Finding a Room of One’s Own

Into the woods to stake out an unconventional office in northeast Georgia

Whether we’re professional writers or not, we all need a quiet getaway when it comes time to put words on paper. I once found one in the middle of nowhere, some would say … and it worked beautifully.

Through the mid-2000s, Ted and I had been dividing our time between Atlanta and the place we owned in Clarkesville, a small community in the Georgia mountains about 75 miles northeast of Atlanta. Our jobs in the city were stressful, so we were spending more and more weekends and holidays at our mountain retreat. We loved it there.

When the ad agency I worked for closed, I considered starting my own freelance writing business. I realized that, with the Internet and email and laptops, I could locate it just about anywhere.

I wouldn’t leave Ted and Atlanta, of course, but he was frequently on the road during the week … and those mountains had a serious hold on me.

A Blue Ridge view

So, in January 2008, I bought a 10’ x 12’ prefab greenhouse from Lowe’s to use as my primary office on our wooded Clarkesville property. It was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

One cold morning the day before the unit was delivered, I walked up the snow-covered hill from our red-roofed house to stake out exactly where my new office would be.

From the chair at my desk, I wanted to see the Blue Ridge mountains to the northwest, a striking silhouette that spanned a palette of color through the year, often closing the days with a deep turquoise at sunset. With windows that sloped from the roof halfway to ground level, the greenhouse would provide a perfect view. The trick was positioning it correctly.

I found the right spot.

My office complete with paint and power–and all the comforts of home

I ran a most fertile freelance writing business from that perfectly-situated greenhouse for nearly 10 years. With a little refurbishing, heat, a.c. and a ceiling fan, it was the ideal space.

I continued to spend time with Ted in Atlanta during the week, but I knew I got some of my best work done in that little greenhouse in the woods. With my wifi and mini-fridge and Pandora addiction, I was hardly Thoreau, but there was something in that spot that inspired me to do my best–if nothing else, to live up to the privilege of having such a lovely corner of the world in which to work.

The results spoke for themselves. Working on my laptop in my office in the woods with clients in the booming supply chain and healthcare technology industries, I had a handsome income to report to the IRS at the end of that first year. It even topped the comfortable salary I’d earned as vice president of the ad agency in Atlanta.

Birdsong on business calls

My corporate clients liked the bucolic location, too. On my first conference call in the new space, it was early spring and the birds were chirping so loudly, I apologized for the noise.

“No way! We love it!” my colleagues said.

What I thought would be a drawback was a benefit, part of the brand I created over the next few years. No matter where they were—Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, London—my clients were tickled by the idea that they had “this writer guy in the Georgia woods somewhere” producing their blogs, bylined articles and other corporate marketing materials. Phone time spent with me was a little retreat from their hectic urban world.

I had what they didn’t: peace, quiet, and that most valuable of commodities, long stretches of uninterrupted time.

Back in the city

Today, I still use the same pine desk where I worked in the mountains, but my office occupies the second bedroom of the condo Ted and I bought when we sold the mountain place. The area around Clarkesville had always been politically conservative, but since 2016, folks had become redder and louder and prouder about it.

For us, it made sense to return to lovely blue Atlanta full-time in 2019.

My current office in the Chamblee area in northeast Atlanta.

What kind of view do I have? There’s not one. Floor-to-ceiling windows run the width of our condo, but the second bedroom is window-free. No problem. We painted the walls a cool denim blue, added extra lighting. Bookshelves, paintings and photos make it comfy.

I love working here. It’s the office where I wrote and sold my memoir after retirement in April 2020 … proving that a mountain view isn’t absolutely necessary for writing inspiration.

I’ve found that if your heart is content, you’ll do good work no matter where you are.

What about you?

What’s your office like? Where do you do your best work? What’s essential to your creativity and productivity?

Place a comment below if you are so inspired. A photo, too. I’d love to hear from you.

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