Friday, June 25, 2010

Get Out of the Office...

I now have an office! We settled into our new house and bedroom number 3 has been designated Janet’s Office. The number one reason for this is that I now work from home – the Day Job requires 5 to 6 hours on the computer so I can link into the office computers back on The Prairies. Technology is an amazing thing! And because of those hours and my need for an actual desk, telephone, good chair, the decision was easy. I even got to paint my office walls a beautiful lilac color!

The Day Job then becomes the Non-Paying Job – my writing career sandwiched in-between the paying job, the household chores, the shopping, the socializing, the reading, the running, the blogging…well, you get the picture. And sometimes sitting in my lovely office where remnants of the Day Job are visible left, right and center I have a hard time getting started on the writing or staying focused.

Even if you aren’t working from home and your office isn’t a catch-all for all things data-management related, it can be hard to focus. Perhaps you don’t have an office, but use the end of the dining room table (clearing it away every night in order to feed the masses). Or a favorite chair in the living room where, again, you must put everything away or threaten those present within an inch of their life that if they touch anything they will meet an untimely and, most likely, horrific death. Some of you are holed up in a cold, drafty basement under artificial light, toes going numb and worried about hypothermia instead of getting your characters to their "Happily-Ever-After".

So, why don’t you get out of the "Office"?

Coffee House: A fantastic place to grab a cup of Joe, fire up the laptop and type away. You’ll feel very writerly and if you avoid hooking up to the wireless connection they offer (most do these days), you’ll get a ton of work done…that is if you’re not people watching and eavesdropping (my problem with public places).

Library: Quiet, good lighting, space to spread out – what’s not to love about taking your work to the library. Of course, I still have issues with people watching, eavesdropping and the added stress of being surrounded by books.

Park: A beautiful surrounding to calm your writer-self and focus on the task at hand. Sit at the picnic table or bench, bring your own chair or blanket, work on your laptop or go ‘old-school’ and break out the pen and paper. If the bugs, crowds, or pollen make working outside impossible, just sit in your car and have the vista of green visible through your window. And write!

Beach: Very similar to the park with the exception of no tree pollen (but possibly an issue with sand everywhere). I had to share the beach because the picture posted is of Crescent Beach here in Nova Scotia where I took the dog for a good romp and then sat in my car, the rolling waves visible through the windshield whenever I looked up from my notebook. The salt air added an extra touch of ambience to the day out of my office.

Cemetery: Yep, same idea as sitting in your car at the park or the beach, but there just happens to be gravestones visible through the windshield. Talk about quiet! No one’s going to disturb you, there’s no distraction of people watching or eavesdropping – and if you think I’m crazy for suggesting it, Andre Dubus III wrote The House of Sand and Fog sitting in his car in the middle of a cemetery (during his lunch breaks).

Bus/Subway: Go for a ride! Take your laptop or go ‘old-school’. I’m not sure what the cost of a fare is – and how far you can ride – but even if it’s just an hour that gives you plenty of time to focus on your writing (and pretend you’re a best selling author as other riders give you ‘The Look’).

Trailer/Shed: Have you considered using that travel trailer/camper sitting in your backyard? The one unused with the exception of a week or so camping every summer? It has everything you need – especially peace and quiet. I know our own Anita has used her camper as an ‘office’ and she’s got plenty of work done out there. Or convert the underused shed into an office retreat. A lawn chair, an old end table, your pen and paper – even your laptop could work out there on battery power – everything you need to get those words down and move on with your career!!

Any House Other Than Your Own: There are plenty of writers out there who would love to have a ‘write-in’. A day just for writing in the company of just writers. In fact, why don’t you think of hosting one. All you need is some space for your writer friends to set up, a coffee maker or kettle to make tea, and the peace and quiet for some serious work. You could even do an organized break every hour and a half – stretch, chat with your friends, discuss plot, have some tea – 10 minutes then back to it. And I think you could consider a relative’s house or perhaps a neighbor who’s going out of town for holidays – offer to look after their place and ask if it’s ok for you to spend an hour or so there writing. As far as interruptions go, this option would be as quiet as the cemetery.

Writer’s Rooms: I did some research for this blog and found out that in some cities there are such things as Writer’s Rooms. Here’s the link! An actual office for your writing – the height of luxury.

And my last suggestion – Bed: That’s right. Curl up under the blankets with your laptop or pen and paper and declare yourself off limits (set a timer so the family knows, post a sign on the door). What better place to write romance? Boas and bon bons are optional!

Did I miss any, People of Blogland? If so, add to our list in the comment section. And let us know where you go to ‘get out of the office’.



Joanne Brothwell said...

Hey Janet,
I've tried writing in many locations, but my ultimate fave is in bed! I'm comfy, cozy and nobody bugs me. Sometimes this leads to a nap - but oh well, just resting and revitalizing the creative juices!

Karyn Good said...

Great list of places to try if you're short on writing space this summer or need a change of location to get the creative juices flowing again. I've often thought the library would be a great place to write, tucked back in a corner surrounded by books. I tried the coffee shop route once but way too many 'squirrels'. I got absolutely nothing done!

It doesn't surprise that the book House of Sand and Fog was written in a cemetary. But I'm very intrigued by this idea.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Great post, Janet. I usually spend 8-14 hrs over a day in my office and I miss it when I can't. And that's why I bought a netbook. I take it everywhere. And yes, I can write anywhere with it.

Except, I found while waiting for music lessons to end, that the car has to be facing a certain way or I can't see the screen. Sometimes I had to move 3 or 4 different times to get the right angle on a bright day.

My eReader has a different screen and I actually like reading with it in the sun where a normal book blinds me.

Glad to see you're settling in.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
My all time favorite place to write, aside from a retreat, is in a hotel. I got a chance on our recent trip to Ottawa to spend a day in solid writing while my husband attended a meeting. The hotel provides breakfast, someone comes in to make my bed and bring fresh towels, and then at the end of the day my husband comes back to take me to my favorite Ottawa restaurant. What's not to love?

On this same trip, which included many, many miles/kilometres of road trip, I tried writing in the car. I actually got a few pages written, but it wasn't easy. Like Anita said, it was difficult to see the screen because we were traveling due east in bright morning sunshine. Every bump in the road (there were several) caused my cursor to scamper across the page. And then my battery died. I think writing in the car probably works a lot better when you aren't actually moving!


Janet said...

You and me both, Joanne. I love getting a coffee and the laptop, fluffing up the pillows and snuggling into a day of writing in bed. At retreat - I never used the desk provided in the room - always working on the bed.

And naps are very important for revitalizing those creative juices!!

Janet said...

Hey, Karyn - if you use the cemetery idea, let us know how it goes.

I, too, am distracted easily by squirrels of all kinds. The people kind and the mouth-watering goodies behind the glass display case. Coffee houses are not the place for me. A library might work - but I'd have to be somewhere where I couldn't see any squirrels ;)

Janet said...

The problems with technology - glare from light! But if you know the problem and solution ahead of time, the parking will be done quickly and efficiently.

I still like to use pen and paper when I'm in the car. But I haven't invested in a mini-computer, yet; so that might change.

So glad your e-reader works for you in the sun! I've heard lots of complaints about that very problem.

Janet said...

You told me about your hotel writing, Jana, and I forgot completely (or I would have added it to the list). I think that would be ideal. Certainly no distractions and so comfortable. You had the best of both worlds - writing time and a husband who took you out for supper at the end of the day :)

I actually love writing in the car when The Husband is driving. But, with the dog constantly needing attention it's hard to do these days. Always better on a cloudy day, too.

connie said...

Hi Janet,

Great list!

I envy you the beach so much!
But, I'd be busy collecting shells;library - collecting books.
I don't like writing in public. Bed is for only two things and neither of them is writing.
But the cemetery has possibilities. I like dead quiet (sorry - couldn't resist) but I'd be reading tomb stones in no time.
Don't have a trailer or a shed and you all live too far away. However..

I have a den of iniquity in the basement. You don't know what a real mess looks like. I can see easily 20 pounds of unfiled/to-be-tossed paper - spread around haphazardly.I should post a picture some day.

But, the beauty is that I am so appalled by the mess, I focus strictly on the keyboard. I don't want to clean it up. That has absolutely no appeal!! I know where everything is - more or less.

Besides, it would use up writing time.

Talk about hard to get along with eh?


Liz Fichera said...

I've got a home office of sorts but when I get writer's block--or just need to get away--the local coffee shop always provides a great break. But mostly I go because I love their raspberry scones. Writing is secondary where pastries are concerned. ;-)

Alice Audrey said...

One of the best "places" I ever did any writing was in a conference room in the library during NaNoWriMo. Writing in the company of all those other people who were writing really got me going.

Helena said...

The bedroom that was designated as a multi-purpose room (office/library/den/guest room) when we moved here nine years ago has never worked as a writing room for me. That's why I had to set up the gable as a writing nook. It's at the top of the stairs sort of between the two bedrooms, and the two storage areas tucked under the eaves of my one-and-a-half storey house, but it is the most conducive spot I know of for seriously writing. (Exception, of course, is one of the rooms at retreat!)

Hard to use the same space for two vastly different activities, Janet. I don't blame you for looking for alternatives -- you came up with some very good ones!

Janet said...

Hey Connie! I do love to collect beach treasures - so I will get out of the car and walk the dog first. Then, it's time to write while the dog has her nap in the back seat. My only problem seems to be the tendency to get hypnotized by the waves. I love the water.

Your basement would send me into seizures. I'm so anal-ytical - I need everything in its place! And excess paper - ACK. But everyone works differently - and if you can pound out the words in that space, then it's the perfect space for you :)

Janet said...

MMM - raspbery scones! Yep, I'd be making excuses to go - I'd have writer's block every day :)

Glad you have a place you can go to when the offices isn't working for you, Liz!

Janet said...

I think that's why the writer's rooms I linked to would be so great, Alice. Everyone working on the same endeavor!

I've heard of writers getting together during NaNo - great idea.

Janet said...

I so agree, Helena - there is nothing like the room at the retreat where you are faced with white walls, no decorations, a bed, a desk, a chair. I got a lot of writing done at retreat over the years. *sigh* Still missing it :(

You've talked about your 'gable' for so many years and I will now confess I am jealous. An office is great especially when the walls are a lovely lilac color and I have everything at my fingertips - but a gable! That has romantic written all over it. Besides, I'm a lover of old houses and always imagined myself sitting in a nook surrounded by books and pen and paper - knowing that that is your reality makes me a little envious!