In Praise of the $5 Office

I don’t have a dedicated office. I have instead a variety of spaces in my house where I can work: a desk in the middle of my kitchen, a guest room where I can sit on the bed with my laptop for a change of scene, an elliptical trainer where I have Skype meetings and catch up on reading email and blogs, and a favourite spot in my living room where I spend the bulk of my working hours. 

Whether it is the lack of a space specifcially dedicated to work or simply that my home also contains all the distractions and procrastination triggers everyone else’s does, some days there is nothing as unproductive as attempting to work there. 

It’s too easy at home, in the place where I do most of my paid work, to get caught up in the minutae of not wholly necessary bits and pieces of that job when I could be writing. It’s easier still to be conscious, even if I don’t do anything about it, of all the stuff that needs doing around the house, making it difficult to get lost in the world of words.

On days like that, when two hours have disappeared and I’ve done nothing more productive than check email and Twitter, rinse, and repeat, I know it’s time for a change of scene. And when I realize it’s one of those sorts of days before I completely blow the available time, I decamp and head for one of several branches of my favourite coffee shop. 

There, armed with my $5 hot chocolate or a cup of tea, surrounded by space I’m not responsible for cleaning, chatter I’m not responsible for listening to (except as an eavesdropper) and sights and sounds that are simply different from the ones at home, I write. The change of scene inevitably does my writing, and me, a lot of good. For the price of a beverage, I get a fresh perspective on the day and, often, on whatever I’m working on, and, more importantly, I simply get words. Rarely is the coffee shop writing session a bust, something I can’t say for writing at home on days like that.

I know for some writers, coffee shops are all about procrastination and the appearance of being a writer, a treat of time wasted instead of work done, but for me, some of my most productive hours are spent with the hiss of the milk steamer and multi-lingual conversations as part of the soundtrack of my day.

And coffee shops always have better people watching than my empty house, too.

Where do the words flow best for you?


  1. Tyner Gillies - Writer
    Jun 5, 2012

    I have a dedicated writing space in the house, which has been specifically designed to remove distraction. I can’t see a television, I face a blank wall so I can’t be distracted by birds of pieces of floating fluff, and I kind of sit in a little box.

    I find I work best where it is quiet, familiar and there is no one talking to me.

    • Kathy
      Jun 8, 2012

      Yeah, sometimes complete removal from the world is good.