Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Satellite Offices

by kevan atteberry

As creatives—writers and illustrators specifically—most of us work from our homes, and by ourselves. We've commandeered a tucked away niche off the kitchen, a large closet shared with winter clothes and ski equipment, or a corner eked out of a spare bedroom. We’ve created a place that is ours, exclusive from other house inhabitants. Some of us even have an actual room dedicated for writing or a studio for illustrating. I'm lucky, I suppose, to have a space (barely) big enough for both a writing/digital art area as well as a place for working in traditional art mediums.

Still, like so many of my solitary compatriots, when I have work to get done, I will often pack up my laptop, sketch book, pencils and pens and abandon the distractions of home. I’ll head out to a coffee shop, the library, or sometimes even a pub—my satellite offices. There is something stimulating and comfortable about the busy hum of the default world as I submerge myself into whatever world I’m trying to create.
I have only recently been able to do this regularly due to changes in my life and responsibilities. And I am still searching out the place—places—that work well for me. I don’t know if others have one special place they go or a collection of places. I have found several different spots where I like to work. And I try to switch them up. I’ve found if I have a particularly productive day at one location, it will become my “favorite place to write,” or “draw.” And I’ll try and duplicate it the next time. Which is a mistake. It rarely happens.
The next time the “busy hum of the default world” may be fractured by a loud talker, 



a loud laugher, 


or a loud squealer.


The next time, the table you sat and created so proficiently and abundantly at may be occupied. Another table probably will not have the same magic.



Sometimes people are too friendly or curious.



But there are some distinct advantages to working off-site or remotely. I am more likely to keep my butt in my chair in front of my laptop, or with pencil in hand. I am less likely to be distracted or hop up every ten minutes to attend to some banal task. Not that there aren’t distractions, there are. But distractions away from home can be different. They can have their own curious value. Call it observation. And/or unintended eavesdropping. I’ve dashed off quick sketches of fashion or characters I’ve seen and used them later in illustrations. I’ve developed ideas and learned things from what I’ve heard. I remember a particularly emphatic discussion between 3 women sitting behind me one time on hair removal. Who knew there were so many options! I don’t know how or where or if I’ll ever use this, but it was fascinating. The animated delivery was funny and I learned a new girl’s name that I may use in a story someday. And no, I am not sharing it here.

I should also mention that working off-site I’m often faced with a distraction that is far less helpful. That is the distraction of seductive pastries.



We’re lucky as writers and illustrators to be able to switch up our venues, work remotely. Other artists—musicians, dancers, ceramicists—might find it difficult to decide to go “work at Starbuck’s this afternoon.”

I have had some pretty good luck working offsite. And I truly enjoy it. It is not automatic, and sometimes working remotely leads to remotely working. This may be caused by not finding the “right” place, having distractions that are compelling but not helpful, or maybe Mercury is in retrograde. At these times I know enough to head back to the “home office.” Because if I am going to waste time, I might as well waste it doing banal tasks.


Full disclosure: this may be another reason why I work remotely. This is my studio right now. I can’t seem to get much work done here because it is such a mess and I can’t seem to clean it up because I have so much work to do. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


kevan atteberry

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14 comments:

  1. I totally get it. I usually write at home, but when I'm getting distracted or I think going somewhere will make me buckle down, I hit a coffee shop. Sometimes it's distracting (LOVE the images you put up! So true!), but sometimes it makes me feel like I'm punching the clock. What a great post, Kevan! It's fun to hear how others work. :)

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  2. The last bit about the place being so messy you can't work yet having to work so you've no time to clean it rings very true! Still looking for my satellite office since moving. Living in Seattle, I had only to step outside and I could be hit in the face by the doors of five coffee shops before I'd taken 10 steps.

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  3. Make it plural, Chris. Look for multiple satellite offices!

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  4. I'm starting the sketch phase of a new project, and putting it off by reading your great post. I recently cleaned up my "stu" (tiny studio), so I have no excuse.
    Your funny characters gave me a good kick in the pants to get going!

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    1. thanks, Joanne! I'm hoping to clean my studio this weekend. The Seahawks have a bye week so I'm going to use that time. ;-)

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  5. I always felt is was strange that I would rather go to the library to concentrate rather than at my own house, but now I know why that is. I am constantly distracted with doing "banel things" as you say.

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    1. Wait till the banal things become imperative before tackling them.
      :)

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  6. Love this. Reminds me of the days I used to spend in coffee shops with my laptop waiting for my kids to get out of school. Back before I was really illustrating-I was blogging and promoting my tee business. Now that I am illustrating it is hard to go to a coffee shop because I love my wacom cintiq at home. But drawing at home is sometimes lonely (or distracting!) so maybe I should take a sketch pad sometimes.....

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    1. Just do your sketches out! Finish the art in your studio...

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  7. You have seen my studio so it's no use claiming I'm a neat freak. Unfortunately I can't bring myself to work in a public space. It's like the drawing equivalent of shy bladder syndrome. Color me jealous!

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    1. As long as your getting it done, right?
      (And you have a magnificent studio with wonderful wall design by the fantastic Debra!)

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  8. Great photo. Explains it all, as you say. No matter what space I have, i seem to always end up at the end of the dining room table with work squeezing dinner space more every day. Offsite i end up with lively doodles, but rarely any progress on work at hand.

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    1. Offsite work is almost entirely conceptual for me. Working on existing work I might as well be in my studio.

      (And yeah, I forgot to mention the kitchen or dining room table home office above!)

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