(Originally posted at The Mess That Is Me April 2013)
We have been in our current home for three years and during that time I have been able to have a room designated solely for my office on three different occasions, none of which lasted very long. I suppose I should be grateful I had an office for even those brief periods as I wasn’t supposed to have one at all to begin with. What happened was that as we were moving into the house, Nathan decided he was going to move out. It was time for him to venture out on his own. That freed up a bedroom, which I quickly claimed as my office. I actually prefer the term study to office, because the latter sounds cold and impersonal, giving one the impression of being called in to see the boss or the dean. Study not only sounds intellectual, but also gives a warm, cozy feeling, as well. So, to rephrase, I claimed the empty room as my study.
Of course, it wasn’t just mine. As with everything, it was shared with the girls. Well, two of the girls, as Sarah and the 8-year old had not moved in, yet. Still, it was called mine and I went about decorating it my way, which means the girls always kept the door closed when company came over. There was no rhyme or reason to my interior design, nor was there any real organization. I had knick knacks and what-nots placed on every available surface and pictures and bulletin boards on every wall. The chaos that was in my mind seemed to have thrown up in my study. It wasn’t so much cozy as it was claustrophobic.
Still, it was mine. That is, until a few months later when Nathan called to say he was moving back in. With mixed feelings - happy he was coming back versus sad at losing my hide out, um study - I packed away my office and moved it all into the garage where I could visit it once in awhile. Nathan settled in and I began writing wherever there was an empty spot.
I made it work, although it was a slower process. The main thing was not to give up, which I allowed to happen too much in my life already. I had just fallen into a routine when a year later, Nathan said he was moving out again and getting married. I cried for joy at the news, although the girls didn’t believe it had anything to do with his upcoming nuptials and everything to do with getting my study back.
I denied the cruel allegation, of course. However, they said it would have been more convincing if I hadn’t been moving my things into the room as he moved his belongings out. It wasn’t that I was rushing him. Mind you. I just know how fast people claim things in my house. If I didn’t get it first, it would have been turned into a craft room the girls would never have used or a game room Zac would have never cleaned. I had to act fast.
Another year later and Chris informs us that he is moving in with his boyfriend. His room was bigger than my study, so I take the upgrade. It didn’t last long, however. It was decided that we should move Sarah and the 8-year old in with us and now both rooms were usurped. I tried pleading that the 8-year old could stay in the closet or that the garage had a door into the house for her, but the girls merely packed my possessions back into boxes. The same boxes that they had come out of I noticed, which meant they knew my office wasn’t going to last long anyway.
Those who know me know that whenever I travel, even if it’s just an overnight trip, I haul three small duffle bags with me full of my writing projects. These were now with me always in lieu of my forsaken office. Of course, they were always around my feet or left to the side which meant the girls were constantly tripping over them and spouting obscenities at my negligence of just leaving them wherever.
“You don’t need all of that stuff,” they fumed while bouncing on one foot and holding the toes of the other. “You can’t possibly be working on it all at once.”
“I never know what I’m going to feel like working on, so I keep everything handy. It’s a pain to have to go searching for it all the time.”
“It’s a pain when our toes collide with that bundle of notebooks!”
It was also hard to get into that frame of mine for writing as things stood. I’ve always been able to write wherever I was without having to have a special place, but not for very long. I was discovering that without a study my writing was still sporadic and my attention span easily stolen by whatever else was near. If I was going to succeed at this fulltime, I was going to have to make some adjustments. With that goal in mind, my mobile office was born.
I still do most everything with pen and paper, resorting to the computer only when my draft is ready to type. I prefer my information in notebooks as opposed to digital files because I can scan those faster and easier. I understand that not everyone is like this and that most keep everything on flash drives and laptops. I’m also positive it would be easier for me to carry everything that has to do with my writing in my laptop case, but that’s just not me. I prefer comfort over easy in this area.
I compacted all of my daily writing needs into a small file storage tub. Inside I stack my notebooks, research books, Post-it Notes, a pen holder full of highlighters and pens, and a paper clip holder. There are even small bookends to keep the notebooks upright and not falling all over the place. The storage container is secure, weather proof and slips nicely in my closet or in a corner on the back porch. The girls are no longer tripping over my assorted backpacks and calling me vulgar names.
Most mornings, I will set my office up on a small table on the back porch. It’s become a daily ritual of sorts and actually sets the mood for my work day. It says that I’m serious about my career path and that I’m thinking like a professional instead of a couch potato. It slips my mind into a place that says let’s work.
At a certain point of the day, usually between five or seven at night, I pack it all back up, except one or two notebooks that I can piddle with throughout the evening. These are my idea notebooks or sometimes background and character sketches I am working on. It’s just something that I can dabble with during those quiet moments when everyone is busy. However, the packing away of the office is like shutting the office door if I had an actual door to shut. Work time is over and family time has arrived. My mind can relax and I can focus on what truly matters - those I love.
Before when I was lugging backpacks and duffle bags around, writing on the couch, the back porch, or the toilet, everything sort of blended together. Family time, work time, nap time - it was all the same. There were no real boundaries. Everything meshed and overlapped and the writing and family time suffered. The setting up and packing away of my “office” helps keep those boundaries in place. The words have increased and the quality of our family time has grown sweeter. I don’t feel as if I’m being unfair to either one, because both now get the attention they deserve. Like those who actually walk through office doors, I was able to make my work-home balance truly balance.
There is also another plus to having a mobile office. I’m not limited to four walls or even my back porch. When being cooped up in the house has me a little stir crazy, I take my mobile office and hit the road. On those beautiful days I can be found at one of the many parks in our city, somewhere along the river, or perched overlooking the beach. Life is too short to be stuck inside!
Of course, I get strange looks from those who pass me by because I still set up my office as if I were on my porch alone. With it set up the same way all the time, it slips me into the “I’m here to work” mindset no matter where I am, and that’s really the key. You need to be able to get your mind to shift gears. My mobile office is how I accomplish this transformation. How do you do it?
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Until next time, keep chasing your fantasies!