Friday, October 18, 2019

There's No Place Like Office

Laptop, desktop, Underwood or pencil. Do you budget based on book sales, or do you just go for it? What’s your dream office look like?

by Paul D. Marks

(Note: We received another notice from SoCal Edison that they might turn our power off for “Potential Public Safety Power Shutoff.” So if I don’t respond to your comments that’s why, but know they are appreciated. And don’t get me started on this crap!)

Pepper and Buster in my office.
All of the above…at one time or another. Well, not really an Underwood, though I did play on them as a kid at my dad’s business. And I have one in my office for its nostalgia value. It might come in handy with all the “preventative” power outages here… But I did write a lot of things on a portable Smith-Corona typewriter and then an IBM Selectric. The latter certainly seemed like a major move in the technology of the world. You could actually swap out that little ball and put in an italic font so itals would be in, uh, itals. Though at the time most people still wanted things that should ultimately appear in italics to be underlined.

The old Underwood in my office.

But then came the PC. And I’m one of the first people I know to have gotten a personal computer. My then-writing partner got an IBM clone (remember those?) and I thought, how silly…until I went over to his house and saw that he could move a paragraph from page 27 of a script to page 8 in a flash. And I was a hooked. So I got a Leading Edge computer with 2 floppies, the 5 ¼” kind—(remember those?). You’d have the program on one disc and your files on another and they didn’t hold much. Eventually, I swapped out one of the floppy drives for a  hard disc. I don’t remember how big it was, but suffice to say it was not very big and in that instance size matters.
A Leading Edge 2 floppy disc computer (not mine, but similar).

When we lived in our previous house I had a nice office setup with a good desktop computer…but I didn’t use it much because it was overlooking the street and we had some crazy and noisy neighbors across the street—think the Glossners from The Middle only worse. So I would do most of my writing at the breakfast table on a laptop. Besides, the view was better on that side of the house. But once we moved into our current house I’m back to writing on a desktop and I prefer it. I like the big, ergonomic keyboard and the big screen. I know you can hook both those things up to a laptop, but still…

And if I budgeted based on sales I’d be using the old stub of a pencil that my clarinet teacher used to use to markup sheet music. What I do use is a very fast computer with lots of memory because I always have a lot of windows open. Several Word windows and usually a ton (and I mean a ton) of Chrome tabs and even several Chrome windows. Most of those have things that I want to read but that I often never get around to. But if I bookmark them I know I’ll never go to them, because out of sight, out of mind. And I figure if I have them open I might stumble on one and actually read it. They’re all things of interest to me, but I just don’t have the time to read everything I want to. But now that computer’s getting a little long in the tooth—gotta sell some more books.

My office, looking about as neat as it gets.

Sometimes I’ll take the laptop outside and work there. But inevitably there’s something I need in the house—like a drink—and being the lazy slob I am it’s easier to get if I’m already in the house.
My dream office is like the cockpit on a plane, everything within reach—most everything anyway. And my wife call’s the chair I sit in the Captain’s Chair. It’s a comfortable chair that’s ergonomically designed. As I sit in it for hours on end I need something that won’t break my back.  I’m in command central.

My ultimate dream office would be on a boat or an island with a fantastic view of the ocean. That said, I’m pretty happy with my current office. Yes, it’s a cluttered mess, but that’s not its fault it’s mine. And I do have that old Underwood here, a nice view and everything close at hand, including a couple of terrific dogs.

How ’bout you?


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GBPool said...

I cashed in a life insurance policy way back in order to buy my first computer. One of the best investments I ever made. I figure I am worth far more alive than dead. I have upgraded my computer every now and then. A computer guy built many of my computers to my specifications. Now that he's semi-retired, he just fixes them. The first laptop was a refurbished one. It will be that last refurbished anything I buy on-line. But like you, Paul, my office is the best place to get work done. I can switch between the two computers on my desk with the KVM switch that links the two. As long as the power stays on, I keep writing.

Susan C Shea said...

But an office with a view of the ocean might be a huge distraction. Better a blsnk wall or a wall like notes like this (from mine): "Put your protag in a bad situation and then make it worse."

Paul D. Marks said...

You're definitely worth more alive, Gayle ;-) . But that's saying something that you wanted that computer so badly. We bought a refurbished Asus for Amy to use on the train and it was fine for several years but finally bit the dust. And it's great if you ahve someone who really knows and can fix computers. Your office and system sounds great.

Paul D. Marks said...

You might be right, Susan. Not only because of the view but because of my desire to go into the ocean. That would be very distracting. Still, it's always been my fantasy. I don't have notes on my wall, but they clutter my desk and computer files. And I do love the one that you mention. That's the key, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I would find the view and sound of the ocean inspiring. I would take my daily walks on the beach and come up with endless plot ideas. Or there’s the garret in Paris where I would turn out endless pages. Alas, I work out of a converted bedroom in a split- level in Richmond, VA. My view is my messy desk with a hutch and a plant that’s seen better days.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Maggie. I'd like to think the view and sound of the ocean would be inspiring, too. But I worry about what Susan said and getting too distracted. And the garret in Paris also sounds good. When I was younger I was infatuated with Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the whole Left Bank expat scene. So that really does sound good. As for now, I have a nice view, but I have to look past the messy desk to see it :-) .

Jacqueline Seewald said...


I'm definitely getting old. I started with pencil and paper too. For years my first draft was always in longhand. I did get a Smith Corona portable typewriter at the age of twelve and used it to death. When we bought our sons the Apple computer, they taught me how to use Appleworks which I loved. After that I switched to Microsoft computers. I now do all my first drafts on computer since it's more convenient. No beautiful view in the bedrooms where our computers are set up. Our living room area does have a great view of the Hudson though.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Jacqueline. And if I was you I'd be writing in the living room. A view of the Hudson sounds really nice. And luckily for us, we've come a long way from pencil and paper.

Jane Morrison said...
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