by | Feb 9, 2023 | Jenny Milchman, The Writer's Life | 6 comments

You Need a You Space

By Jenny Milchman

They say the happiest kind of actor is a working actor, and that’s true of writers too. Lately I’ve begun to think that it may be true of all people, period. Sigmund Freud, albeit he’s be cancelled for a lot of things circa today, got it right when he said our most core human needs are to work and to love.

What to work on—how to find the pursuit that will enable us to live our best life—is a topic for another post. In this one I’d like to take you on a photographic journey of some truly cool work spaces, including two of my own, then explore some of the advantages to having one, and also answer arguments against.

No matter what kind of work you do, you’ll be better off in a You space.

  • It’s a signal to the world that what you are doing is important—that you are important. When you enter your office—or even just the slice of space you’ve carved out for one—here’s what you’re really doing. You’re saying, I take up space. Literally. You’re saying, what I do in here matters. I matter. That’s a helluva big job for one small space to accomplish.
  • That’s right—It doesn’t have to be big or fancy or elaborate. When I was on book tour with my husband car-schooling our two little kids, I would write in the closet of the hotel where we stayed. As long as it had a door, I could mentally get away and inhabit the world of my book. And as you can see from that picture with the pink wall, a closet suited me just fine even when I got back home!
  • Research now concludes that multi-tasking doesn’t really work. Doing two or more things at once means doing a less good job on each of them. So if you’re trying to answer emails in the kitchen with its mountain of dishes waiting, or doing research on your phone in bed with a show streaming, you are not able to apply the attention you should or get the output of which you’re most capable. In a dedicated You space though…you set the task to be done. Singular.
  • One of my favorite childhood books is called Evan’s Corner. It’s about a boy and his siblings who live in an apartment and how he finds a Him space. I recommend this charming story, if for no other reason than that it may allow you to identify a space for yourself with a more lenient eye. Don’t have an extra bedroom to convert to office space? Neither do most of us. But we might have a nook beneath the stairs. Or some extra room in a basement or attic. Or even just a corner.
  • Jenny Milchman's You spaceShe-Sheds and Man-Caves. Maybe it’s time to go all out and build a space from the ground-up, redo a family room once the kids are gone, maybe finish the basement. If there’s a little extra in the budget right now, consider really giving your You space the Taj Mahal treatment! In the photo with the little desk, you can see I’ve stayed small, but now at least I have a window looking out on our endless woods as I write.
  • I hate to gender things, but women can have a hard time laying claim to a space and a chance to pursue their dreams. How can you when there’s laundry to be done? There’s a reason the “Calgon, take me away” ad campaign targeted women—and made it seem as if, if we were bailing on our responsibilities, we’d better at least be getting clean and fragrant during that time. Your You space is where everyone knows you go to work and wish and wile, and that everything done there is worth something.

A well-organized You space is essential  Try to make your You space your own. Splurge a little and decorate if you can!  A simple office space can be a You spaceFully inhabit your You space and make it your own. 

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  1. Lisa Black

    This is so true! I am lucky enough to have a whole room at home for an office. Of course it’s an office to handle more than writing, also household work, 1040s, and sometimes guests. But I can shut the door and write there. Except half the time I’m writing somewhere else—during work breaks, in a restaurant, waiting rooms, on long car trips…so I’m still pretty flexible about what constitutes a work space.

  2. Karna Small Bodman

    How True! I have organized an office space in each of our homes where, I have to admit, I treasure my alone time and kind of “resent” the inevitable intrusions (phones, door bells, dogs, husband). But in “my” space I can truly apply my imagination to writing. Thanks, Jenny, for your nice (and honest) post!!! No wonder your books are such bestsellers.

  3. Isabella Maldonado

    Good news: I have my own office.
    Bad news: It does not have a door.
    Worse news: The open entryway to the office is 11 feet tall and 6 feet wide, so there is really no way to get a door without having a custom-made set of double doors that would probably cost thousands!
    Solution: I put on a set of headphones and listen to white noise while I’m writing. For anyone else dealing with similar constraints, it’s not perfect, but it helps!

  4. Alex Kava

    Great blog post, Jenny! So glad to see some of the work spaces with the desks and chairs looking out the windows! That was one of the things I discovered I needed.

  5. Gayle Lynds

    Such wisdom, Jenny. It was certainly true of me, too. With the help of my parents who shipped me the desk my father had built me in high school, and my mother’s retired Selectric typewriter, I was able to take over a corner in a bedroom and call it mine. While the children were at school, my dreams grew into reality. I wrote several books on that old Selectric in that small corner that I called my own. I am forever grateful.

  6. Tracy Clark

    Oh, this is so true. I’m no Virginia Woolf, but a room of one’s own, or even a corner of one’s own, centers the mind so that good things bloom. Every writer’s space is unique to them. So cool seeing yours, Jenny. But where do you put your snacks? LOL.