By: Pat Austin
I have been thinking a lot lately about workspaces. As I transition into retirement, leaving my classroom of twenty-five years, I have been moving some things home and setting up a new workspace in my house.
When I wrote my first book, I did it on my laptop sitting at an antique oak desk in front of a big picture window in my living room where I can look out at the neighborhood, watch the rain, and cars speeding down my residential street. The desk belonged to my grandfather in a railroad office and the top is scarred and marked with various scratches, dents, and ink spills. I have never had the least interest in refinishing it; I love its character.
Working on my second book now, I feel like I want to do this one in a different space. I know, that makes no sense whatsoever, but the opportunity has just sort of developed organically. I’ve inherited a powerful desktop computer from my gamer-son, so I bought a nice, new monitor and have set up a new space. This time my “desk” is a marble topped wrought iron table that used to be my breakfast table. My chair is an old classroom teacher chair that I brought home and covered in pages from To Kill a Mockingbird, slathered with ModPodge, and finished with several coats of polyurethane. The result is pretty cool.
Speaking of cool office spaces, there is a guy I follow on Instagram only for his beautiful shots of his writing space. I don’t know him, never met him, but I feel like we would be friends based on his workspace. The sepia tints, the browns and earth tones create a casual, moody vibe. Most of his photographs have a cup of coffee in them; that’s his schtick, I guess. The pictures are cropped in a minimalist fashion, drawing your focus to one specific item in the picture. The focus might be his turntable with an album cover of a cool jazz recording sitting on top or a neat stack of music biographies. It just looks cool, and I enjoy checking out his feed each day.
I like my space where I write to be clear of clutter, except of course for my research. While writing Cane River Bohemia, I had stacks of books piled on the floor, piles of primary source material, letters, photocopies, my index card file, and a stack of USB drives, but it was all put away and organized at the end of the day. But with my desk in the front, main room of the house, it was extremely difficult to concentrate. My family, as much as I love them, always walked by with a question about dinner, someone expressing their own boredom, my husband’s frequent “aww look at the cat!” statements, and the incessant television carrying on. I feel the need for a quieter space this time. In fact, I wrote all of Cane River Bohemia with headphones and my Writing playlist now that I think about it.
My new workspace isn’t perfect, and it isn’t complete. All I really want is a quiet space that is mine, and that is relatively free from clutter. Will it help my writing? Probably not, but I’m having fun creating it, and isn’t that the point? It’s the journey, not the destination.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.