Thursday, October 25, 2012

NaNoWriMo Countdown: Work Space

I can write just about anywhere, and I know this because I have. I started writing for publication on one corner of our dining room table. I've also written in coffee shops and hotels, lobbies and waiting rooms, in cars and on airplanes, in physical therapy whirlpools and once (rather memorably) while I was a patient in Labor & Delivery. Nineteen hours of labor is long and exhausting and utterly devoid of fun, especially when you elect to do it completely naturally. They don't let you order in pizza, either, but if you plan ahead you can your guy smuggle it in between nurse checks. To me extra pepperoni is way more soothing than chipped ice and back rubs . . . but I digress.

Where your writing space is, how large it is or how much you can fit into it doesn't matter as much as making it work for you. Once I turned pro I definitely needed a dedicated work space, but at the time we had no spare rooms I could make into an office. My solution was to invest in a rolling computer stand. I figured with it I could make my writing space portable and move it to whatever area in the house was unoccupied.

It worked great. I usually kept the stand in a corner of the living room or our bedroom, but when things got noisy I'd roll it out on the porch. One winter when we had a lot of house guests I took it out in the garage and worked there for two months. All I really needed was a quiet place with an electrical outlet, and I was good to go.

When you think about creating or changing your work space you might consider what is the ideal working atmosphere for you. If you write best in a quiet space, look around your home for a spot away from areas your family most often use. Some writers choose to work in spare bedrooms or garages; I read an article recently about one novelist who turned a walk-in closet into a work space. Others choose to write in attics and outdoor sheds. Many public libraries offer quiet rooms where you can get some work done, too.

If you write best in a public place like a park, mall or coffee shop you should try out a couple and see where you're most productive. I often like to go to the park with a bag lunch for a writing session, especially now when the cooler weather is chasing off the bugs. You should also look at how accessible your favorite public spot is when you need to write; some may be closed or too crowded during the times you plan to work.

If home is too busy and public places are too distracting, you might check with family, friends or your place of worship and see if you can borrow one of their spare rooms as a temporary work space. Churches are often happy to lend you a quiet room in exchange for a minimal fee or even some volunteer time. If you have a day job and a friendly boss, see if you can stay after work to write at your desk or in one of the offices for an hour or two. When I worked a day job I used to spend my lunch hour writing in the back storeroom (and since I was a bookseller being surrounded by all those boxes of new arrivals was very motivating.)

In what sort of space are you most productive with your writing? Have you found any great alternatives that might work for other writers in need of space? Let us know in comments.


  1. Ren Benton10:42 AM

    The car provides insulated quiet, comfortable seating, convenient beverage holders, and shelter from the elements (unless the elements are set to "broil"--I strongly discourage shutting yourself in a kiln at the height of summer).

  2. I write in my bedroom at my desk. Usually it's pretty quiet, if my door is shut and I've got music playing. Sometimes I have the tv on though and it's very distracting. I don't have much room in my parents house so I have to make do. I'd love a separate room that's just an office for me with a bigger desk, desktop and shelves of books, folders and notepads.

  3. I've had some luck writing at the library. It really depends on the culture in your neighbourhood, though - in the past I've lived near libraries where patrons were very loud even in the designated "quiet" areas.

  4. I'm not one of the flexible ones who can write whenever, wherever I want to. I need absolute isolation, comfort, and quiet. I can't write if I don't have good back support and lighting, if I feel cramped or hot or cold, if I know I have to get up and make dinner soon.... I could probably write through a tornado once I'm in the groove and forget everything but the work in front of me, but when I'm first sitting down I need to focus. And I can't focus unless I'm in a comfortable room, alone, with a proper desk and chair.

  5. Keita Haruka4:12 PM

    I can write anywhere. At school, I developed the ability to "tune out" people as needed. I've written in cars, on planes, in trains, every room in the house, outside (although I prefer not to), in libraries, at work....pretty much wherever I find myself. Location is not the limiting factor for me. It's the surroundings. I simply cannot work in a neat, clean, clinical space. Especially not when it's overly white, or all frilly and flowery. I find such surroundings oppressive and it dampens my creativity. I need my writing space to be "organic", cluttered, disorganised, and often wildly impractical. Large windows with a view into a garden or natural surroundings help a lot too. Having other people around can sometimes be distracting, but it's not as large an issue for me as cool-white-clinical-harsh light-flowery-frills. Just as long as they don't look over my shoulder at what I'm writing. If there's one that that makes me lose it completely, it's having someone read what I write while I'm writing it. It's so intrusive I've been known to snarl at them to their faces. There also needs to be music present. White I write, I find that music can be very inspiring, and selecting the right music can bring my mood into line with what I need to write. I can't write happy scenes when I'm depressed, for example, and music helps alter my mood to where I need it.

  6. I feel comfortable writing in living room, kitchen and in car. It will be convenient and it gives better ideas to write about.

  7. Anne V.10:22 AM

    I have an office, a place covered in craft supplies and jewelry tools. I usually end up writing in my ratty recliner with my laptop keeping me warm while the TV is on in the background.

  8. Writing is an specialized skill and the people who are passionate about writing, prefers to write in the nature spots. So that their mind will be relaxed, calm and hence, they will get numerous of ideas.