Sheltering in Place: In Which Pooh Searches for Clear Boundaries Between Work Space and Creative Space

I suspect I’m going to start many posts over the next few months, if not all, in the same way: with a list of the ways in which I know how lucky I am. Possibly unnecessary, but a good exercise in gratitude for myself and (hopefully) a counter to anything I write here that leans toward whining. So…I am healthy; my family and friends are healthy. I have work and my husband has work; we are both being paid. I am not trying to juggle caring for and educating my child in the midst of all this craziness.

And, most relevant to this post, I have a my own home office in which to do both the work of my day job and my own writing. When we bought our house almost 30 years ago, there were two spaces that we could convert into offices and I ended up with the room that former owners had used as a dining room. For years, it was a wonderful place to write and when, last year, I finally picked the perfect colors, it became my dream writing space.

Dream Writing Space 2

Dream Writing Space 1  Dream Writing Space 3

Right. Lucky.

Still, now that I’m working remotely, I’m finding it challenging to use the office both for my day job and for my own writing. the nonprofit for which I work started the remote thing about a week before most other organizations, and we’ve been incredibly busy dealing with our response to the pandemic. For very good reasons, I’ve been working long hours, and–when I’m not working–I struggle to shift back to creative mode.

I’ve been doing things like taking my work laptop into another room on Friday, so that the day-job air in my office has a chance to “out-gas.” When my day-job work spills over into the weekend, I’ve tried to get  all that work done first thing Saturday morning or leave it for last thing Sunday. I’ve tried to transition to creative time by knitting for an hour while listening to an interesting podcast; I’ve started my creative time by reading a stack of mentor texts. Everything helps a little bit. Well, okay, trying to leave the day-job work for Sunday afternoon does not help–it just hovers in my brain all weekend like a guillotine ready to drop.

None of us know how long this state of affairs is going to last; I actually have “hopes” that we can stick it out longer than not, so that scientists and state & local governments have more time to do comprehensive testing, to study the results of the tests, and to at least closer to an effective vaccine. This week, I’ve been thinking that I need to get a bit deeper into acceptance that this work-at-home thing is going to be my normal for quite a while. And I think that means experimenting with some better ways for the work part and the creative part of my life to share  the beautiful space they’ve been given. Otherwise, my mind is going to stay in this mode.

I’m sure I’ll be playing around with it for a while, but the first thing I’m going to try is to set things up so I can more quickly and easily put away the tools of one type of work and bring out the tools of the other. Right now, no matter what I’m trying to do, I always feel like I’m working amidst clutter.  I’m looking at piles of project files or I’m bumping up against my work laptop. I’m moving stacks of mentor texts from couch to floor and back again or I’m  hunting around for the latest WIP brainstorming that I put somewhere safe and now can’t find. In an odd way, what I need to do is make more room for my day-job. I need to clear out a couple of the trays in the stacking organizers on my desk for work folders. I need to create a place where I can easily tuck away my work laptop and just as easily pull it out again. I need to take time at the end of each day, not just Fridays, to actually use those spaces and put the day job away. And I need to make sure I do that with my creative work as well.

I’ll be getting these things set up this weekend and, hopefully, seeing a positive impact soon. After that, I don’t know. I might need to start listening to different music during day-job “hours” than I do during my creative time. I might need to do a few minutes of meditating or a set of jumping jacks to help transition from one head space to the other. I might need to walk out the doors of my office, do a short loop around the house, and come back in again so that I have a “commute.”  Who know what will  help and what won’t. All I know is that, as I said, it’s time for some experiments.


  1. Jenn Hubbard says:

    My day-job teleworking and my creative writing occur in the same room. At the end of the workday, I shut off my work laptop and put it on top of the stereo cabinet (which is bare when not occupied by the laptop). And then I take a walk. It makes a nice transition from work to leisure time.
    My work papers are in one area of the floor. I don’t look at them outside of my designated work time, and I don’t let them migrate elsewhere. It’s definitely good to have separations!


    • beckylevine says:

      I found a nice slot for my work laptop–I’m going to try and work without it even open today, just using the big monitor–for a brain change. And I cleared out a basket or two for work papers–stacks on the floor make me feel like the papers are just lurking for me to trip on!


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