The work space

Can we ever find the perfect workspace? I doubt it, but I think I am getting closer to mine.

There’s nothing more creatively stifling for me than that no-man’s land between the hours of writing php code and hours of writing real words. (Well, there are likely a drawer full of more creatively stifling situations – feel free to not send me a list – but this one impacts almost every day.)

The technique I have used for years has been to assign different physical spaces to different types of activity. My “work work desk” – at which I am writing this post – contains all the required technical and business related items: iMac, phones, bulging in-trays, pens, pencils, notepads… you get the picture. These are the tools for activities that currently pay the rent.

My writing desk – or rather, writing space – has a chair, a small laptop desk, my Macbook Air, my current Moleskine notebook, and a couple of reference books. The arrangement forces me to physically turn my back on the technical/business workspace, and offers me the view out of the window in place of the desktop. (There is also an old typewriter tucked in the corner for those moments of nostalgia.)

I also no longer have an art/illustration desk in my office (the first post on this blog sheds a little light on that subject). That’s right, I once had three distinctly different spaces for three distinctly different types of work, all in the same room.

I have tried to work on the one desk, simply switching applications, room lighting, background music, even switching from computer to notebook. But unfinished tasks, unanswered letters, newly arrived emails, and the lure of all manner of internet goodness are too distracting. I would love to be someone who can work on anything, anywhere, anytime.

One day, perhaps when writing is my full time occupation, I may have the opportunity to simplify still further. Though I suspect I will still retain that special “thinking space” to which I can temporarily turn my back on everything else demanding my attention.

Do you suffer the same challenge, or can you work anywhere?


  1. April 8, 2011

    I finally found the writing spot that works for me, after trying many variations and systems. It’s a fold out table in an area of the living room away from the main sitting area facing patio doors, near the woodstove. It has to have the special table cloth on it, or it doesn’t work. I have an entire room I can use for an office, but this is the spot that works, even though there’s no door to shut, for whatever reason. We don’t have television, so that’s not an issue. Sometimes my husband will sit in my writing spot and use my computer and it gives me little mini-strokes, like his presence will ruin the magic of this one spot. I don’t know if he’ll try it again. I try to be gracious, but I end up giving off stroke-victim vibes while trying to be selfless. The right space makes a huge difference for me.

    • April 9, 2011

      That’s interesting that you can work in what is otherwise a living space.

      I tried that for a little while, working in one corner of the living room. But when work got intense, I found I had no refuge to switch off and relax. Since then, I’ve always physically separated workspace from living space.

      Our current home is idea: our living space is upstairs (it’s an “upside-down” house), and what were designed as bedrooms downstairs have become my office, my wife’s office and her art studio.

  2. April 9, 2011

    Oh, I came back to see what everybody esle had to say. Would love to hear other’s experiences with this.

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