Somewhere over the rainbow where blue birds fly is a home office waiting for me. If I click my ruby slippers and chant, “There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…” I might wake up to find I only bumped my head like Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz. But there is no Emerald City and my office is no longer mine. “Take my desk,” I said, fist to the sky as if flying monkeys threatened. “You can’t take my writing!”
A writer needs space, nonetheless.
When I left Elmira Pond, I packed up my spacious desk and research room. I sorted over 25 years of freelancing articles saved as boxes of magazines, books and workshop presentations. I tossed duplicates and downsized to a single portfolio box. All my marketing materials I also condensed. I have at least four plastic tubs of historical documents, old photos, genealogy, old books and research along with about ten boxes of modern history books. What fills my head leaves a footprint of paper large enough to be called a library.
Yet it is the space to do the act, to set pen to paper and tap the keys which I need as a writer. As much as I’d love to be hip and write my stories, articles, posts and books from a coffee shop, I look silly in a beret and I desire space to myself to recharge my batteries. I’ve tried libraries and notebooks by campfires. I’ve even tried writing in my car (not while driving, mind you). I miss my home, but it is the loss of office space that pains me most.
After a weekend of chasing more desert geology, I lost my camera card between car and camp trailer. With an aggravated sciatic nerve, I lost my cool, too. I needed an office! A place where I could unpack my research and drafts, a place to write letters and scenes, a place to store important items like flash drives, colored pens and sim cards. I needed a comfortable chair that fit ergonomically and I needed (okay, wanted) color coordination that somehow offset the hunting camouflage curtains of my trailer. I wanted my things to surround me, cheer me and function as I wrote.
The first order of business was to find a desk of sorts. I had to convince Todd to rip out the built in cushioned chairs from 1985, and see the possibility of the space as office space. He had serious doubts. We looked at thrift stores and found a possible hardtop frame with canvas drawers. Todd jotted down the dimensions and we returned to camp with a measuring tape. “Too tall,” he determined. Frustrated, I wrote out the dimensions he said would be ideal, then I looked at the existing camp table. And measured it.
The challenge the table presented was one of legs. It had none. The table perched upon a metal pole and swiveled in odd directions, mostly to block anyone (or any dog) from spreading out on the bench seat. Between the two chairs and that table top, the back end of the trailer was crowded. Todd checked my measurements and said he could screw the tabletop to a square counter in the corner and to a two by four he could mount on the opposite closet wall. While he did that, I went searching for a chair.
Staples is an office supply store with everything from paper clips to sleek cherry wood desks. I don’t know if other writers suffer from this affliction, but I love office supplies. I had a small budget and needed a chair. Yet out of all the fancy therma-pads and mesh-back seats, the best fitting chair for me was a black padded folding chair. It was the right height so my feet were flat on the floor; it didn’t tip my hips forward or backward; it supported my back; and it was comfortable enough. Best of all, its cost allowed me to splurge on a few color coordinated items of turquoise, orange, red, white and black. I found folders at .17 cents and several items like scissors and a tape dispenser on clearance. I even found a cheap pen holder of metal birds.
Wandering about the store allowed me to imagine what my office space could look like. That led to thinking about my W storyboard that’s locked away in storage. To learn how I use the storyboard you can read about it here. How could I replicate that important development tool in miniature to fit the camp trailer space? I found a black mat with a white chalk pen. It was small yet big enough to sport a W. Next I looked for Post-It Notes to map the five key scenes of the Hero’s Journey and selected ones that looked like dog paws. That’s when I had a flash of inspiration — I could map my scenes in code.
Each draft of my novels, I write in Scrivener. I write scene by scene and often out of order. The idea it to develop the bones of my story initially, then go back and flesh it out. Writing in scenes allows me to be flexible with their order. The W let’s me ponder different scenarios before I commit to building chapters in order. For my mini W, I bought small red tabs to denote the scene by way of a code so I know where it is in Scrivener. That program allows me to easily rearrange scenes on my cork-board feature.
By the time I returned, I was bursting to get my space set up. Todd had succeeded in opening up the back end of the trailer and created a desktop. I used two of my research plastic tubs to complete the same L-shape I had once had at home and the position felt familiar and comforting. I unpacked and arranged my space, hanging my treasured sun-catcher, which reminds me of the goodness and camaraderie among global writers, bloggers and authors. Facing out the back windows makes me feel less claustrophobic, and in the afternoon the sun-catcher casts rainbows across my office space.
And all feels right in the world again. A writer’s space is like sacred ground. It’s a place to dream, imagine and process. A place to chase plot lines and converse with characters. A place to play with words, coax ideas and experiment in creativity. An office is a place to write.
July 27, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an office story. It can be a setting, a place for intrigue or humor. How might an office differ from other spaces? You can compare and contrast, or create an unusual type of office. If you want, describe your ideal office space, or create a character who designs offices. Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by August 2, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
A New Beginning for Sarah Shull by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)
Sarah carefully unpacked her inks and quills. She checked each nib for wear and placed them in a clean Mason jar. She unpacked her ledger and opened the blank pages. Cobb bought the leather and canvas book for her in Missouri. Hers. Her desk, though crude, was space for the work she loved – calculating accounts and inventories. Sarah’s father taught her when she showed interest and aptitude. She had been the accountant for Shulls Mill and Store several years before…before her infatuation with Sheriff McCanles.
That was behind her now. She opened the ledger to a clean new page.
Officing with Critters by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)
“Don’t forget to water the chukar, Danni.” Ike called, as he entered the house.
“I’m setting the birds free.” Danni didn’t even look up from her scattered documents.
Ike walked to the dining room Danni had claimed for her office long ago. Since they never entertained, it was her space.
“Babe. The eagles will eat them.”
“Which is a natural process.” Danni looked up at Ike. “Living in a wire cage in a man cave is not.”
“It’s my office and I need those birds to train my staff.”
Danni clenched her teeth. Ike’s office was a dog circus.