By Tosca Lee

At one time I meant to stencile “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here” above my office door. They’re the words in Dante’s Inferno carved above the gate to hell. Yes, it might be dark–made complete by the ever-favorite shot of a piano about to crush me Wiley E. Coyote style (a too-apt depiction of fear in my life) in the corner of my bookshelf left over from a morbid shoot in my modeling days. But considering all the things in my search history (diseases, weapons, cyber attacks, historical villains like “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory)—not to mention all the tough things that seem to accompany the writing process in general—it’s always seemed apt.

Don’t get me wrong; my office has always been my sanctuary and where Stuff Gets Done. After marrying and moving into my new husband’s farmhouse, I was without an office for a time. I worked out of an old upstairs bedroom-turned-children’s playroom with my stepdaughter’s octopus arm lamp that only had three working light bulbs and cast a greenish hue on my face during Zoom calls. The carpet was stained and flies somehow always managed to sneak in through the crannies to buzz against the windows, but it was my space away from the world.

Last year right before the pandemic, we tore the play room out—along with the rest of the 1940s upstairs of our farmhouse and began framing in bookshelves, a built-in live edge desk for my husband, along with reading and work areas for me. During that time, I attempted work from our bedroom.

Hahahaha. Where was that Inferno quote when I needed it?

Twenty months, two carpenters, two painters, an electrician, and several new gray hairs later, I finally moved into the new digs.

It’s finally gotten some finishing touches, including my favorite piece of art—a print called “It’s All In Her Mind” by Arizona artist Raina Gentry. Ahhh! What a difference. It isn’t exaggeration to say I’ve gotten more done since August than I did all of 2020.

I have friends who work at coffee shops and kitchen tables and turn out bestselling, award winning work. But I’ll always need a literal room of my own to do much of anything worthwhile.

What about you? What must you have to be productive, to call a work or writing space your own?

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Lisa Black

    A door is good! My husband used to wander in as I was writing and stand there, for no reason, because he was bored, until I gave him strict instructions that if the door was closed, he was not to enter unless someone had died.

    Your sign reminded me of a time when I was 12 or 13 and my father painted the stairway walls. He asked me to put ‘Wet Paint’ on a piece of paper and string it up across the entryway. So I wrote “Wet Paint.” Then, deciding that wasn’t sufficiently interesting, I added “High Voltage. Dangerous Dogs. Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here.”

    I suppose I should have taken that as a sign of my future occupation.

    • Chris Goff

      Great laugh out loud moment for me!

  2. Karna Small Bodman

    It’s interesting to know that you, Tosca, had a modeling career (before your writing career, I guess). We’d like to learn more about that. As for a writing space, like Lisa, I need my OWN, quiet place where the ONLY one I welcome in my office is one of our dogs (who likes to hang out underneath my desk).

  3. Gayle Lynds

    What a journey, Tosca! And how wonderful that you ended up with an office that works in all ways. I’m with you, I don’t understand authors who travel from coffee house to library to the kitchen table and meanwhile write fabulous books. Like you, I need my office, with the exception of those occasions when I have a pile of research to read. At that point, I hie myself off to a coffee shop where nothing from my office makes me think I should be writing. Then I plow through all of that fascinating research with gusto, fueled by chocolate, cookies, and high-octane coffee. Whee!

  4. Isabella Maldonado

    Love your renovations, Tosca. When my son was small and I was working on my first novel, I would sometimes take him to McDonald’s where he would crawl around with the other kids in the play space while I sat at a nearby table with my laptop. (That saying about desperate times comes to mind.)
    Now I have the luxury of writing while he’s in school and it’s great to have my own office space where I can spread out all the authorial flotsam that seems to collect as each draft takes shape. I do, however, bring my laptop into the kitchen each evening to sit beside him in solidarity as he does his homework at the counter.
    Now, I just need to get a door for my office during the day…

  5. Tracy Clark

    All I need is my laptop, a bag of Strawberry Twizzlers, a comfortable chair and an idea. Although, now that I look at Tosca’s before and after photos, a nice, quiet little loft area might be kinda nice. But it’d need a door. And no view out that window. And a min-fridge. I’ll need refreshments.

  6. Chris Goff

    When I was first married, I became the immediate mom to three — girls ages 11 and 13, and a boy 15. We lived in a 1600 square foot house in Frisco, CO. There were four bedrooms, a main living area, a sun room (very cold in the winter) and a dining/kitchen combo. Now, I’m an only child and used to my own space. I was trying to write at the kitchen table, but it was way too much in the thick of things. I moved to the bedroom, but my writing time was limited by my husband’s bedtime. One day, about six months in, he came home to find me in tears. I announced that I didn’t think this marriage was going to work and that I couldn’t live there anymore. He asked why and I ranted about how everyone had a space but me. He had his own office to go to. The kids each had their own rooms. But, me, I had to share my space with him and/or all of them. So, what did he do, he walked out. I was devastated, cried harder, then I heard all this banging. He was in the sun room, with our son, building me an office. He carved about 1/3 of the sun room in to a space for me, found a door and a space heater, and announced to the kids that this was my space and they couldn’t enter without permission. 8 published novels later, we’ll celebrate 40 years of marriage April 3rd.