Setting Up Your Writing Workspace for Success
One of the best things about being a writer is our ability to work from anywhere. One of the worst things about being a writer is also our ability to work from anywhere.
Just because we can work anywhere doesn’t mean we should. This flexibility also shouldn’t stop us from creating a workspace that’s set up to maximize our productivity, efficiency, and, ultimately, our success.
I have been a nomadic writer. I’ve carted my laptop around and written at coffee shops, park benches, airports, even sitting in my car in the parking lot while my son was at baseball practice.
It’s handy. It’s convenient. But it’s not always very productive.
I also have a dedicated workspace in my home. And that’s where I do my best work. It’s where I can be my most productive, most efficient, most creative, and most driven.
So, let’s get your workspace set up today so you’ll be your most productive, most efficient, and most successful this year.
Give it a Name
My home office is “where the magic happens” for me. You may call your workspace your command center, the “Bat Cave,” the bridge, the vault, the war room, the inner sanctum, the word lab, or any other number of things. One author notes her family calls her writing office her Fortress of Literature.
It doesn’t matter if you have an entire room designated as your office or if you have a desk in the corner of a room that has multiple uses (living room, bedroom, kitchen), I suggest defining it by giving it a name. Naming something makes it real. It gives it power.
A name also makes it a destination, so you can say you’re “going to the office” … or whatever you’ve named your workspace.
Once you’re there, your brain and body will recognize it’s time to get to work, and you’ll be able to get into the flow faster and easier.
Go ahead … name your workspace right now, and see if you don’t immediately feel more official.
Location, Location, Location
I believe your workspace should be in a set, fixed location. Even if you work at the dining table, designate a specific spot at the table where you always sit to do your work.
Let those you live with — your spouse, children, roommate, etc. — know that when you’re in your spot, you’re working. Even if you’re staring into space or gazing out the window, as we writers are known to do at times, you’re working. So they should consider your spot a “Do Not Disturb” zone.
If you have a desk — whether it’s in a dedicated office or in another multi-use room — consider how you’ve placed it in your space. For example, is it facing a wall or a corner (like a child in a time-out for being naughty)? Is it facing the rest of the room? Is it facing a window?
Feng shui practitioners suggest placing your writing desk in a “command position,” with a view of the door from the chair, a solid wall behind you, and a nice view out of a window.
I made this change a few years ago. My desk is now facing a window, the door is visible to my left, and there’s a closet behind me (easy access to the filing cabinets inside the closet). I have to admit, it’s a better writing vibe than when I was facing the wall all day.
Commit to Being Clutter-Free
I don’t know if a cluttered desk is really a sign of a cluttered mind, but I do know it’s easier to focus and get things done when my desk is free of unnecessary stuff.
What is necessary to me? In addition to my laptop, I typically have on my desk a cup of coffee or glass of water, my phone, my planner with my to-do list, a pen, a clipboard of recycled paper, and the file folder of notes for the project I’m working on.
Yes, I’m old-school and still jot down notes and ideas by hand. My system is to use the back of the paper I’ve printed stuff on for these notes and ideas (I print out writing projects to proofread and read them out loud, so I have plenty of scratch paper). I make file folders for each active project, and these notes go from the clipboard to the file folder to keep them organized.
I have a narrow table set up against the wall next to my desk to hold my files as well as pens, a desk lamp, candy dish, some books, and other purely decorative and/or “fun” items (I’ll get to those in a minute). So these things are within reach, but they’re not cluttering up my active workspace.
Many organizing experts suggest going digital and not keeping paper around at all. This advice definitely cuts down on the clutter if you can do it. However, if you can’t or choose not to, you’ll need to develop a system for managing the paper.
For me, I purge my project files once the client has signed off on what I turn in and issued payment. Any ideas that didn’t get used in the current project go into a master file I can come back to in the future.
Another way to commit to keeping clutter under control is to make sure everything you use in your workspace has a place it belongs … a place to call home. When you’re finished using something, put it away. And when you call it quits for the day, be sure everything you’ve used during the day also gets to “go home.”
Have Some Fun
I agree with the theory that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy … or, in this case, Michele a dull writer.
So, I have a few fun items on the table next to my desk to remind me to smile and enjoy what I’m doing. I cycle my fun items out every once in a while, when I need new inspiration or when something has just lost its spark. Right now, I’ve got a bendable Wonder Woman and a slinky over there.
They bring me joy.
I’ve got my Copywriter’s Cheat Sheet from The Professional Writers’ Alliance on the wall for inspiration — and information!
You can display artwork that inspires you on your walls. The beauty of working in a personal office space is that you can decorate it how you want, without worrying about rules.
Make your office space personal, so you’ll be happy to spend your time there!
Workspace ergonomics is just as important in a home office as it is in a corporate one. You’re going to be at your desk for big chunks of time, so your chair, keyboard, mouse, and monitor need to be configured so they don’t put added stress on your body.
And you don’t have to break the bank to achieve this comfort.
For example, I invested in a great desk chair I found at a place that refurbishes used office furniture. I also keep a cardboard box handy that’s the perfect size to elevate my laptop for when I want to stand while I work.
If you pay attention to your body and set up your workspace in a way that keeps you comfortable, you’ll be able to work productively and still feel good at the end of the day.
Do it Now
The sooner you take the time to optimize your workspace, the sooner you’ll have a spot you enjoy being in … a spot that is conducive to your success. You’ll feel energized and ready to get to work if your workspace is set up for the most efficient and productive use of your time.
Try it for yourself and see what a difference it makes.
And let’s take this one step further … National Clean Off Your Desk Day is the second Monday of January … meaning it is January 11 in 2021. I’ll post a photo of my clean and productive workspace to the AWAI Facebook page if you’ll do the same! Share an image of your desk (before and after you clean?!) or something from your workspace that inspires you every day.
I can’t wait to see your writing workspace and hear about the success it sparks!
Do you have any questions about how you can get started as a productive writer? Let us know in the comments.
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The writer shared tidbits that have a dynamic i.e. cluttered desk vs. clear desk,wall vs. window which makes her writing 100% more relatable.
Guest (kevin) –
Great post. I received my desk last week and my chair will be in at the end of the week. I can’t wait to set up my office space. Thanks for the wonderful ideas.
Guest (Sincerely Yours) –