My Halcyon Days As theOffice 2013 Fellowship Winner

One day in April of this year, I woke up to my ordinary routine as a music writer and editor in Los Angeles.

I was working on a critique of a new album, planning my social media efforts for a weekend covering an upcoming music festival, and “writing at” (as opposed to “writing”) a short story that had been plaguing me. Typically, my alarm would wake me at 8 am and I would lay upright in bed absorbing the goings-on of my Facebook and Twitter for 20-30 minutes before my feet hit the floor, to eventually take me to… the couch.

My daily indentation on the couch had grown deep and perfectly customized to my slouching figure. Acting as a combination desk/breakfast-nook/leisure-space for so long had given it bizarre energies. So many projects had been started there in bursts of inspiration and abandoned in fugues of exhausted, near-existential doubt that sitting on the couch began to take on the emotional contours of a hangover. Further, if you believe the conspiracy theorists that are so abundant in Los Angeles, the couch was undoubtedly sterilizing my mind and reproductive capacity with industrial vapors of mass-produced Ikea fabric and plastic residue.

Whether the cause was spiritual or petrochemical, my couch had become a free-standing, cat-hair-covered testament to counter-productivity and despair.

On this particular day, I got an email:

“Thanks for submitting to theOffice 2013 Fellowship. I’ve got good news. You won!”

I blinked away the drunkenness of over-digitzation, early morning exhaustion, and plastic mind-control vapors and re-read the email. I’d won access to an office space. A real office space. A really beautiful office space in Brentwood. What?

I looked down at my couch, and patted it gently on a seam.

“I’ll miss you, old girl. We’ve been through some good times together, haven’t we?”

“Yes we have, Omar,” it responded, in a voice not unlike the bygone radio personality Johnny Dollar. “Yes we have…”

Leaving my apartment was likely necessary for my sanity. I quickly packed my laptop and headed to Brentwood, where I would work off and on for the next six months.

* * *

My fellowship at theOffice was a phenomenal resource. I gained a retreat from my world at home, a destination to work in silence and focus on my writing whenever I needed it.

The best part about the fellowship was 24/7 access: as writers, the urge to suddenly begin working can seize you at odd hours of the day and night.

Being able to drive in to a parking spot in beautiful Brentwood, crank up a pod’s-worth of coffee from the trusty machine in the corner, and begin working at 3 am was invaluable.

* * *

When I had guests in from out of town, I would invariably take them on a tour of theOffice. When my wife’s parents visited us in July, I brought them into the room on a Saturday. The sun was shining through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows and the Brentwood Country Mart was gleaming across the street.

“I usually sit at this desk,” I told my father-in-law, in a seat with full view of the Sweet Rose Creamery.

He sat down in the designer chair, leaned back, and said, “How much you think these chairs cost?”

“I’m pretty sure a lot,” I told him.

He smiled and nodded: “We’re proud of you.”

My in-laws and wife group-hugged me in front of the tree-installation in the center of the room.

My mother-in-law emphasized, “But we were proud of you before, too, though.”

My father-in-law reiterated: “But we sure are proud of you now.”

* * *

In a way that I hadn’t felt since I moved to LA, it felt like something had happened.

Stepping into the high-ceilinged space at theOffice, you get a feeling of majesty, pride, knowingness. You see the plaques on the wall and you know that great scripts have been penned in this place, but that it’s not a place to brag and hobnob and be seen. It’s a place to get things done, to do nothing but write.

No other place I’ve worked — not coffee-shops, libraries, living rooms, hotel rooms, nothing — feels built and designed for the exact demands of the writer: silent, ethereally beautiful, comfortable, and stocked with hot and cold caffeinated beverages.

Every time I worked there, theOffice erased the feeling I had of being a sofa-dweller, and made me feel like a writer.

In summation: thanks Aleks and Wade.  I wish theOffice the best of luck!

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