Thursday, September 27, 2018

Create Your Perfect Writing Space

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

When I first started writing, it was at my desk, usually in class, while ignoring my teachers. Over the years my writing space evolved to a real desk in my room, then it migrated to the dining room table after I got my own apartment, and eventually a home office. I’ve written on the living room sofa, in a coffee shop, and even airports and hotel rooms.

This past year my husband and I have been remodeling the house, and part of that includes building out the upstairs bonus room to be my office and writing space. After a decade as “an author,” I finally get to design that dream office I always wanted.

Having a dedicated writing space is important, because it triggers our brain that it’s time to write” whenever we go there. It helps us build solid writing habits and routines, and those habits will get us through the days when the writing is hard and the ideas aren’t coming.

A writing space also helps us feel like real writers, a common self-doubt many of us have from time to time, especially when we’re starting out. Having a place to write reminds us we’re serious about our dream of being an author one day (although hobby writers are just as justified in wanting their own space, too).

(Here’s more on finding the right place to write)

What Does a “Perfect Writing Space” Look Like?

Every writer is going to have their own views here, but for me, it’s space. I like wide desks that hold cats without them being on my keyboard. I like shelves I can display my favorite books on. I like shelves that can hold my odd knickknacks and decorations. I like clear walls where I can hang a whiteboard for brainstorming with my husband and a corkboard for pinning up notes and reminders for me. And walls where I can hang artwork that makes me feel creative. I want a cafe table and a few small chairs to discuss scenes with someone. I want to paint it purple (pale purple, but this is a color that inspires creativity).

I’m in the early stages of this project, but it’s been fun choosing furniture and figuring out where everything is going to go. I get to examine my writing process and plan for all the things I wished I’d had access to. I can create a “research area” with reference books and a small table for my laptop if I want. I can move my current (and tiny) desk into a corner and designate it my “sprint station” for doing word sprints.

The possibilities are endless, even though I know I won’t do them all. But it’s a lot of fun to dream big.

What Does Your Perfect Writing Space Look Like?

You don’t have to wait until you have an extra room to create the right writing space for you. I have a friend who converted a small closet into her office. Her “desk” was a TV tray table. It was almost the exact depth of the closet, but it was big enough to hold her laptop and a mug of coffee, so it worked. The entire space couldn’t have been more than about three by six feet (the size of most desks, really), and she even closed the door when she wanted privacy.

I read about another writer who bought one of those air conditioned She Sheds and put her office in the backyard (those things are adorable!). One friend exchange a bed for a sleeper sofa and turned the guest room into an office. Another bought one of those desks that fold out from the bookshelf and turned a corner of the family room into his space at certain times of the day—no family allowed. One even rented office space outside her home.

If you could have any space you wanted, what would it look like?
In my ultimate writing fantasies, I’d have one of those amazing tree houses Pete Nelson makes on Tree House Masters.


What Can You Do Right Now to Improve Your Writing Space?

I regret putting this off for so long. My office was always “good enough,” and I didn’t want to spend money/disrupt my day/ when what I had worked perfectly fine. I’m excited about the new space and looking forward to it being finished and moving in.

Take a look at your writing space—is it what you want? Are there things you can do to improve it? They don’t have to be major projects. Simply adding a whiteboard or desk organizer might help you reduce clutter and keep the space clean and soothing. Maybe you’ve always wanted one of those mini-water fountains for the sound of running water in the background. Maybe a wall of shelves is what you crave. For those on tight budgets, maybe just reorganizing and clearing away what you don’t need is enough to make the space feel new and all yours.

Think about the things that would:
  • Make you feel better about the space you’re in
  • Make you more productive in your writing sessions
  • Make you more organized
  • Make you feel more creative
  • Make you more comfortable and able to work longer
Even the smallest tweak to your space can be enough to revitalize your writing energy and give you a creative boost. Do a small tweak every now and then, and before long, you’ll have a writing space you look forward to coming to every day.

Do you have a writing space? How does it work for you? What’s your dream space?

If you're looking for more to improve your craft (or a fun fantasy read), check out one of my writing books or novels:

In-depth studies in my Skill Builders series include Understanding Conflict (And What It Really Means), and Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It). My Foundations of Fiction series includes Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for plotting a novel, and the companion Plotting Your Novel Workbook, and my Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series, with step-by-step guides to revising a novel. 

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize (2011), and The Truman Award (2011).

She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

She's the founder of Fiction University and has written multiple books on writing, including Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It), Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, and the Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series.
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  1. Love this! The space you describe sounds like perfection - down to the light purple table. My perfect writing space would be in a treehouse - always wanted my office/writing space in one.

    1. I never knew I did until I started watching Pete Nelson's show. Now it's on my "if I ever win the lottery..." dream list :)