It’s a pedestrian topic, but an important one too. The writing space. The home office. The place in your house — or your townhome, your flat, your apartment, your condo, etc. — where you sit your butt down in the chair and write. Stephen King says he used to bang out prose on a manual typewriter balanced on a child’s writing desk across his knees while he sat in the laundry room. I’ve seen other writers who literally put a chair and a small desk in a closet, with computer. Back in 2006 my space was a tabletop I set up in our garage. From 2003 to 2005 I had no personal space at all because my wife and I — newly with child — were in a one bedroom apartment.
We bought our first house in 2008. Having rented for 15 years, it was terrific to finally be able to own. And one of the first things my wife said to me was, “We’re going to take that little downstairs bedroom and make it into your office.” Who am I to argue? She is my business manager after all.
Here are a few pictures of what the place looked like before we went to work on it. Click the pics to enlarge.
Now, anyone who has ever worked on a home — while also working full time and raising a family — knows that significant home renovation often has to be done in small sips, not big gulps. My wife and I spent the latter half of 2008 ripping out all the wood paneling, the ceiling tiles, and peeling the fir stripping off the foundation walls. I also dug out room for a window well, tore out the steel frame for the north window, then had a concrete cutter come in and enlarge the opening, into which we put a custom vinyl window — which looks much better than the original 1962 unit — and which serves as the downstairs fire escape. Amazing, that in 1962 nobody thought it necessary to have any of the basement windows be low enough or large enough for a grown adult to fit through. Anyway, that was all we could really do in 2008.
In 2009 my Dad came up from Salt Lake City several times to help us begin re-framing the room, re-doing the electrical stuff, and so forth. Dad’s done extensive DIY on all of the homes he and Mom have ever owned, so he knows his stuff. Right now the office looks like this:
I don’t expect we’ll get the office done this year. Not enough spare change to get certain components, and not enough time. If we can get the electrical finished and do the drywall, I am satisfied. The great thing about owning is knowing that these kinds of projects do get completed eventually. Doesn’t have to be now. Since we plan to be in this house for, oh, I dunno, the rest of our lives, there is not a rush.
But I still needed a writing space. At least until the office gets done. So I spent yesterday afternoon doing some deep cleaning and rearranging in the basement — opposite the central wall where the office is — and set up a desk under the little cheap shelves where I’ve been keeping my fiction and my writing reference books:
Notice the door. That door is currently leaning against the downstairs fireplace. It’s going to be the door to my office when the office is done. It’s one of several visual reminders that when my butt is in that chair, the door is “closed.” Therefore, I am “open for business” and cannot fool around or f**k off. Notice also The Rules. Front and center, right where I can see them every time I sit down. And the HM certificates from Writers of the Future. Above and to the right, on the second shelf, is my big fat binder for my rejection slips. And a box where I throw all the recent rejections, until they pile up so much I have to sort and hole-punch them. On the top shelf are a box of regular envelopes and a box of pouch envelopes: tools for mailing. The bottom shelf has all the fiction novels and magazines I’ve still got to read, and all the writing reference books I own.
Currently, my goal is to spend no less than 60 minutes at that desk, every morning, six days a week. With one day off to sleep in. This is my ‘hard’ writing time: the set hour in my day during which I do nothing but produce new fiction. I usually can find other time to write too, especially on the train or the bus going to and from work, but I’ve decided that it’s important for me to have at least one hour in my day that is at the same time, every day, no matter what, blocked out for new prose. No distractions. No wife or daughter or work or Army or anything else in my life to get in the way. So that even if work blows up and my schedule for the day goes bonkers, I can feel OK about it because I’ll know that I got my requisite 1 hour in in the morning. Perhaps the most important hour of my entire day?