I got my first desk for my birthday when I was eight years old. It was white with a matching stool and multiple cubby holes to store stationary. I decorated it with glittery Rainbow Bright stickers (much to my mother’s horror) and carefully laid out my note-cards and pencil cases and spent many hours writing my diary and letters to a pen-friend.
Since then, I’ve worked as a writer in all sorts of different places. In planes, offices, coffee shops, even dental waiting rooms but the best writing days are those when I write in my home office and I’ve learnt that my environment has a huge impact on my productivity.
You might think a dedicated writing space is a luxury but it’s actually a necessity. Your own space to be creative is a powerful signal to your brain to get to work. So whether it’s a small cupboard under the stairs or you’re lucky enough to have your own study, here are five tips for setting up a writing space for success.
1. Invest in a Good Chair
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in it, so make sure you get the best you can afford. Many people make the mistake of focusing on their dream desk but if you’re not sitting comfortably, it’s hugely distracting and can have a negative impact on your health. I bought the fully-adjustable Diffrient World by Humanscale chair which supports my back. I also invested in a second, larger monitor which connects to my laptop and prevents eye strain. The larger screen shows my manuscript and the smaller one my outline and any research I need, saving me flicking between documents.
2. Update and Safeguard Your Technology
Good Wi-Fi is a must of course, but make sure your computer has an anti-virus software. There’s nothing more terrifying than the loss of an 80,000-word document and no back up! Also, have a think about the types of systems you will use to create your book. Google Docs or Scrivener? How will you plan your chapters and record your research? Will you have a notebook and pen or will you use something like Evernote? The good news is that there are lots of options – it’s a case of trial and error to find the right one for you.
3. Set The Scene
Make your space a place where you actually want to be. Decorate it as you see fit and have your favourite things around you. On my desk, I have a candle, hand cream, and a lamp and I have placed my desk near the window so the room is flooded with natural light. I also have a mini-fridge (a girl has to have snacks!), a few pictures, and copies of my books for inspiration. Pintrest has lots of ideas on work space interiors, from small touches to complete redesigns.
4. Reduce Distractions
Social media, your phone, the cat…it’s amazing how easy it is to get derailed by the smallest of things. To combat this, I set a timer for 90 minutes and I don’t let myself focus on anything but my book during that time. Then I have a 15-minute break and then do another 90 minutes. I aim for three 90 minute sessions a day. It might not work for everyone, but it keeps me focused. I also limit the amount of clutter on my desk, make sure the door is closed, and put my phone on the do not disturb setting.
5. Declutter Regularly
Once you've established your space, guard it with your life! Don't let it become a dumping ground for paperwork, sports gear, toys and so on. A messy desk is not going to entice you to sit down and write.
Once a month, have a clear out and get rid of anything that's no longer useful or helpful, making sure you're surrounded by objects that inspire creativity.
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What are your writing goals for 2021?