Up until a few weeks ago, I’ve been in the same office for the duration of my job. It was a great space with a large window that overlooked the University’s main plaza, and the first thing I did was paint it lavender, cover the bookcases with batik throws and quirky knick-knacks, and pin up some posters just because they were colorful. I made no attempt at creating a specific atmosphere. And things just sort of stayed that way. The only thing that changed was the natural accumulation of paperweights, coffee mugs, knick-knacky gifts, and—according to one former assistant—several randomly distributed steak knives. Clearly, I wasn’t taking things very seriously. For 25 years.
Seriously, every wall of my my office looked like a refrigerator door. No arrangement, just stuff battling for space.
Now we’ve been moved out to make way for a re-build, and my new office is smaller. It has a great window that looks into the branches of a gorgeous tree. I deliberately threw out all my old stuff, and now I’m taking the decoration of my new office very seriously. Sort of. We’re probably going to be in this building for 3-5 years before it gets torn down as well, but for some reason I’m being way pickier about how I want the room to feel. Because here’s a bit of a secret: I actually plan to work in this new space.
By that I mean write. Writing wasn’t possible in the old office because it was too close to the action. The English Department is big, and we have a terrific staff that gets along really, really well, and let’s face it--a happy office is a noisy one. Now I’m in an area that may be quieter, and I want to take advantage of that.
Which is not to say my decorative instincts have matured. I think that the only real difference to my approach this time around is that I’m not so dirt poor that I have to cut out pictures from old calendars or scavenge wrinkled Hamlet posters from the recycling. Now I have resources that might allow me to create my environment more carefully. Thing is, I’m terrible at that. Here’s where I’m at, so far.
I have glitter trees stenciled on pallet wood (from a Berkeley Springs Artist) to take the edge off the row of Weird Tales prints. I loved horror comics as a kid, but the trick was to find covers that didn't feature women being torn to shreds or tossed into hot lava. I've had my trusty red herring for a couple of years--I got it at a mother's day plant sale at the State Arboretum of Virginia. I found the fortune telling goat on ebay. The artist has a whole series of "goats at the circus," but the other pieces were kind of scary. I like the goat reading tarot cards because one of my duties is academic advising. I'm calling it the Advising Goat.
I'm not sure what kind of vibe I'm building, but so far it's not a wreck, nor is it a dentist's waiting room. Somewhere in between those moods is me. Remains to be seen whether these choices help me write a better book.