My writing space has shifted a lot over the years. It’s grown and changed right along with my life and business.
In the Dominican Republic, I wrote on my bed, mostly because the bedroom was the only room with air conditioning. I could hear the street sounds of Santo Domingo rise up to our fifth-story dwelling each evening as I worked: the call of the fruit vendor, the horns honking. I also brought my work to the jungle, the forest, the beach—basically any and everywhere we traveled.
In Vietnam, I worked at the long table in our living area, with a sweeping view of Ho Chi Minh City visible through a window to my left. I ventured to coffee shops at times, but it usually wasn’t worth the hassle and expense of taking a cab.
In Ohio, I worked in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. There were no doors inside, except to the bathroom and laundry. My $20 IKEA desk was set up in a corner of the living room, and I designated that space as my “office.” I used an uncomfortable wooden chair that had been given to me when I was a baby. My business was growing quickly and I was in graduate school, so I spent a lot of time there.
Now that I live in Idaho, I have the immense fortune of an office with a door that closes. I can still hear the bustle of the house—my daughter laughing (or screaming), my husband on the phone, the blender, the UPS delivery person ringing the doorbell—but it’s a big step up from my bed in Santo Domingo.
This is all to say that I’ve gone through a lot of situations that have forced me to work with what I had. Granted, I don’t have the challenges many others do (multiple children, a deployed or traveling spouse, or a difficult home environment), but I do have some solutions that you might be able to modify to fit your life. Here are five tips for setting up a home writing space. I’ve peppered in some great advice from Twitter and Facebook comrades, too.
#1 Claim your space
If you’re lucky enough to have a room available—or mostly unused—claim it. If you have a spare room, why not convert it to an office? Your once-a-year guests won’t care that your desk is in there when they stay at your house (for free, I might add).
If you don’t have a room open in the house, claim a spot. Set up writing hours so your family knows that the dining area is off limits every weekday from 2:00 to 3:00 while you write. I used to have a “desk in a box” and a mobile filing system, so all of my essentials could be packed away and then taken out when I needed them.
If neither of these options will work, get out of the house. Coffee shops are usually good places to work. Keep trying new spaces until you find the one that is just right for you.
Here’s what @Kirsten828 says about picking the right space:
#2 Switch it up
I get bored working in the same space day in and day out, so I regularly move to work in new spaces. Coffee shops, the backyard, and the living room couch are all places I work relatively frequently. If you’re finding your writing space isn’t quite right, maybe you just need to switch up your surroundings for a bit.
You might also find that certain environments are better for different types of writing. I enjoy being in a busy place while I write magazine articles but prefer quiet and the outdoors while I blog.
#3 Invest in yourself
Ask yourself what you need to be a productive writer. Headphones can be a good start, but what about a nice note pad, good pens, or even a few desk organizers? When I set up my Idaho home office, I splurged on some nicer office essentials—like metal pen, paper and mail holders rather than the cheap plastic ones—because aesthetics are important to me, and a beautiful space helps me feel at ease.
An office chair can carry a bigger price tag, but it can be well worth it. Even a new desk can make a big difference. I found a great L-shaped desk at Office Depot for just $270, and my chair was only $99 at IKEA. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a nice setup. (And don’t forget you can write all of these off come tax time, so save your receipts!)
I love this idea by @aj_irving:
#4 Get support and establish boundaries
When I started my business several years ago, my husband and I sat down and talked.
“I am going to give this a good try,” I said. “I’d like to give writing everything I have for six months, and then we can reassess and see if I need to make adjustments. I’m going to need your support as I do this. But this is important to me.”
He agreed, and he’s been a phenomenal support to me since that time. As I wrote in my “office” in Ohio, he respected my boundaries by keeping quiet, usually wearing headphones around the house so he could listen to music without disturbing me. He took on extra housework so I could get projects done and even read and critiqued the vast majority of my early paid work. Now that we have a sweet, opinionated toddler, he takes on much of the parenting load so I can pursue exciting business opportunities.
Who can you ask for support? If you have a spouse, that’s a great place to start. But don’t discount parents or close friends. They all want to see you succeed, too.
#5 Don’t get carried away and forget to write
Yes, a writing space is important. But don’t become so obsessed with setting it up that you put off writing. Get something that works, and start writing. You can improve your space later.
Here’s one way @Amber_Daley sets her writing space up to keep from losing focus:
What can you add? I’d love to learn from you, and I know other readers would, too.