Author Work Space: Seth Margolis
I live in an apartment in Manhattan, so the concept of “workspace” is right up there with “Central Park view” and “spacious terrace” in the unattainable fantasy department. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to write seven novels in the same apartment over the past twenty-five years. Perhaps I would have been more prolific if I’d had a dedicated workspace during that time. Probably not.
It’s a two-bedroom apartment, and when my wife, Carole, and I bought it I used the second bedroom as an office. Two hundred square feet of privacy. My first novel, False Faces, was written in there. And just as I finished my second, Losing Isaiah, our daughter Maggie came along and evicted me.
I moved my computer into our dining room (yes, we have an actual dining room in Manhattan, so I really have no right to complain about anything). I tucked the computer into a cabinet we had built between two bookshelves. What was nice about this arrangement was that when I was done working I could shut the cabinet doors and the room reverted to a place to eat rather than a place to agonize over what to put down on the page the next day. Unfortunately, the dining room overlooks a sunless courtyard in the back of our building. Still, the room was all mine for most of the day, even after Maggie was joined by Jack, and a babysitter began arriving each morning to watch them while Carole and I worked (she at an actual away-from-home office).
Three books were spawned (dished up?) in the dining room. By then both kids were off to college, but the second bedroom was still more or less theirs. So I moved into our living room, now that it was no longer the gathering place for our kids, their caregiver and their friends. This room is south-facing and sunny. Right now the pear tree outside the living room is in glorious bloom. Not exactly inspirational – there’s very little nature in my books – but seeing it in morning for a few weeks when I enter the room to begin writing is undeniably uplifting. Moving to the living room meant abandoning my PC for a laptop, my lap being the only desk-like surface in the room. I’ve written two books on the sofa in front of the windows: Closing Costs, a satire of the real estate market, appropriately enough, and The Semper Sonnet, which was just published and has nothing at all to do with real estate or pear trees.
I still migrate back to the dining room to edit. I’m not sure why I like to write in one place, edit and rewrite in another. Perhaps it’s because I like to self-edit on paper, and the big dining room table makes a perfect surface for writing and rewriting with a pen. Or maybe this approach encourages dining-room-me to be a more objective editor of living-room-me.
Now Maggie and Jack have places of their own, and the second bedroom is up for grabs. But I still write in the living room, on a new sofa we bought a few years ago, and rewrite in the dining room on the table we bought when we first moved in. On some level I think I’d be unnerved by the expectations of an actual desk, let alone a dedicated office. It’s much less intimidating to hunker down in our sofa with a cup of coffee and a laptop, the same sofa where we read the newspaper, watch TV, entertain friends, and welcome Maggie and Jack back to their childhood home. Writing is just one more thing I do there
Seth lives with his wife, Carole, in New York City. They have two grown children, Maggie and Jack. Seth received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.