It Came from Office Space

“Home office” sounds so . . . respectable.

Maybe for some professions, it is.  And maybe even for some writers.  I don’t know.  But for a lot of us, the home office, if we’re lucky enough to have one, is more like a cave where the books and papers are organized by geologic strata and topic drift, with the desk and chair and attendant writing machinery (computer, typewriter, quill pen and inkwell, whatever) rising above it all like a lighthouse on a rock.

Plus, often, a cat.

That’s if we’re lucky, and have a room to spare.  Jane Austen, famously, wrote her novels in the family parlor, and shoved the papers underneath the blotter whenever anybody came in.  Louisa May Alcott’s fictional alter ego, Jo March, set up her writing desk in the attic.  I thought a lot about both of them during the years when I had my own writing gear set up in our fortunately-large kitchen — not for lack of a spare room for the office, in my case, but in order to have a commanding view of the front door, the latch of which our pre-school offspring had, unnervingly, proved themselves able to open.

Writers through the ages have managed to ply their craft under the most trying conditions imaginable — in hospitals, in prisons, on ships at sea, in grinding poverty or in the diamond-encrusted straitjacket of social expectation — and have undoubtedly cheered themselves by daydreaming of the perfect office they would make for themselves someday, if only.

Sometimes, if they’re lucky, they get to have that perfect office.  And if they’re even luckier, they don’t then sit down in the perfect chair at the perfect desk and take up the perfect pen (or the perfect typewriter, or the perfect computer) . . . only to have their muse demand to be taken back to that cramped walk-in closet with the typewriter set up on a board across two suitcases and the toddler throwing his alphabet blocks out of his playpen and in through the open door.

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