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Order in disorder: Get it done
[February 25, 2013]

Order in disorder: Get it done

Feb 25, 2013 (News & Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- I have often rolled my eyes at the notion that writers are some delicate breed, like hot house flowers, that need just the right conditions to produce their perfect prose.

Movies have encouraged this stereotype of tortured creative types who have to sit in a certain chair, have just the right light, maybe the sound of the ocean, and perhaps a fifth of alcohol to find their muse.


Journalists, as least, learn to work anywhere. Music reviewing used to mean retreating to a concrete room just outside the auditorium to pound out a commentary piece in 30 to 45 minutes while the concert still throbbed on the other side of the wall, loud enough to make the floor vibrate.

Sportswriters are often composing at courtside, with tall sweaty players lunging over their laptops to save an errant ball.

We've rested laptops on dashboards and sat crosslegged on the floor, hunched over iPads.

Even the relative comfort of the newsroom is not a serene writing environment. Quite the contrary, it is loud and profane and filled with storytellers who like to tell their stories out loud before they write them down.

And yet ...

They're messing with my space, and that is messing with my head.

We're in the midst of a newsroom redesign, both literally and figuratively. Jobs are changing, workflow is changing, and the physical layout of the newsroom is changing drastically.

As someone who has studied communication, leadership and the dynamics of change, I know that physical change can jump-start organizational change, which we are trying to achieve in a big way.

So, I didn't just understand this, I applauded it.

Besides, I lived through a remodeling of the building in which only a plastic sheet separated me from saws and drills as they literally tore the walls down.

This would be a piece of cake.

First we had to box up everything in our desks and move into the sports department temporarily. Two weeks later, we came in to find our computers and phones back in the newsroom in all new locations. So it was moving day again.

I was eager to get back into the newsroom.

However ...

The desk I ended up with was grimy, there were burst sugar packets inside the drawers, and the area around my desk was littered with debris that fell out of the ceiling when they moved the panels to relocate wiring.

This is when I got fairly testy about the process.

You haven't seen a truly disgusting debris field until you've seen what's left when they move desks and partitions that have been in place for a decade or so. Dust bunnies the size of sewer rats. Fossilized Skittles. Crushed packets of crackers. Paper clips, long lost pen caps and relics of yesteryear such as proportion wheels and pica poles.

Harumph, harumph.

They vacuumed, of course, but half of the newsroom is still a construction zone, with desks and file cabinets herded together, and in one corner, the island of misfit office supplies: cracked plastic paper trays, broken keyboards, beat-up binders, and a virtual library of outdated stylebooks and computer manuals.

This disturbs my sense of order.

I thought once I got my stuff unpacked and put the photos and cartoons back on the walls of my cubby, I would be content. And yet, here I sit, grumpy as all get-out.

I mean, I'm facing the wrong way. I'm 360 degrees and several yards from my old spot. It doesn't feel right.

Grumble, grumble.

Worst of all, I seem to have lost my legendary Cone of Silence somewhere along the way. My ability to block out sound and even movement when I am writing is so complete that I frequently jump out of my skin when someone materializes by my elbow and begins to speak. This laser focus has served me well in more than 30 years of daily journalism.

Now, I hear everything because there are all these new sounds in this end of the room. The view over the top of my cubicle looks different. The ceiling clock seems to be resting on the top of the partition, taunting me.

Well, boo-freakin'-hoo.

Guess what, kiddo Time to write anyway. Put on your big girl panties and deal with it.

Because I know in a day or so, this will be the familiar landscape. I will learn all the noises and therefore stop hearing them. Life will return to the familiar chaos in which I have worked, happily for the most part, all my life.

In the end, for all writers, home is where the keyboard is. We sit down and write -- when we're happy, when we're sad, when we're angry, when we're at a loss to know what else to do.

We put our fingers on the keys and trust that the words will come.

You know what They always do.

Contact Susan Ladd at 373-7006 or and follow at or @susankladd on Twitter.

___ (c)2013 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) Visit the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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