Guest Post by Biorn Tjallen
Are you tired of not having a proper office? Most freelancers dream of a workplace of their own, where they can leave their stuff over night and don’t have to negotiate the maddening crowd each time they try to get down to business. So did I. But here is a story for you.
My most recent academic job came with the benefit of luxurious office space. The post was in Norway and everything looked like a dream. A quaint botanical garden lay right under my gaze from the window. And when l lifted my head to look further, I saw forested hillsides turn into snow capped mountains. As for the room itself, it was huge. So was my desk. I could sit and pontificate on one end, while my visitors would feel small and insignificant on the other. The general sentiment – as revealed by the embittered collegial gossip – was that I had somehow skipped the unofficial queue for office promotion. I was a lucky bastard!
So I agreed. Musing over my newfound fortune, I spent a few days getting the place in order. I put books on the shelves, ordered an expensive coat hanger, and a pin board and other paraphernalia that I felt came with my station. Then it was just to get going and let this perfect, private space boost my productivity. What miracles I would perform in this setting!
You have probably guessed by now that this story is a tragedy, i.e. its protagonist is destined – by some personal flaw – to f-up in the end. And I did. I paced up and down on my beautiful rug and I gazed at the mountains to the tunes of Edward Grieg. But I could not work in that room. There was nothing to disturb my thoughts, but yet I could not focus. I had endless stretches of time, but none of those haiku moments, when things suddenly fall into place and make sense. It was a paradox, and it was about to get me into trouble. To meet any of my deadlines, I had to leave the office and set up shop at an overpriced café instead.
How to interpret this paradox? Perhaps I had been abroad, traveling and working under curious circumstances for too long. I had found that I liked to work on the plane, the bus, the train or the new café. The space-time limitations that those places enforce actually help me to get things done. On the plane – the most extreme example – I know that there is no place else to go. If there is coffee onboard, it will come to me. And I know – at least on a short haul – that my job session will only last for an hour or two, and that much I can do.
My current office space – where I write this – is fitted with an easy chair, panoramic views and free wireless. All of this comes at an affordable price on the Greyhound. In the month to come, I am likely to do many odd jobs in seats like this one, since an assignment takes me on wheels across the States. I just left Philly, it is finally spring, and I am already having one of those haiku moments.