No, I am not going to talk about taxes. But rather what a home office means for a writer – beyond the Schedule C write-off. A month ago my accountant looked at me and asked, “So how much square footage in your new house encompasses your office?”
Do I answer – my desk area? My filing cabinets, book shelves, living room where I read and read and respond to Hamline student manuscripts and edit my own ? My bed where I read some more? The kitchen where I think about my writing while chopping vegetables? The dining room table where I sometimes drift off during dinner, thinking about some writing problem?
Some days I think it might be better if I had an office away from home. Some of my writer friends have contemplated that over the years. A place where I go to work, so that when I return home, I turn my writing life off. So that I come home and pay bills, talk to my husband, play the piano, take a walk.
The home office is always there – weekends, Christmas morning, the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. It’s especially there when your kids are grown and out of the house and not interrupting you with squabbles and requests for overnights. I know. I know. When the kids are young, there is never enough time. But our kids are in their 20’s and I still think there’s not enough time. There never will be when we’re trying to write well.
Boundaries. Like Sisyphus shoving that rock uphill, I am in a career that takes a giant to shove away the thoughts night and day, about a manuscript, research, a student’s story, a knotty craft aspect.
I know how lucky I am to be able to work in my pajamas, jump on the computer without a commute, eat breakfast after some breakout writing time. Some of you are so frantically busy juggling, that my situation sounds like heaven. I’ve been there. But right now for me, it’s time for some realignment. Time to step back sometimes without leaving home. To return to work the next day fresh and confident. Perhaps no writing on Sundays or after 5 p.m.? How’s your home office working for you?
I love working at home. And yes, boundaries must also exist, the pull to writing is strong. But I couldn't get up at 5:00 in the morning and write if I had a separate space. Both my parents are writers. My Pop always favors an office. He likes to have a place to go to, my Mom always wrote at home: easier with kids. She was there for us…if there was blood…but could keep squeezing in the writing time. My daughter is sick for the third day today. I can write as she watches The Wind in the Willows. That is a good deal.
I love the home office for lunch. (pause to lick sticky fingers after eating peanut butter on graham crackers) One of the tricky parts though is not having much basic movement built into the writing day. No commute means no walk to the train. No meetings means no 10-minute walk to the far side of the building. Working at home, I have to think more consciously about getting up from the desk regularly just to move around.
I tried renting a studio outside of home. It was nice in theory, but I was as isolated there as I was at home and I didn't have the benefit of getting up in the middle of the night and staring at my book on the wall. I kept the studio for about three months then broke my lease. I'll never leave home again!
Though, quite often when immersed in a novel I have to go to someone else's home in order to work. Luckily I'm good at finding friends who go away and don't mind letting a crazy writer stay.
I tried having a little office uptown but missed Buddy the Poetry Cat and padding around in my bunny slippers. There's no place like home.
Love my home office–just wish I could have more time in it. I need a t-shirt that says, "I'd rather be writing," or "The worst day writing is still better than the best day at my day job."
I try to write at home, but the disorder of the place always overpowers me and forces me at gunpoint to scrape cereal into the garbage disposal. At the coffee shop, somehow I'm never tempted to rearrange stir sticks, and I pay my minimal rent in lattes and maple apple pie. Plus, I'm out in the world, participating in Life (or at least that's how it feels), instead of shriveling up in solitary confinement.
I don't even have a desk. just putter between the recliner, the outside patio on nice days, and my couch. One day I plan on owning a desk and a filing cabinet. Maybe writing will be easier then? not likely…
Turning our only spare bedroom into my office (Kent already had his own) was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I finally had a designated room to corral all of my books, files, nicknacks, drafting table and art supplies. On the other hand, I prefer to write on the couch by the bay window or at the kitchen table because of the natural light and the view. I believe in honoring the writing life by designating a sacred "space" – be it a closet, corner, coffee shop or chair. Each of us is charged with finding our way, our nook, our place to let the dreaming and fictional dance begin and most importantly, to continue.
My home office is constantly moving. The basement = too cold and haunted (even for my ghost stories). The kitchen table = computer took a milk bath and died. Reclining chair in living room = too comfortable. Desk in corner of living room (current locale) = a bit messy when company come over. On Mondays I go to the coffee shop and find it glorious. Like Christine, I need the hum of the people to keep me focused and I love being out in the world.