Room for new things


I have a new desk at work.

It’s a simple thing, really: changing spaces within an office. In the eight years I’ve been with my company, I have moved within the building four times and been seated in four different departments. I’m no stranger to packing up my paper clips, highlighters and bric-a-brac, but this move is different.

For the last six years, I shared an office with two people who were my teammates. When you sit with someone for eight-plus hours a day, spending more time with them than you do your own family, it’s wonderful if you can get along. It’s even better if you are friendly, and the best if you become close friends.

I miss them.

I’ve been given new responsibilities and am tackling new challenges, and that feels good. I’m writing more than ever, and moving into a new phase of my career.

My new responsibilities are awesome, and I love the corner of the newsroom where I hang my metaphorical hat each day. My desk is new and clean, and I’ve quickly adopted a minimalist approach to my workspace.

After being a pack rat, an office hoarder of sorts, I shocked myself by . . . completely changing this time. Totally a 180.

Back when I had a physical office of my own, I treated it like an extension of my living room. Artwork hung on the walls; freestanding lamps took the place of fluorescent lighting. It had a cozy, homey feel, a refuge of sorts. And given I had no windows or natural light, it could also feel like a cave.

Hence all the lamps.

But that was three moves ago. I haven’t had my own office since 2010 or 2011, yet until last week? I was still carting around all those old photographs and trinkets from my larger space, never bothering to pack them up and take ’em home. I was surrounded by boxes, actually: boxes of random belongings from years and years ago.

After a while, you stop seeing stuff. It becomes a part of the background, a backdrop to your daily life; you forget about the Christmas decor on which you’re propping your swollen pregnant feet (hey, it was actually a good footrest), or the boxes and boxes of tea — so much tea — you must paw through to find a stupid spoon in your drawers.

Last week, I cleared it out. I spared nothing. I’ve been reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but haven’t extended any of her principles to my own home yet. I’ve been afraid to take the plunge, scared of starting the tidying process, but at work? I was ruthless. It was time.

I easily purged half of my belongings without thinking about it, bagging up tons of stuff I’ve been moving from desk to desk for years. Why did I still have it? What purpose did it serve? Who did it benefit?

No one.

Though I must confess that those belongings are now at home in a spare room waiting for me to bag most up for Goodwill, the physical act of getting them out of my office and away from where I sit all day, brainstorming and writing and working, has made such a difference for me — a major difference.

Everything feels scrubbed clean and new. My workspace is tidy, dust-free, uncluttered. I love having a desk clear of papers and junk and Post-Its, a place I can spread out the newspaper or my planner and not knock over ten random objects.

Why didn’t I do this ages ago . . . years ago? Why did I let myself sit each day surrounded by so much clutter? I can’t say, really. Force of habit? Laziness? Regardless, I’m never doing that again.

Though I’m still not ready to extend Kondo’s tidying principles to our home, this first cleaning hurdle at work was a powerful one.

Being a “stuff” person, I never thought I’d see an empty surface as anything but that: unfinished, barren, dull.

But now I see cleanliness and possibilities . . . room for new things.

Life-changing magic, indeed.

Beginning to look like Christmas… at work!

Kelly and I — our office’s “spirit elves,” if you will — had some helping dragging all of the Christmas decorations down from the recesses of our building last week. It took a few hours of slave labor but — hey! — our holiday tree is up! And it looks pretty nice, if I may say so. I have several scratches up and down my arms from wrestling with our lovely faux tree, but I’ll wearing them proudly as battle scars.


And we have an adorable snowman guy here too,
complete with Buffalo snow
(or pillow stuffing, call it what you will):


And, because I’m such a serious lover of all things pink, I present to you my infamous Bright Pink Christmas Tree:


Desserts are the way to say goodbye

In fitting office fashion, we bid farewell to our dear friend Leslie by throwing a big party — with tons of food. And not just any food, either — desserts! Lots and lots of . . . desserts. We wanted to do something different for this extravaganza, which was just fine with me. I can only make my pot luck staple pasta salad so many times before people just want to punch me.

Classic favorites were banana pudding, several types of (delicious) pumpkin pie and Pauline’s ice cream cake (which was gone in about five minutes).

What remained of the ice cream cake

What remained of the ice cream cake

My brownies didn't exactly come out alive, either!

After all the food was eaten, the cards were signed and the presents were given, the only thing left to do was say goodbye. Leslie was my editor and partner-in-crime for more than a year; she trained me well, worked with me on tons of new projects — and taught me everything I know about special sections. I’ve taken over her post and I hope I make her proud! We’ll miss her greatly around the office — me, especially. But she’s moving on to a new, fulfilling position and I’m thrilled for her.

It’s hard watching people go, though. When you work with someone eight hours a day, five days a week for months or years, their absence is sometimes shocking. I’m sure it won’t really hit me until Monday that I’m on my own.

But in farewell, I say to you, Leslie . . .

Relative (office) isolation

My desk

My desk

One of the strangest things about working in a windowless office is the fact that I have no concept of the passage of time. Whether it’s morning, afternoon, early evening — whether it’s raining, snowing, gloriously sunny — whether the office is packed full of coworkers or relatively abandoned for the day. It’s like being in solitary confinement.

On the bright side, my isolation allows me to, well, fully concentrate on any of the many tasks at hand. Lately this has included (obviously) my many work projects and the development of more and more query letters.

As I’ve blogged before, I sent out a batch of roughly 15 queries over a two week period in early August. More than a month has gone by and I’ve heard back from three — all of whom declined to take me on as a client. So, no worries. I figured that by last Friday, my lack of response from the remaining 12 agents is probably a negative. So I sent out another batch of 10 letters, all via e-mail (which is awesome — and free!) and am hoping gamely that I’ll get a response soon.

In the meantime, still working on the third book — and rearranging my desk. I’ve managed to get it all cluttered up with old project layouts, sales circulars, coupons, highlighters, paperclips and a smattering of miscellaneous scraps of paper . . . and Diet Pepsi Max cans. I’m notorious with the cans.

And had a busy weekend, but haven’t uploaded my photos yet . . . once I have them, I’ll do a nice little tribute to that most captivating of local traditions — the county fair!