Five years ago, I purchased a three-bedroom, raised bungalow that was in dire need of cosmetic repairs. It was my little fixer-upper, and she and I were going to get to know one another while I made her beautiful once again, while learning how to play with power tools. Five years on, and my little fixer-upper has been sold! She went from being a tacky relic of the 70s—not to mention a victim of the laziest DIY upgrades you have ever seen—to a quietly handsome bastion of domestic tranquility… or so says her real estate listing. Her walls were skimmed, her popcorn ceiling was removed. Her baseboards were replaced and painted gleaming white, and her outdated and yellowing fixtures were freshened up with new and modern iterations. It was five years well spent… and not something I’m likely to be venturing into again any time soon.
See, the thing I’ve realized from my home improvement adventure is that trying to write in a constant construction zone is extremely demotivating. For writers, the act of writing is a beloved tool for escapism. Yet, I found I was unable to escape the mess, the demands, the expectations, and the looming deadline I had imposed on myself for getting it all done. Having half-finished projects lying about reminded me of how much I had left to complete every time I looked up from my computer screen. The piles of supplies stacked in corners and against walls were demoralizing. By the end of my project, I found that I was suffering an overwhelming To-Do Paralysis. It’s a real thing.
We have been in our new house since mid-September now. This bigger 4+1 with a finished basement and large backyard gives the six of us—myself, my partner, our three teenagers and our new puppy—ample room to spread out and carve our own space. And happily, my own personal space is my office. I finally have a writing space that is all my own, and I am absolutely LOVING it!
Productivity experts agree that you need to make the process of whatever you’re doing enjoyable. Well, I can now personally confirm that there is merit to the claim. I have a large executive desk that I am absolutely in love with. I am right next to a wood-burning fireplace that I’ve enjoyed immensely on these chilly winter days. And there is so much daylight in here that spending time at my desk feels peaceful and serene; an enthusiastic departure from the drudgery of writing at the kitchen table surrounded by half-used drywall panels and MDF boards.
My office is located in what is meant to be the family room, so it is currently an enclosed space. The home we bought was built in the 1990s when it was de rigeur to compartmentalize the layout of a single-family dwelling. The kitchen, dining room, family room, living room—they are all separated by walls. In April, we will be opening up the space and removing the walls, so eventually my writing space will be part of the greater main floor. That’s okay. In fact, I prefer it. One thing I know of myself is that removing distraction is good, but shutting myself away entirely makes me feel cut off from the world. So, when we open up the walls and allow the beautiful brick fireplace to be admired from the entirety of the first floor, I won’t mind the loss of solitude in the least. That’s what noise cancelling headphones are for.
These past five months with my own office (and a pretty pink chair to boot) have been super productive. I am amazed at how much of a difference has been made by changing my writing space. I recognize how fortunate I am to be able to have this blessing, and if like me you are in a position to create your own dream writing space, I would highly encourage you to do so.
I am now a firm believer: Atmosphere and ambience matter!