Two of the most telling things I think Fortin and Quilici do in this book is suggest that
- people ask what is the number-one activity they expect to take place in a particular room and
- make sure whatever they have in that room supports the activity they plan to use it for.
What is the number one activity we expect to take place in our offices? Archiving books? Storing old computer parts? Stacking up boxes of stuff we brought from the grandparents' houses?
Oh, wait. No. Offices are for working. So how do decades old history text books support that? Or photos of the kids, nieces, and nephews? Or the Lord Peter Wimsey books we read in college? Or our husbands' grandfathers' collections of classics that they got for subscribing to newspapers in the 1930s? Yes, I have mentioned that before. It bears repeating. It does.
Do We Need A Nice Office?
You hear stories (or I used to) of writers working on ironing boards and working on their lunch hours. Books have been written under all kinds of less than ideal circumstances. No, no one needs a nice office. Or an office at all. When I'm feeling particularly tough and gnarly, I think that in spite of what Virginia Woolf said, writers don't need a room of their own. (Note...Woolf wasn't talking about rooms.) With enough will power and impulse control, we should be able to work in any place and under any conditions. Right?
But then there are those four-year-old studies I keep dwelling on, the ones that showed that disorder in our environment lowers the impulse control I was just talking about. No impulse control and there goes your ability to stay on task, to finish a project, a chapter, a short story, an essay, a letter to an editor. There goes your ability to manage time.
In which case, the shelves and shelves of old books, the old computer parts, and the heaps of stuff from Grandma's house piled up around us are significant in a bad way.
Can Minimalist Offices Help Writers With Time Management?
It's worth a shot, isn't it? And creating a minimalist office doesn't mean going out and buying some special minimalist furniture or minimalist organizational boxes and files. Go back to Fortin and Quilici's instructions.
- Decide that writing is the number-one activity you want to do in your office.
- Make sure everything in your office supports writing.
Impulse control may be coming.