Posted by jmdattilo
The home office. As common in houses today as a kitchen or bath and just as necessary. Remember the days when a home office was rare? A luxury? A nice, but, gee, do we really need one type of thing? Older folks will be smiling, younger ones will be scratching their heads, unable to envision such an archaic time period, let alone imagine what life would be like there. But, yes, the home office was once a lovely little extra, stashed away in a closet or corner of the kitchen or, if you were really lucky, a spare bedroom or den.
In our house, the office evolved right along with the rest of American home offices. Our first “office” (if we can apply that term to such a modest space) was in our kitchen. It was just a desk with a computer on it, stuffed in a corner and we had to sidle around it to get to the back door. This wasn’t really conducive to writing. For one thing, the traffic in the kitchen was annoying. It was an eye opener how often our family was in search of something to eat. It certainly explained the grocery bills! For another, boiling pots and a hot oven raised the humidity and temperature to a point that the printer, over-taxed from the strain of trying to push out steam-cooked pieces of paper, spit out its gears at us one day and expired.
A move from that two bedroom condo to a three bedroom ranch provided us with our first real office. How wonderful, we thought. An entire room dedicated to an office. No more traffic, no more humidity, no more manuscripts stained by tomato sauce or grape juice. We were in home office heaven. Until we both tried to exist in this same space, that is.
The first problem was that Joe was running his business from the same office. Trying to get any writing done during business hours was not only frustrating but painful. Imagine trying to write a scene where the main characters are dancing together for the first time. You can hear music playing, see the room, brilliant and sparkling, feel the motion of the dancers, while, in the background, an angry man is shouting into a phone at a supply house because his orders are two weeks late and his customers are rioting.
Another problem was that we only had one computer and three people vying for it, one of whom was a teenager. A typical evening: Husband sits down, determined to please his wife, who is suffering from eyestrain trying to read his handwriting, and actually write a chapter on the computer. (He always writes on a yellow legal pad. See previous blog.) Aforementioned wife comes in and asks if she can quickly check her email. She proceeds to check two email accounts, her Facebook page, their joint Facebook author page, the blog stats, and all book and play sales reports for the day. Husband hangs around for a few moments but decides to go get a snack when wife gets annoyed at him for reading over her shoulder. He comes back just as wife is finishing and sits down again. Teenage daughter bops into the room and reminds him that she has an English paper that she needs to finish. Dad asks how long she will need the computer. She replies an hour or two. Dad sighs and goes in search of a yellow legal pad.
Then there was the issue of writing preferences. Joe is what we call a social writer. He shares as he goes along, reading bits of newly written scenes out-loud and reading over his wife’s shoulder while she writes and offering comments and critiques. Mary is a private writer. A don’t-read-my-stuff-until-I-want-you-to writer. An I’m-trying-to-think-will-you-please-be-quiet writer. An if-you-don’t-stop-reading-over-my-shoulder-I’m-going-to-kill-you writer. You can see how things can get a bit tense.
Even office organization was a problem. Mary likes a neat, orderly writing environment. A place for everything and everything in its place. Simple. Clean. Efficient. Joe loves an office that requires a team of archaeologists to discover where that last scene he wrote is. His theory is out of chaos comes order. It was like Felix and Oscar sharing a room. It became apparent that we had to have separate spaces or end up in home office counseling.
So now we each have our own office. Mary’s is in a very nice finished corner of the basement, tastefully outfitted, organized, and peaceful. A veritable home office oasis and far enough away from Joe’s office that irate phone calls cannot be heard. Joe’s office is in the extra bedroom, filled with gadgets, satisfyingly messy, and totally comfortable (if you’re a guy).
We always respect each other’s space, not out of any special consideration for the other, we must admit, but for good practical reasons. Mary never leaves her stuff in Joe’s office because she knows she’ll never find it again. Joe never leaves his stuff in Mary’s office because he knows she’ll throw it out.
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