What Effect Do Your Surroundings Have On Your Writing?

"Started treating my office like it was a real room that was worthy of my best treasures, not the 'spare room made into an office.'"  Danielle LaPorte, from a post titled "28 of the Best Things I Ever Did–From the Bedroom to my Business."

DeskinthewildWhen I first started writing, many years ago, my "office" was a desk shoved up against a corner of our bedroom.   The desk came from my father's printing plant, and it was huge and weighed a ton. (My husband hated it for that reason, and also because whenever I wanted to move it, it had to be disassembled.  It finally got taken apart one too many times, and died.)

I also sometime wrote at the kitchen counter, with small children swarming around me, asking for food or begging for my attention.  

Finally, when we put an addition on our house, I progressed to my own office.  It was downstairs with a view of the backyard and I loved it.  I filled it with a mismatch of furniture, anything I could scrounge, and tons of bookshelves, of course.  

Then, when my children moved out, I transferred my office to my daughter's former upstairs bedroom.  And there I've been for the past many years.  After my mother died six years ago and I inherited some money, I decided to invest in a proper office suite of furniture.  And so I went to Ikea and filled my room with a grouping that looked very official, very heavy, very dark.  I chose a huge desk with a curved front that had room for my computer, my printer and piles.  Lots of piles.  I also chose a file cabinet and glass-fronted cabinets to match.  You can see photos of it on this old blog post.  (As far as I can tell, Ikea doesn't even make this set of furniture anymore.) I loved it for awhile.  For quite awhile.

And then I decided I wanted to move back downstairs.  The thought was daunting–carrying all that heavy furniture down our narrow staircase! But I persevered.  Because I wanted to be more in the center of things.  To be able to start dinner and run back to write a few words while things simmered.  To be able to watch grandchildren and write a few words while they napped.  I started packing things up, but the project stalled and I ended up working in my upstairs office with stacks of boxes filling most of it.

Enter summer.  Gorgeous, soft Oregon mornings with the temperature hovering just above 60 degrees.  I took to carrying my computer out to the table on the back deck early every morning and doing my writing there.  Which was when I realized that I didn't need a huge desk with tons of area to pile things on.  It was actually a detriment to my process, because it started to overwhelm me. And so a whole new idea for my office was born. All I really needed was a good old-fashioned writing desk. At the same time, I started reading a favorite blogger's account of her time in Stockholm and fell in love with the look of the apartment she stayed in.

Out with the dark, heavy black office furniture! In with a light, white and natural wood look! At least in my vision.  I happened to have coffee with my friend Leigh, who has a business restoring old furniture and, on a whim, asked her if she had a writing desk.  Guess what? She did! And not only that, it was painted a lovely delicate light yellow, which went along with the look I had in mind.  

So we spent this weekend moving furniture.  We're still not finished–our living room looks like a thrift store as we sort through hundreds of old CDs, and figure out where extra boxes and pieces of furniture goes.  There are quite a few photos of the process on my Instagram. And you can see the photo of my writing area above.  But so far, I love it.  The room is bright and light and I love not working on my little yellow writing desk.  I feel lighter and brighter! And now I realize how that Ikea suite never truly suited me.  As my daughter said, "I never heard you say how much you loved it." True dat.

I expect to write wonderful novels and blog posts and offer classes and all kinds of good things from this space, because it makes me happy just to be in here.  (Oh, I almost forgot–I engineered it so I have a separate space for art projects, too.  Woot!)  And all this leads me to ask–what is your writing space like? Is it feeding your soul, and making you happy?  Or does it drag you down every time you walk in?  Is there something you can do to make it work better for you?


EmptybookcaseEmptybookcases2This is my office.  Or at least, this is what it looked like yesterday, for awhile, after I had carted piles of books and binders and files and other must-haves out into the hall (see photo below).

I am, for the moment, office-less.

For years, I have been working on a grotty old desk using hand-me-down bookshelves and tables to fill in the gaps. The table beside my desk was too tall and actually had a hole in its top.  I covered it with a board, but still.  My office furniture left quite a bit to be desired.

And so finally, last weekend, I took the trip to Ikea to buy new furniture, a whole suite of it.  Woo-hoo!  We hauled 23 boxes home in two cars, with the desk top tied to the hood of my CRV.  And last night was the night designated to start putting stuff together. 

But, as you can see, we didn't get very far.
Furniturebase That photo to the right shows the assembled base of the free-standing bookshelf.  What you can't see is that we did actually get two shelves of it put together.  (And, um, when I say "we" I mean that in the royal way because I sat in a chair and exhorted people to work harder.  I'm not so good with putting things together because I get frustrated and quit following directions, or fail to read them in the first place.)

So, my office now has one half-finished shelf unit and a few random screws and tools in it.  Besides that, there's a long way to go–a desk, a cabinet that hangs on the wall, and a rolling cart–all of which need to be assembled.  And that is why I am sitting at my kitchen table as I write this post.  The living room is full of the remaining Ikea boxes.  And the family room, my other refuge besides my office, is full of the cast-off furniture.  (Anybody need a grotty old desk?  It's yours for the asking.  But act fast, because Saturday morning it goes out on the curb with a "free" sign.)

Officestuff I'm feeling very rootless and riled up by this, far more than I thought I would.  After all, I'm the one who happily sails off to Nashville and LA, declaring that all I need is my laptop.  But apparently I need my laptop and the security of knowing where all my stuff is at home.  (Because check out the photo to the left–that's half of my office, piled in the hall. There's another pile across the way.)

And now I understand why I resisted making this change for so long.  Because it is complicated and hard.  I'm not complaining, because I'm thrilled about the new furniture and what it says about where I am–ready to step it up.  I just hadn't anticipated how much upheaval there would be.

So, somebody make me feel better–have any of you gone through something similar?  Tell me there is light at the end of the tunnel.  (And by the way, I promise I will post photos when the new furniture gets assembled and everything is put away.)