It’s Not The Floorspace, It’s the Headspace

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

It’s a Sunday afternoon in Portland. The sky has been spitting rain all day and threatening more, but in Portland you tend to just get used to a constant state of moisture. I didn’t even bother with a jacket or umbrella on my way out today. I’ll be under cover or shelter long before the wetness can bother me, and the cool air feels sweet to breathe.

I’ve just gotten off the phone with an old friend of mine who had more than a few words to say about self-publishing, and I researched some new technology to make doing my work as the Black Hat Baker easier. Now, I find myself (finally) getting ready to tell you all about whatever’s on my mind this week.
Just another day at the office… except this office I share with the rest of the city.

While I winced and shied away from my first introduction to the work of Charles Bukowski (in terms of immediate revulsion, “Women” was somewhere worse than the Burrough’s “Naked Lunch,” but more palatable than some Facebook posts,) I can allow that the man had more than a few words of wisdom that still ring true for me. One of my favorites remains the following poem-

​air and light and time and space
 
“–you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
way
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to
create.”
 
no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
welfare,
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
away,
you’re going to create blind
crippled
demented,
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.
 
baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses
for.

Emily and I have spoken more and more recently about saving up to move to a bigger apartment- ideally one NOT in a basement. Even disregarding our general love (and sad current lack) of sunlight, or the availability of windows for Miss Cleo to sit at, we talk most about wanting an extra bedroom we can make an office or guest room. As it is, both of us tend to do our creative works at a large desk in the bedroom, lying on our bed (generally a bad move healthwise), or crashed out on our couch. The idea is that, with a specific dedicated physical space for our work, we could be more productive- or at least it would be more conductive to our creativity.

Cat playing on her new cat tree

We legit bought a cat tree just so Miss Cleo could look out one of the windows.


If the clenching knot of fear in my gut for the expense and hassle of ANOTHER move wasn’t enough to make me rethink the wisdom of this, Mr. Bukowski’s words certainly are.

As I was talking to Stu, I mentioned before that I was heading to my “office of choice.” He reacted with more than a little confusion, until I explained that my go-to workspace each Sunday was a small cafe called “Case Study Coffee.
I get here, sit in generally the same area with a cafe con miel (a cappuccino with honey and cinnamon) and a kouign amann (a puffy pastry creation I have yet to master but dearly wish to someday), and then I unpack my computer from my satchel and get to work.

Besides the availability of delicious pastry and free WiFi, I find that the bustling anonymity of the cafe excites and energizes me. When I pause, I can perk my ears up and draw from what’s around me.
The Norwegian exchange student getting help with setting up her Facebook account.
An older gent who missed his MAX and is ducking out of the rain chatting with anyone who seems interesting.
A barista (who knows me by face) at the end of her shifts has a tired smile as she washes the last few dishes of her shift.

I couldn’t get that in a home office. 
… A barista just bumped the stereo and feedback ripped through the sound system. I couldn’t get THAT in a home office either, if I’m being fair.

Not long ago, I had occasion to visit the local WeWork space in Portland, on the top floor of one of the city’s malls. Billing itself as “The Physical Social Network,” WeWork offers access to one of their comfortable, fully-equipped workspaces for a monthly fee. Starting at $295/month for a “hot desk,” WeWork offers snacks, coffee, beer, comfortable seats, quiet, and high-speed internet for folks that need an office with less walls. The theory is that, through physical proximity, people from different teams and projects will interact, work together, and come up with more creative works than they might have in isolation. As a bonus, paying for a space in one location grants you access to ALL of their locations worldwide. If I pay $600/month for an office here in Portland, I can use their spaces in Jerusalem, Tokyo, and Barcelona.

If you are an entrepreneur with a small team, and you want an HQ a bit better than your garage and more accessible than your favorite table at a coffee shop, WeWork has got you covered.
If you are a one-man show and you just want a reliable, quiet place that you can stay for hours without worrying about constantly buying coffee or closing time, that’s for you.

If you are me, however- it’s air and light and time and space to stare into, and get nothing out of except having to fix my own coffee.

When it comes to work, home offices to me feel like staring at a still life. When I write, I want to write organically- tell a living story about living with living people. No judgment here if you need a library and silence to work- you should always do what feels best for you. For me, I need to people watch. I need to see people chat and come and go and live out their stories.
It makes it much easier for me to write out mine.

When it comes down to it, WHERE you do your work doesn’t matter nearly so much as HOW you do it- if you can get the best work out of yourself in a city park, don’t waste money on an office space. If you need an office space, know what you want out of one before putting down money for it.

For me, I like carrying my “office” in a satchel, and setting it up next to a coffee or a cocktail, wherever I find myself a seat.

Though I DO wish I didn’t have to wait for their ONE bathroom to be available. Sometimes writing involves drinking a LOT of liquids.

Stay Classy,

P.S. If you are curious, yes- I’m working on my first book! It’ll be available as paperback and eBook. Stay tuned for more details!

P.P.S.- If you can’t wait for the book and want to help/support me while I write it, as well as all the other stuff I have planned for the BHB, consider clicking on over and supporting my Patreon! Even as little as $1 a month is helpful! Thank you!