Tips for Writers Setting Up Their Workspace

This article is by Bruno Somerset.

typewriter desk

If you are a writer, one of the biggest advantages, whether you use a laptop or a pen and legal pad, is that you can do it anywhere. The key is finding the place that is best for your individual personality. There are as many ways to set up your office or workspace as there are individual writers.

I have always preferred writing longhand outside at Starbucks and transcribing it later on my computer; this gives me the advantage of being able to do the first edit when I start typing. For me, the first draft of a chapter or scene is best done in the midst of people, in the middle of something happening. This method may not work for everyone, but there are some tips I can give with regard to your home writing space, whether you start your work on your computer or are transcribing as I often do:

1. Always write in the same place.

Consistency is critical for success, and just as you should be writing every day, and at the same time if possible, you should try to always write in the same place. Certainly some writers are probably quite successful scribbling away whenever and wherever they get the chance, but for the majority of us, that simply doesn’t work.

2. Choose a location that is free of distractions.

This point may have more to do with the time of day you write than the actual location. Those of us with full-time day jobs will likely find the best time to be in the morning before work or after the kids have gone to bed, for example. Regardless of the time, find a space away from distractions, whether the distraction is the television, the refrigerator, or the family.

3. Keep your writing space as sparse as possible.

Clutter is not your friend. You should have ample space to spread out papers, reference books nearby, and your computer. Very little else should be there, because the more there is, the more distracted you will be, even if the distraction is simply thinking about how you need to clean up your workspace.

4. Have an ergonomically comfortable writing space.

You will be sitting for very long stretches, so a comfortable chair may be the most important investment you make. Good lighting is also very important, both for short-term comfort and your long-term eyesight. Finally, a comfortable keyboard is crucial. Very few of us have large enough laptop keyboards for long periods of typing. If you are using a laptop, I would suggest plugging in a full-size keyboard. It will make your writing flow much more smoothly.

However you ultimately set up your workspace, it will be a reflection of you as a writer. You may want to add something that inspires you, whether it’s a picture of your children or a picture of Hemingway (I personally keep a first edition of The Razor’s Edge in a prominent spot, for example). In the end, your writing space is important because it is one of the tools that you use to follow your dream.

Further Discussion

What is your workspace like?  What about it makes you more (or less) productive as a writer?

Do you have any additional tips for setting up a writing workspace?  What is important to you?

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Jennifer D
Jennifer D
5 years ago

Good advice! However, I often write WITH distractions. I’ll set up a workspace that reminds me of the story I’m writing. I especially like to have the type of music my heroines would be into playing softly in the background.

sarah evanston
sarah evanston
5 years ago

What is my work space like? It is all distractions and try as I may to organize and reduce the distractions, they are still there. I will use your tips and see if I can’t make my desk a more productive place.

Brian DeLeonard
5 years ago

My writing desk is in my bedroom and usually very cluttered. I’ve taken to moving piles of clutter onto the bed before I write, and I think it helps a lot in setting things up right.

5 years ago

I’d like to add… MOVE! I know this sounds counter productive, but if you just sit still for hours on end, you become tense. Taking short breaks helps keep the juices flowing and doesn’t allow for writer’s block. I know when I got stuck writing my book, it helped to go to another room and just move around a bit, simple cleaning or getting a snack.

Ms. Davey
Ms. Davey
5 years ago

I wanted to block out my entertainment devices to prevent procrastination, but I realized it’s a possible source of inspiration too. A timer on my work desk to bring me back on track would probably be better.

John McDonell
6 years ago

Great article. I find the time of day to be key for productive writing. I used to get up at 5am and write for two hours before I had to get the kids up for school and get ready for work. It became a ritual and waiting for the coffee in a daze was time used to psych myself up. The interesting part is that it forced me to really focus my writing effort because I knew the only reason I had sacrificed two hours of sleep was to work on my book. There are very few distractions at 5am as well.
Now that I am starting book two, I have the feeling that I will have to get the rooster crowing earlier again.

Woelf Dietrich
6 years ago

I have cleared a space right in front of my computer. It is as wide as my shoulders are broad. On both sides of me stacks of books form a natural cubicle. I don’t know what to do with them. My shelves are struggling as it is. At the same time, these stacks also remind me I have to read them. Other than that, deadlines, I’ve found, are rather effective for increasing productivity. Also, the need to eat and feed your family. Sometimes the kids and noise make it a struggle, but you keep writing because you have to, cluttered desk and all.

6 years ago

I agree with you about removing clutter from your workspace. I’ve had times when my office was cleared and times when it was cluttered and I notice that I tend to get less work done during the cluttered times. I’m grateful to have a room to serve as my office, but since I do several different artistic mediums there, it tends to pile things up.

Antonio del Drago
6 years ago

Sadly, my writing workspace has been overcome by clutter. This has a lot to do with being a parent, and my workspace being in the vicinity of the family room.

I do plan to move my home office to a private area in the future, but that probably won’t be possible for the next few years.

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