Monday, January 5, 2015

The Year of the Office: Day One

I have this memory of when I was a very little girl. It’s soft and sad, like most of my childhood memories. I’m at home, but I know that I’m being taken somewhere and dropped off. I’m scared. I go into my mother’s room where she’s getting ready to go wherever it is she’s going (I think she might have gotten a job) and I ask her if I can take a stuffed animal with me. She says I can take anything I want. So I go to my room and gather up an armful of stuffed animals and put them on my mother’s bed. I may have gone back for more; I’m not sure. But I know that my mother had to tell me that I couldn't take them all. I was scared and I wanted to bring my home with me.

That’s not unlike how I felt moving into my office downtown over the weekend. I had an urge to bring everything I had at home, just in case I might want or need it. I brought books from my home office—writing books, books I haven’t looked at in years (mostly because I look everything up on the Internet these days). But I just had to have them. They make my office look writerly, I suppose…for the janitorial service when they come to Swiffer the floors. And who knows, trapped here (probably not the best choice of words) all day, without the television, the kitchen, the recliner, and email access, maybe I’ll crack open one of those books when I need a break.

I brought the tiny cat sculpture from my desk back home and the ball full of sand and seashells. And my rocks. I like rocks. Sometimes, you need a smooth rock in your hand. I have my cup of pens and pencils, my red Swingline stapler, the unscented Dionis lotion with natural goat’s milk that actually smells like sweet milk, and my box of tissues. I have a plant on the windowsill—but it’s new. I have a mini refrigerator stocked with Diet Coke and water. I’ve got everything here to make me feel like home, but not quite home—which is entirely the point.

At first, I was scared. Nervous. When I thought about not being at home, I worried that I would be miserable in a strange space. So I grabbed all I could, filled my arms with home. I resisted a lot, though. I kept telling myself it's just an office. I can't bring everything here. I'm still going back home at the end of each day.

But as we set everything up--the soft pink chair, the rug, the bookcase and books, the desk and my computer--I started to feel part of the place. I got excited about it...couldn't wait to get started, to get here, and work.

My husband has been encouraging me to get an office since we started this publishing venture some two years ago. I balked. Working from home made sense. It’s cheap, for one thing. And I liked being at home. I liked working in pajama pants and slippers. I liked that the kitchen was just at the other end of the house. And I liked that I was home with my boys, even though they’re grown now. I also liked the control I had over the thermostat.

But the problem was that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a full day’s work out of myself except on rare occasions. I'd linger at my main computer far too long in the morning. Often so long that I convinced myself there was no need to get to my home office that morning because it was so near lunch time. I’d be at a project, get to a point where I needed a break, take the break, and not get back to work the rest of the day. I lack discipline. I had a hard time exorcising some of the myths about writers from my mind—the ones that served my laziness well. Myths like, “it takes years to write a book,” and “most of the work of writing takes place when you’re not writing.” Whenever I found myself not working, I’d rationalize that I wasn’t lazy; I was an artist.

But I’ve known for a while now that I can write more; I can produce more.  A lot more. If I can just get myself to stay at it, get back to it after a quick break, tackle another project when I can’t do any more on the one at hand, I can get a full day’s work out of myself at least Monday through Friday. So here I am in my wonderful office in “historic” downtown. Standing at my third floor window, I look out over a US 1 intersection, see the cars coming and going (see into them sometimes, too). In the distance, I can see the causeway over to the beach. While sitting at my desk, my view is rather strange. I see a bit of the tip of a lamp post and some wires. One black wire ends bluntly and there are several inches of what looks like black tape dangling off it, dancing in the wind. It’s a good view, one that intrigues, but isn’t addictive enough to keep me looking at it for two long while I'm working.

It’s quiet here, but not too quiet; just like home. A little too cold, but that can be remedied. I have this “author” jacket that I think makes me look writerly. I once read about the idea of having a totem of sorts that you wear when you write. It was supposed to put you in the writer frame of mind. A scarf or a hat. I’ll say my writer jacket is my totem.

It’s not a perfect set up, of course. The problems I foresee are few. First, I’ve been at home for so long, I’m not sure I want to be out in the world. There’s this National Car Rental commercial with Patrick Warburton. In it, he says, “I don’t have to talk to any humans, unless I want to. And I don’t.” That’s me, pretty much. There are other people here. And they’re friendly.

Second, well. I drink a lot of Diet Coke. Okay, it’s not like a constant thing. And I drink water. And so, well…I have to use the restroom provided for all the women on the floor. I kind of liked having my own private bathroom—who wouldn’t?

But these things I can get used to. The benefits are great. I feel professional now, sitting here at my desk typing away. I feel productive. I feel like writing.

So this is the great year of the office experiment. My productivity should soar. I'll keep you posted...

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