10 Ways to Reorganize Your Office:
A Short Story
It’s August 18 and I’m finally getting around to starting a medium “page.” Among other things, this suggests that my office is now in a state wherein I can produce what I feel to be adequate content to share on this page. I’ve had the item on my to do list for over a month, ever since I struck up a conversation with a man at a cafe on West Broadway who had given up his day job to do exactly that: start a medium page.
While I’ve long since given up my own day job, after that meeting, I, too, was inspired to start a medium page to share some of the writing I’ve been doing outside of the music world, and, hopefully, be able to sit at cafes on West Broadway talking about it to strangers reading The New Yorker.
But today I want to talk to you about my office.
I suppose it, my office, the room in my house where I do most of my writing, represents me, in a way. The various press passes hanging on the wall, the stacks of books and magazines that surround my desk, all affirmations that I’ve done something with my life up until this point. When I sit down to write, at least I have these reminders to remind me that someone else has, presumably, at some point, enjoyed my work.
In one corner, the light shines in from a window that looks out onto the back patio, and the garden, where I spend far too much of my time. In another corner, guitars and cases, pedals, amps, mic stands and various musical gear sit neatly arranged, although, these days, rarely used. The desk itself, a semi modern slab of smoked brown glass supported by a set of minimalist brown metal poles, sits on a red oriental rug and is covered by a pair of speakers, a computer, an ashtray, one of those oval ‘60s Rhythm clocks, the 2014 Associated Press Stylebook, a bottle of black Sailor ink, a jar of pens and pencils and a stack of unopened CDs to be reviewed.
Every item, and their arrangements and placements, are of no fault but my own — every item has been placed, in its place, by me. Like a drunk lying on the street, covered in their own vomit, every choice leading up to the way things, in my office, are now, has been entirely mine to choose. To a certain extent, these choices have been paid for: in the drunk’s case with hard currency and health, in the placement of objects with time and thought.
So I move the desk over to the far wall, where it catches better light from the window, I place a plant on top of one of the speakers, put up a few hanging shelves, I neatly arrange all of my pedals and instruments in a corner that further assures their prolonged dormancy, organize the stacks of CDs, books and magazines. After doing so, I feel much better about the room where, tomorrow, I will, once again, sit down in an attempt to produce something great.
But, as E.B. White once said:
“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.”
Whether or not the purpose of your office is to provide an ideal condition under which to write, White’s message can be applied to any pursuit — spend too much time fussing about and nothing will ever get done. It’s a stark realization to consider that it’s possible to leave this earth without having done anything at all.
I don’t want to die without putting a word to paper.
It’s now a few minutes past eight in the morning. It’s Wednesday, August 19, and I’m sitting in my office listening to Ancient Ocean’s Blood Moon. Writing. Just yesterday, I felt disdain for this very room. But, as it would seem, the simple rearrangement of furniture, the addition of few shelves, some cacti, and the room, together with my productivity, undergoes transformation. A desk in this corner, or a perfectly placed cactus, can sometimes feel like the determining factor in producing a great work, or a meager attempt at one.
On this first morning in my “new” office, I’m sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee, getting to work on the lingering items on my to do list — like starting a medium page. I check the notes on my phone for the list of writing prompts I frequently tap out during profound moments of clarity, which often occur on visits to the washroom…
…Wait…the washroom? What is it about that room that induces clarity or deep, thoughtful analysis of the world we live in? Is it that our minds become so detached from the world when we visit the washroom that we can truly focus — on, say, a great writing idea (not that this is one), or a magazine article, or a book? I’ve certainly read more pages sitting on the can than I have on any beach.
So, then, is the point of an office to exist in such a minimal way in so much as we are forced to focus on the task at hand, as oppose to, say, the state of the office? Does hanging Henry Miller’s “11 Commandments” in front of my desk detract from my productivity? It is possible that too much thought put into the arrangement and rearrangement of things can prevent us from achieving what we are trying to achieve? Is calculated order more distracting? Perhaps it’s the mental capacity spent considering the room in which we are working that limits our productivity, our creativity and our ability to tap into that hip-today term, the “flow” state (a term that I associate with being totally into a game of Mario Kart).
“There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest (inspiration) does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.”
Maybe that’s it: a room is just a factor in our disinclination to work — for creatives and artist types it’s often out of a fear that they will be unable to produce work that meets their standard of greatness. So they rearrange and reorganize. How, unless surrounded by elements of inspiration, will one ever find it, some, myself sometimes included, are bound to wonder? Like a trip to the washroom, writing, and most other forms of work, should be a thoughtless process that simply “comes out of you.”
With that in mind, if you find yourself in need a mental laxative, my advice is to stop thinking about your office and simply get to work. Maybe take a trip to the washroom for inspiration. Or perhaps take a tip from Jack Kerouac, who offers the following advice on creating a perfect writing environment wherever one may find themselves:
“The desk in the room, near the bed, with a good light, midnight till dawn, a drink when you get tired, preferably at home, but if you have no home, make a home out of your hotel room or motel room or pad: peace.”