Writing SpaceHave you ever thought about where you write? You can see my space here; it took me a while to arrive at this almost-ideal condition, but it’s worth everything I did to get there.

Consider this: where you write can impact how well and how often you write. You might be able to write the next great American novel or an epic historical work in a crummy setting, but you don’t have to—nor should you. This is your career, and every element of your space should contribute to your amazing imagination.

You can create a wonderful space out of whatever you have, whether it’s a whole room or nothing more than a closet or a corner, even if you’re on a squeaky-tight budget. I remember, not exactly, fondly the year our family of seven spent in a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot house, but I do fondly remember the writing space I carved out of the corner of the living room.

Before I start, consider these general principles:

  • First and foremost, give yourself permission to create a wonderful working space for yourself; you work hard, and you deserve it! We all have lots of demands vying for our attention, but be okay with making this one a priority.
  • Figure out what you really need (and remember, your needs are likely different from your wants). Get detailed about the things you need to accomplish your work and understand the importance of investing in what you need. Once your needs are covered, you can splurge on some of those want-to-have items if your budget allows.
  • Did you have a favorite office space when you worked away from home? If so, try to duplicate the things you liked most about it.
  • Be willing to experiment. If you don’t get it right the first time, be flexible enough to try something different. My office space you see in the picture went through about a dozen incarnations before it reached nirvana.

 

Designate Your Space

Narrow office spaceSometimes you don’t have a lot of options; there might be only one spot you can really utilize for your writing space. That’s okay; you can work with that. My sacred little corner in the living room of that very small house was literally the only place from which I had to choose. If you do have some options, though, consider this cardinal rule: pick a space where you actually want to be. You want a space where you genuinely want to write.

Coming in at a close second is this rule: choose a space where you’re going to be most productive and where you feel most inspired.

Your writing space can be created from a corner in a bedroom, an alcove in a hallway, a spot in the dining room, a section of the living room or family room, or even a closet. The important thing isn’t how big the space is; the important thing is that you designate it as your writing space and that you can actually work there.

In figuring out your space, remember that you need to be able to concentrate. Choose a spot that affords some privacy (consider using some kind of screen to separate it if you’re sharing the room), eliminates distractions, and has little to no foot traffic from the other people in the house. “Distractions” can also be things like a sink full of dirty dishes, gym equipment, a television or game console, or even a bed (because face it: sometimes you’d just rather take a nap!). If you absolutely can’t escape potentially distracting things, position your writing surface and chair so you face away from them.

While you need to concentrate and eliminate distraction, you also need a source of inspiration—so if you can, write by a window. It’s been scientifically proven that natural light boosts creativity. And when weather permits, open the window to get some fresh air—another factor proven to enhance creativity.

Make your space your own by surrounding yourself with things that inspire you—pictures of your family, a beautiful shell you found on vacation, scriptures, a lovely plant or two (silk or real), a trinket that means a lot to you, or a deliciously scented candle. Hang inspirational quotes on the wall. In surrounding yourself with inspiration, don’t forget the clutter mandate—keep things simple.

 

DeskHave a Good Writing Surface

Traditionally, that means a desk. But it might mean a table. In fact, if you’re limited on space, you might use a table that folds down to a smaller surface—or even a table that collapses flush against the wall.

Whatever you choose, your writing surface should be large enough to accommodate the basics, including your computer and your collection of essential writing tools.

And if you’re on a budget, scout around for a desk at local yard sales. Even better, let your Facebook friends know you’re looking for something; you’ll likely be surprised and pleased with what turns up. I once found a great desk while driving around town; it was out on the curb with a Free to a good home dangling from the top drawer; all I had to do was get it to my house. I used that desk for years.

 

Don’t Skimp on a Chair

Man on tiny chairTo state the obvious, your chair is where you’ll be doing all that writing, so make sure you have a high-quality, ergonomic chair. Your chair should support your back, provide lower back support, and help you maintain good posture. You shouldn’t be able to feel the frame when you sit. It should also be the right height for your desk and keyboard.

If you’re on a budget, this is the one thing worth splurging on. That’s not to say you need a deluxe office chair with built-in massage, but no one can write like a genius while racked with back (or tush) pain.

If you have orthopedic needs, you can also consider sitting on a large exercise ball or using a desk that can be raised to standing height.

 

Have Good Lighting

Good lighting eliminates eyestrain, which is critical when you’re working at a computer. Whenever possible, have good overhead lighting—and never use fluorescent lights. Switch out fluorescent bulbs for full-spectrum bulbs; if that’s not possible, turn off the fluorescent lights and use lamps instead.

When you can, take advantage of good natural light; whenever possible, work by a window. Use a good desk lamp, especially if you have little or no overhead lighting or natural light.

 

Office toolsKeep Essential Tools Handy

First on that list is a computer. Get the best one you can afford; it will pay off in more ways than you can count. If you’re using your computer only for writing, don’t worry about all the gizmos and gadgets that let you play cool video games or watch high-definition movies. Do make sure you’ve got a state-of-the-art word processor.

If you’re on a budget, you can probably find a top-name computer for a decent price if you shop around, watch for specials/sales, search online, or buy second-hand. You can generally find the best prices on computers during the first two weeks of January (when they’re liquidating all the stuff that didn’t sell at Christmas), the last week in July and first three weeks in August (when they’re capitalizing on back-to-school needs), and November/December (for the holiday gift-giving season), especially Black Friday.

If you already have a computer but it needs some work, pay someone to make the necessary upgrades or repairs.

You’ll also need a printer. You don’t need a top-of-the-line color printer; you can start out with a basic but good-quality printer. My HP Laser-Jet was an unbelievable workhorse that didn't cost a king’s ransom and lasted me a decade and a half.

As far as the rest of your tools go, start by taking inventory of what you already have; you’ll likely be surprised by how much stuff you have laying around the house. You’ll need things like paper, notebooks, sticky notes, pens, pencils, highlighters, paper clips, and a stapler. Corral them in a fun container, desk drawer, or large cup. Whatever you do, keep them within reach; nothing interrupts flow like having to go find your highlighter.

Finally, keep a water bottle or great water mug on hand—and stay hydrated!

Ideas for this article were gleaned and adapted from my own experience as well as Christy O’Shoney, “How to Create a Better Writing Space (And Other Thoughts on Writing),” Avoiding Atrophy, http://avoidingatrophy.blogspot.com/2013/05/how-to-create-better-writing-space-and.html; “How to Create the Perfect Writing Space,” NY Book Editors, https://nybookeditors.com/2017/09/how-to-create-the-perfect-writing-space/; and Suzannah Freeman, “How to Create a Writing Space on a Budget,” Better Writing Habits, https://betterwritinghabits.com/how-to-create-a-writing-space-on-a-budget/

Check out all three blogs for more ideas!

(Photos: top, kathryn-jenkins.com; narrow space, DigsDigs; desk, Prodigal Pieces; chair, Blogspot.com; tools, kathryn-jenkins.com)

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