When I was in college, I lived in a very small apartment (440 square feet) in Toronto on the 17th floor of a 26 story building in a very bad part of town. I lived on campus for my first two and a half years, but I partied too much, drank too much, didn’t get along with my roommates, my grades tanked and I needed a change. In this little apartment with its dramatic view of other high rise, low rent apartment buildings called ‘University City’, I wrote most of my very first novel, To Cage the Eagle. This novel will probably never be published, as it is very centered on the world of 1993, and it would need a lot of work to bring it up to date. But in that crappy little apartment, the words flowed and I figured out that I loved to write. The long walk to campus through the bad neighborhood and cold Canadian winters encouraged me to stay in on the weekend nights and write until all hours of the morning, and the isolation gave me time to study and to bring my grades back up so I could graduate on time. Still don’t know how I did it, but I am sure that little apartment and the focus I was able to achieve there had a lot to do with it.
After leaving that apartment, I bounced around to a number of places: a basement apartment in Oshawa, ON, a brief house share with a friend of a friend (the worst roommate, ever) in Whitby, ON, a house share with a teacher and a police officer (I wish I had been able to stay there longer) in Whitby, ON, an apartment near Denver, CO, my first house near Denver, CO, an apartment in Kent, WA, a condo in Kent, WA, and finally, the house I am living in now. In none of these places did I write anywhere as prolifically or as well as I did that first apartment. Perhaps it was because I was working a lot of hours trying to build my career, or perhaps I forgot how important writing was to me, or perhaps the feng shui of each place was just wrong for me to write.
What I’ve always wanted, was a comfortable place to write and to read that discouraged distractions and felt as good as that first place.
I think I now have that. Over the last two weeks, I’ve turned my overstuffed office with all it’s mismatched furniture into a writing retreat. I painted the walls a soothing green. It didn’t turn out to be the exact shade I was looking for, but it’s close enough. I bought all new furniture from Ikea… cheaper than the custom furniture I first considered, but took a lot longer to put together than I had planned.
I sorted through my books, and boxed up two full boxes of ones I would never read again and wouldn’t want my kids to read, and will be taking them to Half Price Books next weekend. I even sorted through my old textbooks and put those in the ‘Get Rid of Box’. I’m currently ripping all my CD’s over to digital storage so I can box them up and put them in the closet. I invested in a credenza to store all the crap that used to clutter my desk. I bought a nice looking file box to store my old copies of my manuscripts and research that once filled binders stacked on my shelves.
I wish I had taken a ‘Before’ picture, but here is the ‘After’ version. I still need to get a comfy guest chair and a little ottoman that we can roll out from under the desk when two of us need to look at the computer. I also plan on putting up a couple of nice pictures, getting a second monitor and a real monitor stand, but I ran out of budget for this month. Maybe next month.
And yes, buying all this stuff seems a little… materialistic, especially since I have yet to make a dime from writing, unless you count the $14 I made from the sale of an article to Model Railroader Magazine back in 1986 or 1987. But this is also my home office. My wife will use it one day a week for working from home, and I have goals of doing that someday myself.
My primary writing space will still be the train back and forth to work. But at least now my wife can watch TV at night and I can write without bothering each other, and we can both work from home (on opposite days), without wrecking our backs.
I’m almost caught up on my book reviews and remodeling. My next entry will return to writing updates, and of course, I will again disappear for long periods as I actually write. But now at least you know where I am.
I did find an old picture of my son at my old desk, and I think it’s pretty obvious that the new office is more conducive than the old one.