For much of my freelance career I had a home office, a spare second-floor bedroom with a view of our garden and woods. I wrote a book there and hundreds of articles. I treasured that room, considered it essential. But for six years now I’ve been traveling light, roaming around the house with my laptop, freed from the dedicated writing space I once swore I needed.
Our laptops and tablets have liberated us from the physical office. Now we carry our offices with us — or they float around in the cloud waiting for us to access them. While I haven’t stopped lusting for the perfect writer’s cabin, I like being an office nomad.
For one thing, I can match the task to the location. When I stumble downstairs at 5 a.m., midway between dreams and waking, I can recline on the couch and scribble in my journal. Later on, limbered up, I park my laptop on the kitchen table and pull up a spindle-back chair. Its no-nonsense contour makes me sit up straight — the perfect posture for revising or editing, for taking things apart and putting them together again.
Having a portable office means I can pace while I organize my thoughts. Or stand at the kitchen counter and proofread to my heart’s (and hindquarter’s) content. It’s the next best thing to a treadmill desk. Recent studies keep peppering us with the downsides of sitting, so I’m not just boosting productivity; I’m improving my health!
Being an office nomad means I can move through the house with the light: the front in the morning, the back in the afternoon. When it’s too noisy downstairs I move up; when it’s too quiet upstairs, I move down. When the weather is good I work outside on the deck. In other words, if the muses don’t come to me, I go to the muses. Or at least I search for them in every room of the house.
Could I have done all this when I had a dedicated office? Some of it, yes, but I didn’t. The office and desk became a ball and chain.
If all this sounds too loosey-goosey, you should know that I have a fallback. When productivity is waning, I banish myself to the green leather chair where I used to put my kids in time out. There’s still something of the jail cell about it. I don’t get up until the assignment is done.
Sometimes I compare my zany work style to the careful calibrations of the old office — the desk that faced the wall, the door closed for privacy, files and books an arm’s length away. There was tidiness there, a sense of the world and my place in it. But that office — that world — is gone. The new world is freewheeling, exhilarating, bewildering, too. It’s a world made for traveling light.