Man, December hit like a freight train this year. Here are the things that happened in the span of three days:
Needless to say, I have no shortage of things to keep me awake at night. But one thing has overridden everything else, buoying me through the season. Okay, two things. One is whisky shots. But the other is my brand-spanking-new workspace.
Our old house was 900 square-feet, two-bed, one-bath—a good size for a newly-married couple. But five years later, as a family of four, we were bursting at the seams. My desk, such as it was, was wedged beside the chest freezer in the utility room, but I couldn’t always work there. With no other alternative, it often served as a landing pad for laundry and cooking. But besides that, it was loud. There was no quiet place in the house—nowhere I could sit where I couldn’t hear everything else that was going on, whether it was Daniel Tiger teaching my kids about the potty or Kai Ryssdal serenading my husband with the marketplace reports. I often wound up writing in bed with my earbuds blasting Pandora’s Ambient radio station.
Now, I don’t mean to whine. Our house was small, but it was safe, and it was ours. We had a great little yard for our vegetables and flowers. My girls learned quickly how to share space and belongings. Power bills were absurdly low. I could vacuum four out of the five rooms from the same electrical outlet. But I can’t deny that trying to create a productive workspace was a nearly impossible task.
My most vivid memory of this crusade came during the first draft of Woodwalker. It was in the evening, and the girls were in bed. At that early stage, my youngest daughter was sleeping in a bassinet in our bedroom. My oldest was asleep in the adjoining room. My husband was working on some project in the utility room, listening as usual to NPR podcasts. That meant I was on the couch in the living room. But it was also vacuuming day. We have a second-hand Roomba we inherited, and it was busy trundling across the living room floor. As such, the coffee table and toddler chair were stacked on the couch beside me to give the Roomba a clear path. I was hunched over my laptop on half a cushion, doing my best to move my characters through a thrilling plot of danger and intrigue while the Roomba crabbed along the couch and Kai updated us on the S&P 500.
I’m pretty sure I ended up re-writing that particular scene.
You can imagine how thrilled I am, then, that in our new house, we’ve dedicated an entire room to being a home office. It comfortably holds both my desk and my husband’s (he's promised to listen to his podcasts on headphones). It gets lovely sunlight through two windows. It easily fits a large bookshelf, big enough to hold not just my books, but twelve years’ worth of sketchbooks as well. But best of all?
It has a door.
A door that closes.
I don’t even know what Daniel Tiger sang about today. I didn’t hear Kai Ryssdal do the numbers. I couldn’t hear a single word. I heard the click of my keyboard as I worked on edits, the tap of my stylus as I redrew my cover, and the little ding Photoshop makes when I try to use too many hotkeys at once.
It was bliss. I'm enjoying my editor's revisions immensely, and I'm really excited about the direction the book cover is heading. I'm looking forward to many long hours in this little room, where the only sounds are the cacophony of character dialogue in my head (and that Photoshop error ding--but at least I can mute that).
If you’re waiting until you’ve built the perfect workspace to start your novel, don’t. If you’re waiting until you have more time, don’t. You’ll never have a better place or time than right now. Carve out your space. Make the time. Let it happen.
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator