My Studio: Michelle Berry

A couple of weeks ago, I leapt. After years of working out of an office in my home, years of avoiding eye contact with the dog who made me feel guilty for not walking him, years of hearing the buzz of the dryer and heading downstairs to take the laundry out, years of making coffee and seeing the list of chores on the counter and heading out to do them instead of going back up to work,

A couple of weeks ago, I leapt. After years of working out of an office in my home, years of avoiding eye contact with the dog who made me feel guilty for not walking him, years of hearing the buzz of the dryer and heading downstairs to take the laundry out, years of making coffee and seeing the list of chores on the counter and heading out to do them instead of going back up to work, after years of this, I rented an office downtown. Don't get me wrong, the seventeen years of working at home was very productive. I've published three books of short stories, four novels, an art book, an anthology and have a fifth novel on the way. I've taught online and in-class at Ryerson, Humber, Trent and U of Toronto. I've answered countless interview questions, written articles, published over 55 reviews for The Globe and Mail and mentored many students. But renting this small space—probably 12 x 12, a small sink in the corner, a little closet, painted wooden floors, on the third floor of a run-down heritage building above Peterborough's finest restaurants and hairdressers—has reinvigorated my life like nothing before. Suddenly I have a reason to get up in the morning. I walk to the office every day and notice what is going on in the street. A new building is going up—today they are putting on the third floor. A man has been painting a sign above a store for several days. He's careful and pauses a lot to take in what he's done. I open the door to my office (get a whiff of mold, of last tenant, of fresh paint and restaurant food) and enter my domain. Two comfy chairs, a coffee table, a desk. There is no dog (although I do have squirrels who sit on my windowsill and stare at me), there is no laundry, there are no chores. There is just an open amount of space and time in which to work. I hear my officemates in the hall. I watch the teenage dad in the apartment across the way take his baby for walks. I write. And work. And focus. I separate my home self from my work self. That's the crux of it. It's a bit magical, like I've been suddenly given two personalities. The only one who suffers in this situation is my poor dog. For my part, I'm hooked. And, hey, absence makes the heart grow fonder (and the dog bark louder when I finally come home).