A History of One Writer’s Workspace


Since other posts to this blog have already said just about everything there is to be said about the writing workspace (and I echo it ALL, especially “the swamp”) I decided to write about my writing space through the years.


Back in the mid-1970’s, when I first attempted to start a writing career, my “office” was a small, blue Smith-Corona portable typewriter that sat at one end of my dining room table.  This was before anyone knew about home computers, but at least this typewriter was electric!  I used this typewriter and “office” through the years (79-83) I attended college as a returning student and earned a degree in English.


Meanwhile, I continued to submit manuscripts, and shortly after my graduation from San Bernardino Valley College, having made a number of sales, I upgraded to a wonderful IBM Selectric typewriter that had its on little typing stand.  I added a filing cabinet to hold my published articles and a rolling file to hold the “pending” ones.  All of this fit under a window in our family room.


However, the age of computers was slowing creeping up on me, and in the late 1980’s, I was dragged kicking and screaming to my first computer, a bulky Tandy/Radio Shack model that used actual “floppy” disks.  Of course, I had to get a computer desk to hold all these components, and this along with the files, etc., took up most of a wall in the family room. 


After much “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” I learned to use this equipment quite effectively, and enjoyed being able to type faster, move text around,  print out documents and save them to a disk.


By now our son had married and moved out of the house, and I finally had a room I could turn into my very own home office.  After a much-needed thorough cleaning of the room, we painted and papered. I added more filing cabinets and a nice assortment of fitted bookshelves/cubicles/drawers.  I moved the cumbersome Tandy computer and desk, and the old faithful IBM Selectric and stand into my office, and I was set to go.


I was making many more sales now and was very happy in my new environment.  But technology was pushing at my back, and I soon realized everyone was using much smaller computers and Microsoft Windows was a MUST.  So, in the late 1990’s, I purchased my first PC.  Once again, tears flowed as I struggled to learn the intricacies of the Internet, e-mail, AOL, Googling, etc., and I soon developed a love/hate relationship for this new computer.


I’m now using my third PC (it’s amazing how short the “shelf life” these expensive machines have!) and have moved up with the various AOL programs.  Most days, I’m ensconced in the office longed for (and can’t imagine how I once functioned at the corner of the dining room table!)  However, with all the paper generated by my computer printer, I’m afraid all this organizing hasn’t prevented the “swamp syndrome,” no matter how much I promise myself to file every day!   And we won’t even mention the small closet in the corner of my office, where published manuscripts, rejections, paid bills, IRS returns, and other miscellany go to rest—-not too neatly!


But among all this clutter and chaos, I manage to get manuscripts written and sent out and continue to make sales.  And I feel blessed to have my own office, my own space, and that I can close the door on it at night!


Contributed by Marjorie Flathers




6 responses to “A History of One Writer’s Workspace

  1. Very well put! I enjoyed reading your history very much. It’s funny how life gets more complex and cluttered with progress!

  2. marilyn donahue

    Great article, Marge! It really took me back in time — I remember typing my first stories on a Smith Corona that wasn’t electric. Oh, how I tired of those little slips of white-out paper that we had to use. And I empathize with the tiny work spaces we had when we started out! Marilyn

  3. Thanks, Veronica and Marilyn! I’m glad you enjoyed reading this. It was fun to write. And Marilyn, I, too, remember those dreadful “white-out” slips of paper, but what about when we needed to use carbon paper???
    Araaagh!! Marge

  4. Gloria McQueen Stockstill

    Marge, interesting article. Whatever equipment or space, you still cranked out great material!


  5. Dear Marge, I too have a history something like yours. My first book was written with a pencil, then I had to copy it in ink as I amateurishly edited it, so someone else could type it since I had no typewriter. My first typewriter was non-electric, but I was so excited to have one I didn’t care–then! From there to electric, then to a wordprocessor I thought was the living end! No computers for me! Finally my husband got out his shepherd’s crook and dragged my to get my first computer in 2000. (Turns out he wanted my wordprocessor!)

  6. Thanks, Gloria, for the vote of confidence! And thanks to you, Shirely, for sharing your experience. I, too, had a non-electric typewriter (Royal) when I was in high school but managed to “upgrade” (barely) by the time I started writing. I cringe when I look at the ms. typed on those early machines! How different things were then…but somehow not so bad, either. Marge

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