A Writer's Office

Some people say “home is where the heart is.” With a writer, it can be said that your office is where you are.” Actually, a writer can work in several kinds of offices and many of us do that. In the “ideal” world, the writer might have one specified office in their home or in an office building where they do all of their work. They completely separate their writing life from any other aspects of their life. This is where everything related to their work is located. Items here might include their research materials, reference books, file cabinets, desk and chair, computer system and monitor(s), printer, assorted supplies, and back-up disks.

If a writer is lucky she may have a designated room in her home that she can call her own. More likely she shares that room with other members of her family. You can be creative about claiming part of such a space into “your” writing area. I have such a room in my house, at one end of our long living room. I’ve managed to separate my writing space off by adding a room divider to hide my desk and some of my bookcases. I chose a divider that has places for photographs on one side, which I’ve filled with family photos. It blends in nicely with the rest of the room and is really a conversation piece, too. Someday, when I have spare time, I plan to add a way to hang writing-related photos on the side facing the writing space. Such things as character photos, pictures or brochures of settings, maps of the ranch layout I’m using or of the general area, etc.

Some of us also have what I call “mobile” offices as well. My mobile office includes having several different bags to carry my laptop within, each for varying amounts of mobile need. When I want to sit for a while in a coffee shop, on a bench in the park, or in some other public place, I use a simple, slim bag to carry no more than my laptop, flash drive back-up, and maybe the electrical cord to work a little longer.

I have a medium-sized bag that carries a file of research material, a pad of paper and a couple of pens as well as my laptop, back-up drive, and cord. This is for a little longer stay in a coffee shop part of a bookstore or other such place to sit comfortably for a while.

When I’m travelling, I use a larger bag on wheels to hold the laptop, back-up disks, cords, files of reference materials for the project to be worked on, and anything else fairly small to take on the trip. Since I fly a lot I really like having the bag on wheels. Laptops, no matter how small, get heavy when you’re trying to race between terminals in an airport. But I also don’t want a bag that is more than twelve inches deep. I have long legs and seat space is limited in coach. I prefer to put my bag in the overhead and not where my feet need to go. Bags with more depth than twelve inches can be a real pain to cram into the overhead space, particularly on the smaller planes.

Several of my writing friends are now using those smaller, lightweight netbooks as another kind of mobile office. These are a good secondary computer for people on the go, or for a writer not needing to work for hours on a writing project. They were mainly designed for quick, easy connections to e-mail, for web browsing and for lightweight computing. They are small and easy to put in a bigger purse, have a long battery life of between 8 and 10.5 hours, and they have several USB ports for backing up work to download on a bigger computer later. Most netbooks come preloaded with Windows XP and some with a trial version of Microsoft Office Home.

The point is that a writer can have many choices of an office and may use more than one type. We are creative people, including with our work space.


Roxann Delaney said...

Starla, I'd love to see a picture of your room divider with the photos!

Have you thought about cork for the office side? Either stick-on squares or cut to size might work.

Okay, everyone, time to 'fess up. :) What's your office or writing space like?

Nina Sipes said...

Have you been peeking? Except for a good bag for travel, your setup is my setup. This summer I replaced a long gone laptop with a mini one. It isn't the tiniest one, but a 90% size keyboard. I love it. It isn't for anything but writing or the internet if I need it and am gone. A long time ago, before I began writing, a room was set aside in our home. (ok, I did it in a grudge moment) for my things that no one else liked but me. When I started writing, it was a natural move to be in there with everything I love, but no one else does. It is so unappealing to them, they stay out. Lest you think it a troll nest, come close and hear.

It has chartreuse walls, a huge window--well over six feet wide, and an old wooden desk from some secretary's office with a return attached to it. The surface of the desk is covered with countertop material in matching wood color and grain. Did I say it is HUGE. The separations in the drawers are why I wanted it. I didn't need a desk when I bought it. My husband was putting an office together in our company office and I liked this thing with its secretive nooks. There are book cases and short wooden file cabinets. Baskets of flowers, one over two foot high and four long. A brass porthole adorns one section with a shelf containing size four black, open-toed high heels (that used to adorn the piano before it went). Numerous pictures of all sizes from quite huge to tiny are all over the walls. Decorative boxes and containers--some with contents, some without. All mixed with my bookend collections, lamps, printers, copiers, and two office chairs. All sits on shag carpet from the 70's in multi forest colors.

And yet, still I must get away at times to go write in cafes and other places. Sometimes my front car seat. Sometimes the passenger seat of my husband's work pickup. The perfect place, I have found, to write is wherever writing gets done.

I never thought much about my surroundings for writing until a fan asked me. At that time I had a couple of spiffy deer and elk antlers on the wall too. (No one else in the family likes dead animal parts on the walls). I gave them away when I repainted the walls my chartreuse color this last spring. By the way, those cool separations in the desk are nothing but a headache if you really use the desk! They were built for specialized forms I guess. Regular paper and envelopes etc. don't fit them. A friend of mine asked me if I was going to complain about them forever or get rid of them. I pulled out all that would come out and am happier about it. So, the moral of this story is that something that looks perfect isn't. A place to write at home, can send you out the door. Don't think it might be easier to find a better place to write. They are all flawed. Just write.

Tina said...

I actually have an office area with a desk, computer desk, printer, bookcase, large eraser board on the wall, you name it. My problem is that my kids have an area for play and my husband shares the office with me.

The only time it works out for me is when I'm home alone (which that does not happen often) or I am sick, and then I don't want to do anything but sleep!

I now have a netbook and a little printer, so my office space is moving whereever I can find the peace and quiet.

I might have to go somewhere like Barnes and Noble, etc., just to find the solitude.

When my girls are older and out much more, I hope I can return to my little office and use what I had created for writing space.

Hey..I tried the thing where "wait until they go to sleep and then write"..HA! I, myself, go to sleep since I wake up at 5am every morning, staying awake past 10:00pm is a miracle.

So, for those of you who don't have a writing space per say...just create it when you can!

Joan Vincent said...

For many years my "office" was the kitchen table or a card table in some other room. When we moved to this house I had my desk in my laundry room beside the freezer. Of course those years I had three in highschool/college and we had to have a signup sheet for the computer--an IBM PC jr.
I got my _office_ when I decided I wanted an office more than I needed a guest room. I have an large L-shaped sectional desk with scades of surface. However you only see the surface about four times a year when I clean it off. I'm a stacker and a piler. It looks messy even though I know where everything is. The center portion of the desk is for my computer and it has a small hutch with about a foot of shelving on each side where I keep reference sources I use often. Of course behind me are 7 4'x7' bookcases crammed with books. It took some ingenuity to get than many into this room but it helped I got them over a period of fifteen years.
One wall is a window seat that is filled with photos of family and friends. There is also a large silk geranium Vince used to have in his office and a large ceramic angel and a lighted angel a good friend gave me. The window wall is papered with a busy English floral print. The other walls are a pale blue.
The top of my computer hutch is full of grandkid photos. The wall opposite the window is mostly the entry door and double bifold doors for the closet. The wall space left is covered with period prints all of which were gifts. My son gave me a trio of English Hunting scenes. My sister three framed fashion prints and a numbered print of a portrait of Elizabeth Sheridan, wife of Richard Sheridan who wrote plays in the late 18th Century. There are three Constable prints --a painter of the period. Between two bookcases are my framed covers. Oh, above the closet doors is a tri frame of photos from Kathryn's wedding and baby pics of the grandkids done at 6 months with angel wings.
There's also a hutch on the longer side of the desk. I have my Charles Oman set of History of the Peninsular War and a collection of books on General Sir John Moore, who died in battle at Corunna in 1809, a particular hero of mine. There is also a print of his portrait beside these books. My published books sit imbetween these sets. This is to my left and my printer is on the short leg of the desk to my right. Inbetween are too many papers, books in various stacks showing which areas I'm researching, files, pen/ pencil caddies, usb cables, tissues, and the usual office detritus. Home sweet home.

Starla Kaye said...

It's always interesting to hear about how other writers work and what they use for offices. Each of us has to adapt to what fits our lifestyle.

My office space at home, with the room divider, is a cozy spot. But I seldom use it. Mainly it stores my reference books, some of my story notebooks, and piles of stuff for my scrapbook projects that I never seem to have the time to finish. If I write at home, I actually sit in this overstuffed recliner in the bedroom and use my laptop there.

Roxann, the problem with putting the stick-on squares of cork would be that they're too permanent. I like to change my pictures now and then. Eventually I'll figure something out.

Pat Davids said...

My office is a small converted bedroom on the east side of our house. It has two windows and it gets lots of light, plus, I have a large mirror on one wall that reflects that light all through the room. Around the mirror are photos of family and friends and postcards from places I've taken my grandkids.

The room has a hard wood floor. I took the sliding doors off the closet and filled the space with white wooden storage shelves and boxes to store my books and misc things like paper and ink.

I used to have an antique secretary in one corner, but I moved it out Saturday to make more room. It's quiet and filled with dustbunnies for company.

Jeannie said...

Over the years I've written on everything from pen and paper notebooks to desktop computers. I'd love to have a laptop, but the gods of finance are not smiling at the moment.

One of the advantages of moving into our current house was a room off the front that I could use for an office. Of course right now I feel like some private eye in a film noir: I'm living in my office.

The advantage to that state is that the office is getting cleaned up to where I can actually use the computer and find reference books and other necessary items. I've also dragged out all my Halloween decorations and scattered them liberally throught the desk and room.

Like a lot of the rest of you, I have tote bags that I haul around to emergency rooms and doctor's appointments. I'm trying to get back in the habit of writing some kind of fiction, but I seem to be spending a lot of time doing paperwork and other stuff.

I'm going to have to get in the habit of BICHOKing. I have no excuse. I'm living in my office, after all....

Penny Rader said...

I don't have a writing office. I used to write in the living room, sometimes in a recliner, other times at the desk. Now I'm usually in my room, on my bed. I do best when I have all my writing 'stuff' around me, but it's sort of scattered all over the house.

My dream office would be spacious, yet cozy. Maybe with a fireplace. There would be bookcases on every wall (like the library in Beauty and the Beast), so I could have all my writing and research books handy, as well as all my romance and fiction books. A nifty desk and comfy chair. A huge window seat, with pretty curtains and a comfy cushion, with an enormous gnarly tree outside said window, probably a bay window. (The kind of tree whose leaves turn a gorgeous, glowing red in the fall.) A comfy couch for editing or brainstorming or just losing myself in a book. Inspirational pics and posters, as well as pics of my family. Plush carpet to caress my toes. A good sound system so I could create soundtracks for each story (something I've always wanted to learn how to do, but haven't learned yet). A mini fridge to hold snacks and Dr. Pepper. Pretty containers and notebooks to hold my stuff. A cool bulletin board to hold character & setting pics and a white board for plotting. A heating/cooling system that automatically adjusts to however I'm feeling so I'm never dying from the heat. Plants that I can't kill to add a bit of life to the room. A stationary bike, so I could get a bit of exercise and brainstorm. And, of course, a computer. With two monitors. And a printer with a scanner and copier. Oh, and a neverending ending supply of cool office supplies. (sigh) Maybe one of these days. A baby step at a time.

Nina Sipes said...

I wanna live in Penny's office. The only thing lacking is the maid to clean and bring meals.