The importance of having an office


Until recently, I worked at home. Sometimes I would go to the café and sit there for a couple of hours; it was always a welcome change of scenery, and I would soak in all the babble, the high-pitch sound of the grinding machine, and feel refreshed. Then I would start getting chilly, stare repeatedly at the door left open, and rumble pointlessly about energy waste and lack of consideration towards guests. Back home it was always nice and warm, and I could write in my slippers, and put a load in the washing machine… Of course all that silence, or worse, the sound of husband closing blinds in the other room, wouldn’t fail to wear me down.

Now I work in a studio with a bunch of other freelancers. Looking for a co-work space was the advice of a friend o f mine, to whom I had mentioned my feelings of isolation, my longing for a job that would imply an office, colleagues, superiors, meetings, production goals. At first, I thought it was a luxury I could not afford; with my meager screenwriting credits, I also felt I didn’t deserve it. But I am getting better and better at fighting these impulses of worthlessness; having had the chance of coming across a nice, inexpensive working place, I decided to go ahead.

I have been working here for a month now, and it feels GREAT. After taking my child to school, I come here. Not slipping back into my slippers has more than a symbolic power on the course of my day. The choice of shoes, and wardrobe, actually matters now, because I am going to be seen by my cool, peppy co-workers (who, being Dutch, are also formidably handsome and tall). I enjoy using the communal toilets; not having to contemplate my toothpaste and the crumpled shower carpet, is awesome.

People come and go at different times of the day. They are filmmakers, journalists, designers, actors. Sometimes they talk, or make a phone call, but most of the time all you hear is the sound of computer keys being pressed. Sometimes someone makes coffee and offers to prepare one for you too; and at lunch time, everyone sits at the communal table and takes a real break. While smearing something on your slice of bread (the Dutch way), you hear about the festival last weekend, the new dating app, someone’s current project. I treasure these moments, although I can follow only about 30% of the conversation. I don’t enjoy the intimacy, I don’t chat away, but I have a fresh delivery of input, and as I try to keep up using my scanty knowledge of Dutch, I experience frustration but, mainly, challenge.

There’s also a sense of belonging; I am hardly acquainted with the people, but the act of repeatedly sitting there, and sharing the same space and routines with those others, is enough. There’s a sense of possibility: maybe collaborations can arise. And there’s a grain of competition that can only be good for me: all those posters and awards and entrepreneurial attitude shove me forward.

Writing in a shared office may not work for everyone, but it certainly seems to be working for me. Being a scriptwriter is of course about the writing itself, but it is also about being a professional, engaged in a community, taking input and giving output, projecting oneself in time and space through work. My office (called De Manege, hence the horses) somehow makes this more tangible.