Where the Magic Happens

mary_macdonald_officeThis week on The Ball — like the very good journalists we are — we’re focusing on the Ws of Writing: Where we write, Why we write, What must-have tools we need (beside our trusty laptops).

I’m going to start it off by talking about Where I write. This picture on the left is my dream office. It was designed by Mary McDonald, an interior designer in Los Angeles (here’s her book, which — if you like this office — is worth checking out). I found it a couple years ago when we moved into our new house and I was going to have a real office — instead of propping my keyboard on my knees while sitting on our couch. I fell in love with the sharp black and white photos mixed with the femininity of the furniture and the fun pop of Tiffany blue. (Side note: I have no idea who would ever sit in those two chairs facing the desk. Maybe I could convince my kids to pretend that they’re very important clients.)

What’s important is that I could obviously write a best seller in this office. Right? Right.

When we moved into our house, I went to Home Depot, picked out the perfect shade of blue and immediately painted my new office.

Then I found out I was pregnant with our second child. And the dreams of my new office popped as quickly as my stomach, as I realized that Tiffany blue was now going to be the color of our new nursery.

My husband shoved my desk upstairs in our guest room, next to the Queen bed and the dresser and that’s where I spent the next few years tapping away at the keys (and where I wrote Before I Go).

Then, my daughter was finally ready for a big girl bed and my husband suggested we move her in with our oldest. “You can have your office back,” he said. I was thrilled. I was finally going to get my office! My patience had paid off! So we rearranged the furniture once again, and my husband hauled my desk back downstairs into my perfectly blue office.

my officeAnd this is as far as I got turning it into my Mary McDonald dream room (yes, even the dog is unimpressed) — when we found out we were pregnant again. (I know! How does this keep happening?)

So, it’s back upstairs to the guest room for me. (If my husband will move the desk again. I think he’s getting a little tired of huffing furniture around).

But after all this back and forth (and having my fantasy office dreams shattered, over and over) I’m realizing maybe I wasn’t meant to have a real office. Maybe being shoved in a corner (which, by the way, is where Stephen King still writes. I mean, not my corner. But a corner of his very-large-because-he-makes-a-gajillion-dollars McMansion) is a good reminder that it shouldn’t matter where you are physically— writing fiction is all about where you let your mind go.

And in my mind, I’m sitting in my very beautiful Mary McDonald office, writing a bestseller.

Where do you write? Do you have your own office? Is Starbucks your office? Is your dog as judge-y as mine? I’d love to hear about your writing space!


Author: Colleen Oakley

Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, Jan. 2015), a love story. A former editor for Marie Claire and Women's Health & Fitness, she's now an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Find out more at colleenoakley.com.

16 Replies to “Where the Magic Happens”

  1. I don’t know you, but I love you. Thank you for keeping it real and making me do a spit-take this morning. My never-meant-to-be home office is piled with boxes from our move… that transpired seven years ago. But, I have a path to my desk and that’s what matters, right?! Again, thanks for the dose of humor… you are not alone! 🙂

  2. Ha! I have a “dream” office too … and will likely never have it either 🙂 I write everywhere and anywhere, but I’ll talk about that more on Wednesday. Happy writing, no matter where you do it!

  3. I have a pretty nice home office full of books and my nerdy collectibles (though no where near as gorgeous as the Mary McDonald one), but I often find myself writing elsewhere too. Sometimes you just have to get out and sit somewhere new.

  4. First, congrats on the new baby! That’s awesome. You know, I always think of Stephen King in On Writing talking about cramming himself in a closet to write at night in a trailer he and his family were living in while he taught school during the day. I’ve never had an office until last year when my husband (my fiance then) and I bought our house. It’s such a luxury and I’ve been having fun fixing it up. But I can write anywhere. Once I wrote a new scene in my novel standing in line at the AT&T store! I’m so sorry you had to give up your dream office. But you’ll manage anywhere, I’m sure!

    1. Yes! I love Stephen King and On Writing and love the part where he talks about going out to get a huge desk when he was a “real writer” — and then getting rid of that same desk, because “real writers” don’t really need one.

  5. At different times I’ve had a writing space, a place where the typewriter or computer waited for me, but not recently. These days it’s mostly catch-as-catch-can, often on phone or tablet. But that’s fine. The “magic” (such as it is) happens in my noggin anyway. 🙂

  6. Lovely to read your post.
    Those two chairs in the dream office are for your characters to come sit and chat with you, I think 🙂

  7. Well said, Colleen! Writing fiction IS about where our minds go. I’m in a similar dilemma–my desk is in my bedroom of all places. I leave as often as possible and write at local coffee shops. My children just get too nosy and my husband picks the lock to ask me really important things like, “are there anymore coffee filters?”. So yeah, I feel you. One day I think we’ll both have that office…

  8. What a great post! I do love that office though 🙂 For a moment I thought this was a picture of where you really wrote – I was going to fly you to my house to design mine!!

Comments are closed.