A Writing Hole To Call My Own
I’m an office porn lover. I dig peering into a writing hole.
Yes, I know what I wrote [and I await the clicks of a thousand lonely men – hey, ‘sup, fellas? ;)]
I love looking at offices and writing spaces and desks and bookshelves. Well, in so much as they are in use. A desk in a catalogue sucks, but seeing the desk of Hammett gets my motor running better than any kind of skirt hemline above the ankles.
I could look at the writing caves of creatives for hours on end. And maaaaybe I have. Only me and google’s hivemindscannersthirdeye truly knows. *SPOILERS* – I’ve gone so deep into looking at writing spaces that I’m surprised more writers haven’t kneed me in the jaw as they find me between their feet sizing up their desk undercarriage for a sweet Costanza coffee shelf.
I just had my peepers locked onto Chuck Wendig’s writing shed and, man, it’s some sweet sweet action. CLICK HERE TO ENSHEDDEN YOUR MIND. Thank me later.
From there, I clicked onto Neil Gaiman’s writing garden office/gazebo. It’s as glorious and quaint and refined as you’d imagine.
From here, there’s a million to see —
But looking at all their set ups got me thinking about my own office experiences. They are varied and insane, you’ve been warned.
NOT MELROSE PLACE
My first real writing situation – disregarding teen set ups of foolishness and pastiche – was in the first small unit I lived in straight out of uni [though at uni I spent four years in a room with a single bed and a desk and it was spartan, and viewed the parking lot – which was superb for people watching – and I actually think my ideal has been shaped by this auspicious start, you’ll see later].
This first unit was small. I mean, for an adult dwelling, my first year out teaching, this place I affectionately called ‘my shoebox.’ I had driven a whole day to a new town where I knew not a soul, and so took the first place within my budget range after a disastrous three weeks of looking. The result was a unit in a unit block of 8 abodes. I thought it’d be like Melrose Place – with the ladies by the pool and the drama lusty – and instead I spent 8 months in Bogan Central where a couple upstairs had a restraining order on the couple directly below them, which made traversing the stairwell difficult for them at times, what with the whole distance required to be apart, blergh. It was also the place I came home to find a 2 metre red-belly black snake in my room, but that’s a story for the con if you ever see me at the bar.
So my writing cave there, yep, not great. I bought a laptop with my tax refund and this beast operated with a whopping 32GB hard drive, I’m surprised it could hold all my Word documents at once. And I would put this brick on my bed and sit at the bed with the office chair I stole from the dumpster at uni that still has its wheels but unfortunately lost its backing many moons prior to coming into my care. This was where the words would happen.
Or, not happen.
I did not write much in this setting, and my back/neck/soul no doubt thank me for this, but I did get somethings started, and thus…dreams were forged in back breaking fire.
A WALL OF MAPS
My next writing space would take another 9 months or so to appear once I moved out of the Shoebox. I moved in with two mates and the only space I could get work done was with the Brick on my lap in the living room. I’m hunker down into my brown leather armchair – that inexplicably had belts down each armrest – and I’d write. But again, not a lot.
Though I have just now remembered one rad modification I made to this set up – I took one of the shelves from a book case and placed it over my lap, straddling each belted armrest, and made a little desk in front of me.
Still, not a lot of writing done. Though to be fair, I was working my ass off as a teacher, so it’s not like I was being totally lazy in life.
But anyway, after 9 months of the chair/desk, I found myself living alone in the house. Both housemates ended up moving back in with their families and I stayed in this house for maybe another 9 months. And in that time, I took advantage of having a 3 bedroom house to my solo advantage.
Yes, I made one of the rooms an office. And, man, was it sweet. Actually, it was incredibly lame, but for me, then, I dug it like a hole. The room was small, square, and I put my L-shaped corner desk in one corner. It gave me a view of this lovely back garden that apparently used to be full of strawberries and other cool horticultural dreamscapes that quickly fell under my tyranny of ‘no gardening ever’ rule after I took over the place. And to think the previous occupant had worked on that garden for years, YEARS, right up until the day death came knocking. I do feel bad for letting the garden turn into a waist-high grass nightmare, but seriously, I still don’t know how to garden. Don’t hate the player, hate the garden, amiright?
Anyway, this office, it had the desk, the view of my ignored chores, and then it was just empty. It was kinda sad. So when a mate managed to procure every National Geographic magazine from over a decade for me, I drove outta town, filled my boot with this glorious paper, and brought it home. I spent a good weekend sifting through these mags, absorbing the knowledge, and withdrawing all the maps. I love NatGeo maps, and so the walls of this office became plastered, foot to ceiling, with maps. It was amazing. Not something I would show the ladies I brought home, but it inspired me a little more. And I could use the inspiration. I also used to choose character names from different maps, a totally rad idea I miss being able to do. Google Maps will never truly replace a NatGeo map on the wall the same way googling a word is not as boss as looking it up in a dictionary the same way thinking you’re badass for getting somewhere with bluetooth maps telling you is not as killer supreme as navigating your way out of a metro city using only the sun as your guide.
The room worked, for a time, and I truly remember it fondly. Sitting alone in this house, every other room dark, the stereo sending some music to me from rooms away, maybe some red wine on the desk, and the dreams of being a writer at my fingertips. Plus, no home internet. It was a fun, almost dreamy time, but totally unproductive. I think it was there I wrote/finished one thing, a short novella titled THE FRIENDLY SKIES and I did a little self-pubbed run and it was insane and fun and it whet my whistle.
But first my desk needed to be sacrificed!
HALF A DESK, TWICE AS MANY WORDS
My next move would take me into another house, a smaller one, with another mate of mine. His father owned a horse trailer so we loaded up all my earthly possessions and set sail for the new abode – about 2km away. I drove behind and I could do little but laugh as I watched my corner desk, something I’d had for about maybe 8 years at this point, slowly slip loose from the ropes holding everything down and tumble onto the road at 60km/h.
Kindling is the only word to use. The desk skittled around, 80% of it broke, but I was left with one section of it intact.
Now, the desk was never going to really fit in the new place anyway. It was a 2 bedroom tightbox and I was setting up shop in part of our living room. This weird arm of the desk fit right in the corner of the room, it just had to lean against the wall because it only had one leg on the right side. I made it work.
It was at this desk that I started to level up. I started to write complete things, longer things, better things, things that still sucked but things that got me on my way. I started to put in longer nights, consecutive nights. Weekends.
This half a desk finally clicked with what I wanted to be and what I needed to do. My only problem was it wasn’t even one square metre on top, and I had no room for anything except the computer, a drink, and maybe a few post it notes on the side. I did plaster post it notes all over that wall to my left, that worked really really well for me. But the desk felt cramped, inhibiting, and it could not and would not last forever.
YOU BUY A HOUSE, YOU BUY THAT HOUSE A DESK
About 18 months later, I decided to be a grown ass man and buy my own house. Enough renting with mates and sharing space, I was going to be the master of my own abode. So I found this rad place, it was just right, and I set about buying it [now another story is the fact subdivision wouldn’t go through and so I actually only ended up renting it for $150 a week for like two years until the next phase kicked in – but in theory I was buying a house – I never felt so alive].
As I prepped to move in, I started to pack up my half a desk and I knew I didn’t want to start my home ownership phase [complete with slippers and a fireplace mantle for the family portraits] with this hatchet job of a scaffold and base for my ideas and worlds and seriousness. So I went looking.
Being the tight ass I am, I found a display model of a desk I wanted and bought it for the ridiculous price of like 60% off, or something. The only catch, I had to get it home assembled, NOT in the flatpack storage box. Luckily, my mate was moving in with me [I know, I was moving away from those immature shenanigans, but in reality I’d never not wanna live with a mate] and his old man was driving his stuff down in a trailer. We unpacked him and then went out to get a new washing machine he was buying for the house because he thought he should bring something to the party [sidenote: I have never bought a washing machine, ever, and I hope I never do]. I managed to shoehorn a desk tangent into our trip.
As we returned home, and brought in the loot from the trailer, it started raining – a few spots got on the desk that stained it for life – and we got everything inside just in time, my mate’s father even got out before the storm set in. And set in it did, for days, blocking roads, nearly closing my school, isolating segments of farming land, and generally flooding the town. It was fantastic. I got to test out this desk for a week straight with the perfect mood weather and it came out trumps.
I still think back to this desk set up fondly because it was that final turn into being a writer properly. Not well, but properly, seriously, invested, committed, all that jazz.
My office was half my bedroom. This bedroom was huge, so I had room, loads of room. And floor boards, on which I’d slide around on my wheelie chair like I was Alex P Keaton checking his paperwork from across the room. My new desk was nothing flash, but it held all I needed – laptop, drinks, notes, yep. To my right, a bookshelf of comics, to its right, a smaller shelf stack with the current reading pile, and atop that a lovely Japanese peace or friendship lily [whatever was in HOT FUZZ], and to the top right of that, I had a square window facing the road, and across that some empty farm type land with like two cows, a teeny tiny swamp, and the horizon. I would turn to the right constantly and just drift off out that window. The rain on it was particularly beautiful.
I miss that office.
I was there for maybe another year and a half and I wrote many comic issue scripts there. I assembled two pitches [neither went anywhere but one was with Justin Greenwood and that forged our friendship in steel]. I started a novel. The office served me well. I can remember being in there a bucket load, most nights. This was where I really started to forego the nightly stupid box routine on my ass and instead go to the office and write.
My roommate was also a writer [daytime journalist; nighttime funtime writer] and I would only have to shimmy left and look out my door to see his profile banging away at his own stuff on his own similar set up in his room, though that room was half the size, despite him being about twice my height – benefits of being the [almost] home owner, yo.
The fact he wrote, and took it seriously, meant we’d be there writing ‘together’ a lot – then we’d go watch some Dexter, or play cricket and go to the pub afterwards, or get hungover KFC and rewatch LOST. This was the closest I’ll ever be to being in a studio and I really miss it.
Though the next office saw even more productivity.
WHEN A WOMAN LETS YOU HAVE YOUR OWN OFFICE
Eventually, like in so many stories, I met a girl. We started dating, fell in love, and then moved in together. We had been doing long distance for a little while before I took the plunge and decided to move down and I can still remember the look on her face as I started ferrying down bags of comics and books each weekend I’d come down to visit. More and more bags appeared until a room was full, it somewhat took her by surprise. To be read as: she looked like she’d invited a hoarder into a house and so perhaps a foaming honeybadger stem cell supping maniac into her bed.
But we took a house and it had three bedrooms so I finally managed to grab back a separate writing office room to myself. And this time, it was more than just a desk and some maps. I put my desk in, and all my book shelves, as well as her futon lounge. It became a real writing cave and I appreciated every minute I could spend in there.
My first official month in that office was spent solo because I moved in and the lady went on a holiday for a few weeks with a girlfriend so I didn’t have any duties, responsibilities, anything for 4 whole weeks except to just feed myself and then do whatever I wanted. I can remember writing in that office for hours and hours each day. I’d get up, have breakfast, and then write until lunch [if I remembered to have it – I definitely forgot just as often] and then I’d watch some tv while cooking/eating dinner, and then back in the office to write and read all night. Wash, rinse, repeat. It was a really fun and totally different 4 week writing period because it was an insight into being a freelancer full time and it was fun.
I managed to knock out the finished draft of a novel in that time, and in my whole time in this particular office I’d write 4 novels, plus a slew of comics scripts and short stories but the novels were the big writing hook at the time – I think because I honestly found it so hard to find collaborators at that time so I kinda got disillusioned and spent more time on novels than comics for a while.
This office is probably the closest to the dream I’ve come so far. It really had most of everything that I want from a working space to call my own place. The last bedroom office thingy nostalgically was so damn cool but this beast was separate, and insanely productive, and reminds me of falling in love so it’s certainly just as special. And I was truly happy in it – lounging on that futon, my legs up on a chest, a comic in my hand, mentally breaking story at the same time is one of my fondest memories of life, but also, like most of my favourite things, it eventually came to an end.
THE CURRENT OFFICE GOES ALRIGHT
The wife and I decided to buy a house and move into it the week before our first child was born. Not exactly a timetabling victory. The lead up to moving day and execution thereof was hectic but we managed. With help from my mates, we got our stuff outta one house and into the next with very little fuss.
The only fuss became: where’s my bloody office?
There was no office allocated to me in the new house. An extra bedroom was needed for the kid, natch, and the third room we made a spare room, which saddened me to no end. But we put my office stuff into one corner of our very large living room area and there it stayed for I gusss about a year.
The thinking was – with the kid needing attention all the time, and us supposedly sharing that parental load, it was easier to have me around rather than send me up to an office where’d I’d be help to no one, and eventually husband to no one, also, ha. So we put my desk into the corner of the lounge room, fortified me with shorter bookshelves, and I hovered behind our family writing stuff for this time.
And I did surprise myself in getting work done. I’d jump away and tend to the kid when needed, but that sorta malarkey has been going on for some time now. So I did my duty, I stuck close by, and then we moved me just a little. I went from the downstairs living room corner to upstairs in half the dining room. It’s still not my own room but I get to treat what I’ve got as if it were my own, so that’s something.
So now, here I sit, surrounded by my things. I have another new desk, fine wood and leather. I have a laptop stand to elevate the eyeline, to be more ergonomically correct. I have everything within arms reach and it totally works. Here I have written HEADSPACE, and NEGATIVE SPACE, and DEER EDITOR, and CURRICULUM, and plenty of other things.
This office has served me ridiculously well. But soon, one day, it’ll be time to move on, I hope…
I have certain quality criteria to meet in regards to my dream office. Crazy talk put aside, here’s what I realistically want:
I wanna be on the second story – there’s something about it, the height, the view, the fact I might be segregated from the family and the ground for that writing time. That would be wonderful.
A fully enclosed room with a door. I want the space, I wanna be able to hide in it.
A coffee making corner – just a kettle, a coffee press, some cups, sugar, caramel syrup. Everything I need to be self-sustaining. I’d add cookies and snacks into this corner, also.
My art up – a nice wide wall to put up the Phillips and the Moores and the Mack and the Joyce. Plus other prints. And also be able to display the Artist Editions I have.
A pot plant – I’d go back to the Japanese Friendship Lily, for sure.
A couch/futon – something to get into away from the desk, something to read in, break story in, and even sleep in.
A window – preferably overlooking something half decent. I’ve previously been wowed by a paddock, and a car park, so it actually shouldn’t be that hard.
Storage for my own stock to take to cons and such.
A sound system for some ambient tunes to truly surround me, or music for chilling. Debating a tv for quiet times, or if I would exercise in there.
That’s really about it. I can see it in my head, and I know I’ll get there. Eventually. Having to wait kinda makes it more exciting. And once I’m there, oh the word that I’ll write, the places I’ll go.
Note: this thing took me about 3 months to write, in ten minute pockets before bed, and such. But it was fun to write. Good to recollect, and to look forward.