Monday, June 04, 2007

Office Space

Thomas Hart Benton at the Chronicle writes about why he's moved from his nice home office (with an Aeron chair! I've never even seen a real Aeron chair!) to the barn:

Another more common distraction at home and at work is the availability of the Internet. I am a regular reader of at least 30 blogs and more than a dozen newspapers. And I am constantly browsing for new book recommendations on and searching for books on sale at several other sites like Daedalus, Labyrinth, and Edward R. Hamilton. That feels like the moral equivalent of work, even though it is really procrastination.

All of those activities, combined with my addiction to e-mail, means that I receive a continuous flow of custom-tailored information that is almost always more interesting to me than what I am writing.
. . . .

So for all its lack of amenities, my third office in the barn offers fewer temptations to avoid writing. I have no Internet connection, and there's no one here to speak to besides myself. So far, my productivity has improved significantly, even though my desk is a door on two sawhorses, and I am sitting on a box.

In other words, the writing space he's now chosen makes it easier to write, an idea that fuels some of my most persistent fantasies about writing (that it's easier in a coffee shop, for example). I write in my study at home or sometimes in a library; it's hard to write in my office on campus for the reasons Benton mentions.


I have been known to harbor what is known in my family as a "writing house" fantasy. This fantasy encompasses everything from a tiny house placed in the backyard to something along the lines of Mark Twain's study in Elmira. Sometimes I dream of building one of these on the side of a mountain that's about 10 minutes from here (on land I couldn't afford anyway, of course). In my dreams it might look like Michael Pollan's writing house, or it might be something more fanciful.

Curse you, Thomas Hart Benton! Now I am in full writing house fantasy mode, when all I really need to do to be productive is turn off my Internet connection.


Professor Zero said...

I guess I should turn it off. But I am not sure ... !

undine said...

That's the hard part. Sometimes I do, but since I'm addicted to listening to radio on iTunes, it's hard. Also, sometimes the stuff I'm working on demands that I be online to look things up.

As Tony Soprano would say, "Whaddya gonna do?"

Anonymous said...

I hear you and THB on this need for a writing space away from the internet. My father used to do his summer writing in an old smelly trailer parked in the woods near our cabin. For him, it was to escape his noisy kids. At the time it seemed to me like an awful place to write in, though now I can see the attraction. My current solution is to go to the one cafe in town that doesn't have wireless--it's certainly allows me a kind of focus otherwise missing from my life these days.

Sisyphus said...

My dissertation buddy has had the ethernet card removed from her laptop and any ability to connect to anything shut down. She has no internet at home. She had to do this because she was getting too obsessive about posting to a chatroom (she's now dating the object of her chatroom attentions, but still hasn't put back the internet). I am probably pretty close to that obsessed but don't want to get rid of the internet at home. :)

I have no office at school so working in the library is by definition a space where there is no internet and no comfy bed --- but that means I have to haul in everything I want to work with during the day (inc. lunch)!

But, in short, I think that the internet and work don't mix. Unfortunately.

(PS --- I would love a "writing house," "writing room," an office on campus --- anything! So jealous! Build it and they will come! ---- Be careful, I mean that.)

Anonymous said...

Well ... I got rid of tv years ago and never looked back. I ignore most e-mail, only checking it every few days. I am addicted to JSTOR,,, and Wikipedia, and I am not sure that is bad.

But I am starting to transition blogs for this reason - the new one is research only, and what now goes on the current blog is going to get developed differently in a word processor and go to funny little alternative paper journals.

What I *do* want: an Aeron chair.

undine said...

sisyphus, that's the drawback with library work: sometimes hauling all that stuff in seems to be more trouble than it's worth. And I always seem to forget the one crucial thing that I think I need--unless, of course, that's just part of the procrastination process.

Professor Z, I admire your ability to go without tv. What it does best for me is get between me and those voices in my head, the ones that say "you should be working, you haven't got this done" and torture me when I'm too tired (or, recently, too sick) to work anyway. Books won't do that any more, I'm sorry to say; they just remind me of the books I *ought* to be reading. I hear you about the Aeron chair.

What will happen to your blog?

undine said...

anon, there's something nice about the *idea* of a trailer at the edge of the woods, but I think the wireless-free cafe sounds more pleasant.

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