspire me, or at least provide a comfortable place to work when the muse and I are on good terms. Despite a wealth of choices, I still find myself scribbling ideas in notebooks and on random pieces of paper while I'm in a waiting room, sitting at a red light, or running out the door on the way to work so as not to lose an idea simply because I'm not in my writing space.

Clearly, you can take the writer out of her workspace, but that's not going to stop her from writing -- on napkins, receipts, brochures...whatever is handy. Perhaps that means a dedicated workspace isn't really necessary.

But it sure is nice.

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