Office Overhaul for Mental Overhaul

The view from my office window
Therese blogged about ways to jumpstart your creativity. The subject has been on my mind a lot, because I’ve spent the past month overhauling my office. It’s a great, if ordinary, space–a bedroom upstairs overlooking the street and a view of Pikes Peak and the entire Front Range, which changes daily with light and weather and season. I love being upstairs, above it all. Love the tall Ponderosa pine outside the window where birds play. Love to watch the clouds roll in.

But, I’ve been here for five years. The desk was a functional U, a hand-me-down that I quite liked, but it was not working in the space any more. I might have lived with that, but the computer was almost ten years old, and was becoming more and more of a problem the more outdated it became. I have to admit I’m kind of a cheapskate, as most creative professionals learn to be. As a bargain hound and deal hunter, it pains me to spend money on almost anything except travel and books, but this had to be done.

So I hunted down a great bargain on a good-looking desk with the hutch on the right side, and paid my son to put it together for me. I splurged on some new storage tools and a boxful of files and such things. My happy find at the office supply store was a black board with neon wet-erase markers, discovered in the clearance bin, and I love filling it out every Sunday afternoon with the tasks for the week. Once that part was done, my partner and I went computer shopping. Because we’ve both fallen in love with our iPhones, we made the switch to Macs, and it’s a gorgeous machine—but I discovered I still can’t handle the freedom of getting on the Internet from my work space. I had to ask Christopher Robin to turn off access during my work day.

Has my productivity gone through the ceiling? A project like this initially makes a big mess and I had new programs and systems to learn and I am still not quite used to that little keyboard, but what I feel is much less chaotic in my head when I go in there. I know where the pens are. I know where to put the receipt from the vet (in a file) and what to do with the royalty statement that came in the mail (there’s a file for that, too). The overhaul gave me a chance to throw away and recycle a lot of unused items and books, and align my space with the writer I am today, not the one I was five years ago.

What I love best is heading down the hall and seeing that gleaming new space waiting for me, with open spaces for my research materials and places to put the work I’ve done at the end of the day, and a line of sight to a beautiful poster I love. I find myself going back to my office to play, to spend time on my little projects like my photography or to listen to music and brainstorm. A couple of times this week, I’ve even found myself back in there at night, making lists of scenes, or writing a background piece or blog, which I haven’t done for ages.

It might not be time for you to overhaul your work space as much as I did, but maybe a few tweaks will make it feel fresh. How long has it been since you bought yourself some new organizational supplies or changed the art on the walls? Maybe a set of inexpensive plastic boxes or a sleek stacking file holder would give you a sense of order and calm. Maybe some new paint or a dry erase board will allow you to feel more comfortable and happy in the space where you do the work. Whatever you do will be a signal to your creative side that you do, indeed, honor and respect its needs.

What kind of work space do you have? The luxury of a full office or something else? Have you recently indulged in sprucing it up at all, or do you have ideas?


About Barbara O'Neal

Barbara O'Neal has written a number of highly acclaimed novels, including 2012 RITA winner, How To Bake A Perfect Life, which landed her in the Hall of Fame. Her latest novel, The All You Can Dream Buffet has just been released by Bantam Books in March. A complete backlist is available here.