Setting Up Your Writing Workspace
“If only I had an office, then I could begin to write in earnest.
Every time I hear this excuse for not writing, I recall a series of mental images collected over the years of my associations with writers and professing writers. I picture a roomy, well equipped office filled with just the right equipment and overflowing with books and magazines. It was a writer’s dream room! But for several years its occupant used it precious little, while she battled with a persistent priority problem.
I remember, too, my own big old dining room table. I picture it in at least four different houses, cluttered with papers and books and a manual typewriter. I had to clean up the mess every time I prepared a meal for my family. Before my husband returned from work, I stashed away all the evidence of my labors so I could greet him with an orderly house at day’s end. On this table and under these circumstances, all my articles and poems of several years were born. My first book was written at this table.
A work area neither makes nor destroys a writer. If you want to write badly enough, lack of a proper work area will never stop you.”—Ethel Herr
“If God has called you to write, no matter how unpromising your circumstances may appear, you can make them work. As long as you wait for the ideal place and equipment, you’ll never write a word. Find the best place available, gather whatever tools you can and go to work without any further delay.”—Ethel Herr
In order to do your best work, it is important to find or create one or more places where you can write comfortably and be productive. If you’re not comfortable, you will be distracted from your writing task.
Different writers require different work environments because of their unique personalities and life circumstances. Some writers thrive when surrounded by activity or sound while others need or choose to work in solitude. As a beginning writer you need to figure out what kind of a writing place works best for you. What environment makes you feel comfortable? What helps you remain alert and focused? Do you need or want solitude or do you flourish with other people around? Am I easily distracted? Do I want a casual or formal environment? Can I focus and work at home or do I need to go to another location where the distractions of children and pets don’t interfere?
When seeking out your writing space, know that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a separate room. Perhaps you can find a corner in one of your bedrooms, in the dining room or even a sunroom or porch area. Some people even make small office areas in closets, armoires, and/or wardrobes. When writing time is over, they simply close the doors and their office space is out of sight.
Some writers require a private place to work so they can shut out activity and noise when they need to concentrate. These people need a place that is their own, at least for a certain number of hours each day so they can regularly write.
If there is no space in your home, perhaps you can find one in a corner of a garage or shed. Or possibly you can find a small table in your camper or motor-home when it’s not being used. Or maybe your children would let you use their tree house on occasion.
For some writers, a public place such as a coffee shop, library, restaurant or even a table in the delicatessen area of your local supermarket, will provide the answer.
Other writers prefer writing in the great outdoors. Perhaps a picnic table on their patio or in their yard will allow them some privacy and quiet time to write. Maybe these writers could also find a public park, picnic or camping area that’s available for a few hours in between times campers and those who want to have picnics use the area.
Still other writers need a space that works according to their momentary circumstances, moods, needs and scheduling of family time. Regardless of the place or places you choose to write, here are some things to consider:
- Do you have good lighting or do you need to purchase an additional lamp or a portable, battery-operated light.
- Does the temperature of your writing space allow you to be comfortable or is it too cold or too hot? Do you need a blanket to warm you up or a fan to cool you down? Would it help to bring a thermos full of cold lemonade or hot coffee?
- When you write, do you have the necessary support for your arms, back, neck and shoulders? Can you sit upright or do you have to slump over which causes pain in your body?
- Is the height of your chair and your writing surface appropriate for your height, size and weight? What about the height of your computer desk, keyboard, monitor or mouse?
After locating your writing space(s), get your needed equipment and supplies set up and readily available. If you prepare ahead of time, when you find some unexpected free time in your schedule, you can sit down and write without having to run around, searching for your supplies.
If you can’t leave your space setup all of the time, put your writing supplies in a portable box or container that you can easily access to take with you. Plastic tackle boxes and storage containers generally work well for this. By putting your supplies all in one container, you can quickly find what you need to work with when your writing opportunity comes along. Also keep a small stash of extra supplies on hand so you can quickly restock your box when supplies run low.
If you write in several places, make one of these places a home base. This would be a good place to keep your backup supplies. You may also want to keep a pot of coffee or a cooler full of cold beverages on hand, as well as some snacks. If your stomach is growling because of hunger, it’s hard to concentrate on writing.
It may also help to set up a schedule of your writing hours and let those around you know that you are establishing a time for writing. Ask for their cooperation and train them not to interrupt you unless an emergency situation arises. You may need to be firm with children or remind all of your family members periodically until they adjust to your writing schedule.
You may also have to adjust your writing schedule to work around your family’s regular routine. For example, when the children are in school, it may provide a few hours of quiet time. Also getting up early or staying up later may work as well.
- Find one or more places where you can comfortably write and establish a home base.
- Make each writing space as functional and pleasant as possible. If you can, add some personal touches such as flowers, photos, posters, portable CD player and music and/or training CDs, beverages, snacks, etc. Make it a place that inspires you and nurtures your writing.
- Set up your desk or writing surface. Gather your supplies and arrange them so they are close by and can be easily accessed.
- Set up a writing schedule. Stick to your schedule as much as possible. Remind others not to disturb you unless an emergency comes up. Periodically review your schedule and make any needed changes.
- If you write in a public space or a home space where you can’t leave your supplies out, get a portable container or tackle box to put your supplies in. Organize your supplies in the box so it’s ready to go when you get time to write.
 Herr, Ethel (1983, 1999) An Introduction to Christian Writing, 2nd. Edition: Nashville, TN: ACW Press, p.101-102.