The word “office” wears a lot of outfits. It can be a job, the place to do a job, some religious something or other or a big-ass bureaucratic smorgus-bord of stuffy egos and stuffed pockets. Peel off all the layers of clothing and there’s a nice surprise at the bottom (known a few bois like that): the latin opifex. It sounds cool, right outta Star Trek, but also means “maker, artisan, craftsman” (Yep, man, as in male. Doesn’t seem to be feminine form. So sorry about that bit of historical sexism). At once we’ve got both the maker and where they make.
Where the making happens doesn’t always get the spotlight, compared to the final product. But who doesn’t like a good behind-the-scenes? Like where am I making these words right now? Start with the clacky-clack of the three-year old Macbook’s grimy keys forcing letters onto the white area of the screen meant to represent a piece of paper. (Love how we stick with these digital archaisms: paper, rotary phones, camera shutters.) This piece of “paper” is a Google Doc (hey, Big Brother, how’s it hanging?) inside one of way too many browser tabs.
The Macbook is perched on a lovely wood desk I’ve had for decades. The ultimate in simplicity: wood, metal legs, casters. Done. Roomy and surprisingly unblemished considering the amount of time I’ve spent slumped over it trying to do any number of things. Peeking out from behind the laptop and the stand for the second monitor are some laughing buddhas reminding me to have fun and not take myself so seriously. There’s a lamp, a little plastic organizer that’s anything but organized. Lined along the edge of the desk are a notepad and “the pile”: an assemblage of books and paper that represent things I’m doing, meant to be doing, hope I’ll get to or have completely forgotten about. Physical manifestation of my brain and soul.
This all surrounds an open plane, kept bare at great daily effort so as to be refashioned at a moment’s notice for any number of activities: writing, drawing, scheming, staring listlessly out of the window. Yes, the desk faces the window. Always has, hopefully always will. I’ve sat at desks facing a wall and it’s horrible and lifeless. Natural light and some notion of the outside world are as essential to me and my officing as are a desk, computer, and electricity. Oh, and coffee. There’s just about always a cup of coffee nearby. On a coaster, of course. I’ve preserved the surface of this desk for 20 years, and aim for another 20.
Yes to light, but no to walls. I’ve carved out half of the living room of my small apartment to dedicate to making things: pictures, words, sometimes code. Desk, drafting table, shelves, and little roly-poly cart with painting supplies. (The fancy word is taboret, if you go in for such things.)
All of that is as open and adaptable for making a variety of things as is the desk. It’s not closed off, it’s not separated. It still maintains a bit of distinction so I can “leave” when I need to–usually after returning the office to as pristine a state as I can.
Today I make one thing. I may make something different tomorrow. I close down by hitting a kind of reset button, restoring it to a ready state–ready for tomorrow’s adventure.