Years ago, I did a couple posts about a new writing space in my new house, one post on my initial discovery of that space, and then a follow up on how I was making it work. My kids were young when we moved here, and my writing hours were few and far between.
With no dedicated office space at home, and not wanting to waste time traveling to a coffeehouse or other spot, I’d slip into my husband’s closet in our bedroom, under his hanging shirts, where I had placed a chair and several TV trays. That closet served as my office for years, until my kids were both in school, and I was able to spread myself around the house a bit more, sometimes working on the living room couch or spreading out across the dining room table. But there was no space that was purely mine, until just recently.
Why did I wait so long? I’ve redesigned several other rooms in the house during this time period (including our bedroom itself). I knew designing such a small “room” to be functional would be challenging, but I love a good design challenge. Yet, every time I thought about tackling it, I’d brush away the idea. Though I never admitted it out loud, I believe I didn’t think I deserved to spend any time and money on a space that was supporting my “hobby,” which is how I inaccurately thought of my writing until selling my first book. This thinking is so commonplace, especially for women, downplaying our own success and putting our own needs last. It felt almost, dare I say, subversive, to start work on a room of my own.
Designing my closet-office was a reward of sorts. I was working on a middle grade novel with a decorating contest at its core, and when I met my writing goal for the week, I felt justified painting walls or trekking to IKEA over the weekend. Not only was it great fun, but it put me in closer touch with my novel’s protagonist, a middle school student with her own little design firm.
I finished drafting the book the same week I finished the office, and now I’m working on revisions from my translucent chair (makes the room look bigger!) while watching a couple of juvenile squirrels chase each other up and down the pear tree all morning. I adore this new space, but even though I blog about decorating pretty frequently, I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile. I don’t need to tell you there’s a lot of terrible stuff going on in our country right now, and so why am I showing you wallpaper?
The truth is, I decorate to de-stress, and there’s a lot to be stressed about. But this is the first time a decorating project has impacted my professional life. I feel good in this new space. I have everything I need to do my job while being surrounded by objects that have personal significance. Simply put, I can do my job better in here, and my job is important. My debut picture book, which comes out in August, is about empathy, and my next picture book is also about empathy and building a community where we treat others with dignity and respect, especially the most vulnerable. I’m sorry it took me so long to truly value my work, but better late than never.
Details, details: I know some people want to know where I got this and that. The mini-chandelier is from Lowe’s. The chair from Walmart. The filing cabinets (turned inward so that I can actually get through the doorway) and the tabletop across it, plus most of the accessories are from IKEA. And all the little doodads are gathered lovingly over many years and from many different places. One thing that always bothers me on design shows is the last frantic minutes when the host “stages” the room, bringing in the pillows and knickknacks from a truck of such things and selected based on their design appeal and appropriateness to the space. These little items mean nothing to the homeowner. They aren’t going to look at each item and recall a story, as I do in my office. For example, the “prosperity hens” hanging from my window latch were a gift from my daughter, who hoped I would sell another book, and who also likes to pretend she’s an actual chicken. There’s a “happy basket” of special notes and artwork my children have made for me that I peruse whenever I’m feeling down (I used to keep these things in a drawer, but it’s so much better this way). The flying pig on the windowsill! I bought her when I felt like my writing dreams were impossible, and she figures prominently in my new novel.
Also, for those of you worried about my husband’s closet space, all of his clothes are now in these very cool wooden lockers I found on Craigslist. I cleaned them up and added the numbers. Two of these numbers are meaningful dates for him. The other, 42, is of course the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything (see Douglas Adams).