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The Write Space
When I decided to become a writer, I dreamed of the perfect home office. It was huge, with plenty of space for a big desk, bookshelves, filing cabinets, and all of my supplies. It was decorated beautifully with all my favorite things. There was lots of light, music I love playing in the background, and a peaceful--yet professional--atmosphere. It was a great fantasy.
In reality, I have been working as a writer for three years now, in an office that is perfect for me. It's neither huge nor beautifully decorated. I had to do a bit of work to make it peaceful and professional. It's not the office I dreamed of, but I couldn't imagine working anyplace other than my closet.
Yes, you read that right. My office is technically a walk-in closet, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Writers are generally creative beings, and many of us have to use this creativity to carve out office space in our homes. Let's face it, few of us have empty rooms that are just waiting to be filled with bookcases, computer desks, and comfy chairs. Fortunately, there are hidden spaces in every home that would make a functional workspace, and there are lots of easy, inexpensive ways to transform any space into a dream office.
The first step in finding your office is to take a good look at your home. Michigan writer Linda Sherwood did this and was lucky enough to find unused space in the foyer. "In the year we lived here, only one person ever knocked on our formal entryway door," she says. "Everyone else used the door that led to our mudroom." When she realized that the space was just being wasted, she put her creativity to work and decided to convert it into an office.
However, not everyone will find unused space. That's when you have to use even more imagination. Look in closets. Check out the laundry room, the basement, and the attic. See if there is a section of the living room, dining room or bedroom that could be turned into an office. If you have trouble picturing an office anywhere, find someone to look with you. It was only after I had determined that there was absolutely no place in our house for me to work, that my husband took his tape measure into the funny little heptagon-shaped closet. He maneuvered around the piles of junk that had been stored there for six years, did some quick math, and declared, "This will work." Although I usually hate when it happens, this time I'm glad he was right.
When considering office space, you also need to think about how you work best. If, for example, you need it to be quiet when you write, you probably shouldn't set up your office in a corner of the family room. On the other hand, if your kids are young and you need to keep an eye on them, heading up to the attic probably won't work.
As soon as you find a potential workspace, it's time to try it out. You may need to do some cleaning and de-junking first, but it will be worth the effort. See how you could make the space the most functional, and start a list of things you need such as more light, a phone jack, extra electrical outlets, or a room divider.
You'll find lots of things to help you create the perfect office in any discount store. Plastic bins or cardboard storage boxes can hold office supplies, copies of your clips, and books. If you don't have your own room, a room divider, or even a few shower curtains, can separate your workspace from the action. If you have a door, a clear plastic shoe bag can provide a home for small items such as your business cards, stapler, pens, extra printer cartridges, and stamps. And don't forget a wall calendar, bulletin board, and other items to keep you organized.
Once you've contained the necessities, surround yourself with items that make you happy. Play your favorite music. Hang a few pictures on the wall. Make a copy of your first published piece--and check--and put them in a nice frame.
Keep in mind that any office will have its pluses and minuses. My closet is great. I love having my own space with a door I can close. It's not big, but I can fit everything I need into it and still have room to move. The only downside is its location: I have to go through my six-year-old daughter's bedroom to get to it. Since she's only a thin wall away, I can't play my music--or use my loud printer--when I work late at night. I also think ahead to when her privacy becomes an issue and she doesn't want Mom puttering through her room and I know that soon I'll have to access my office by going outside and up our back steps.
If you find that your current set-up is no longer working, be flexible and open to new space opportunities. Give your house another good once-over and you may find an office you never thought of before.
Never use the lack of space as an excuse to put off writing. Don't wait until
you can afford a bigger home or until the kids leave the nest. The perfect
office doesn't need to be elaborate. It can be as simple as your dining room
table, a corner of your bedroom, or, who knows, maybe even a closet.
Carol Sjostrom Miller lives in New Jersey with her husband, Jack, and daughters, Stephanie (6) and Lauren (10 months). Her closet--er, office--contains a computer desk, a four-drawer filing cabinet, 2 plastic storage bins, 2 cardboard file boxes, and a portable baby swing. On the walls, she hangs copies of her clips from FamilyFun, The Christian Science Monitor, ePregnancy Magazine, ByLine, and several books in the Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series.