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Get Set: Setting Up Your Writing Space(s) #ReadySetWrite

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

#ReadySetWrite: Get Set--Setting Up Your Writing Space(s) #ReadySetWrite | KayeDacus.comWe as writers are blessed with the ability to ply our chosen art form anywhere we might find ourselves—from jotting notes on paper restaurant napkins to what-if’ing on the order of worship during a long-winded sermon to plotting a three-book series on a butcher-paper table cloth during a dinner/concert. But this isn’t the most practical way to go about writing an entire manuscript, much less trying to do it on a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise.

Setting Up Your Writing Space(s)

If you do an image search for “famous writer’s desk,” you’ll come across a multitude of images that are at once awe inspiring and awful:

Jane Austen (source)

Jane Austen (source)

Marina Warner (source)

Marina Warner (source)

Wendy Cope (source)

Wendy Cope (source)

Will Self (source)

Will Self (source)


Yes, it’s a luxury to have a home office in which we can let go and completely take over the space with the things we need to help us write, be they books, images, Post-it Notes, or other objects that inspire. And if you live with one or more other humans, having a space where you can shut everyone else out is almost a necessity. But that doesn’t necessarily mean behind a closed door in a separate “office” in your home or elsewhere.

If you’re a frequenter of places like Starbucks or Panera, you’ll notice that more and more, these mobile (and caffeine/pastry/sugar) hotspots are becoming the creative “office space” of the new millennium—somewhere with free WiFi with quiet corners in which creative types can sit with a laptop or notebook for hours on end without being disturbed and without disturbing anyone else. So even though you’ve been told time and time again that you should approach writing as if it’s your profession (even if you’re not full-time at it), that doesn’t mean you have to force yourself into an office-style setup if that isn’t what works best for you.

This is my office setup at home (photo taken circa 2008—I have a wide-screen monitor now):

Update 2018
Ten years on, here’s my setup at my desk in my new house:

And while, when I was writing “full-time” and working from home, I did most of my freelance editing on my desktop computer here at this desk (which has never been, prior to this photo nor since, this clean/neat), it’s not where I did the majority of my writing. I actually did the majority of the writing of the majority of my published books sitting in my recliner in my living room on my laptop.

However, I still use my office (the second bedroom in my small house) as a workspace—a space designated for writing-related pursuits, leading to:



Wall Plotting |

Characters + Wall

Unplugging to Plug in to the Story

No matter what physical space you choose to write in, whether at home or at a coffee shop or cafe, there’s one very important thing you do need to do—and that’s unplug from the outside world. That may mean turning off your internet connection for the hour or two (or eight) that you’ve set aside for writing. It also means turning off the TV, video games, Kindle, iPad, or other distractions that we use to procrastinate and that can easily distract us.

I know not everyone can have music playing in the background while writing, and most of the time I can’t write with music that has lyrics—I start singing along and get caught up in the music instead of listening to the voices in my head. (I know, sounds completely sane.) But there’s something to be said for choosing/creating a soundtrack for your story. Specific songs/pieces that are meaningful to your characters and may actually be mentioned in the story. Music that exemplifies the tone and pacing of your story. Your character’s favorite singers or music types.

Or if not music, some other kind of ambient noise that will put you in the right fame of mind for writing. Is your character a bird watcher? How about something with bird sounds. Writing an outdoor scene at the ocean? Sounds of waves lapping on the shore.

If you’re home alone writing, fill the space with this sound that will help set and keep the mood of your story. If the others in your home don’t want to share in the full sensory experience of your writing, or they keep interrupting you, or if you’re out and about writing, make sure to invest in a good pair of sound-blocking earphones. I have several different pairs of earbuds with varying degrees of blockage of outside noise. It’s amazing how helpful a sound cocoon can be when trying to focus, especially when there’s a limited amount of time to write.

If silence is what you need, again, the sound-blocking earphones work wonders—it gives you a visible sign that says do not disturb while you avoid any disturbing sounds.

Filling Your Writing Space

If your writing location is mobile—going from library to Starbucks to a park to home—the way you plan your writing supplies will be different from someone who works in a home office. But even still, I feel like there are some supplies that every writer should have readily to hand at all times:

  • At least three pens—one you could let someone else borrow, one to write with, and one just in case the other two run out of ink.
  • A notebook/pad or blank book/journal. You may not always want to or be able to pull out your laptop, tablet, or phone in order to jot down an idea or brainstorm a plot point when the lightning strikes. But good ol’ pen and paper works in almost any situation. I also like to have one beside me as I’m writing on my Surface or laptop on which to quickly jot down ideas for future scenes, work out what-if scenarios, or make notes of things I need to review/revise when I have more time later.
  • Any files you think you might need saved on a cloud drive (One Drive, Dropbox, etc.). Because I go back and forth between my laptop and Surface so often now, I keep my working files for my story in progress saved in a cloud drive so that I’m not having to remember to move them back and forth and accidentally using an older version of a file. This is not only my current manuscript documents, but my OneNote notebook, notes documents, research links, images, and so on.
  • Calendars, timelines, and goals checklists. Again, saving these in documents on the cloud drive is a great way to keep up with these and to be able to revisit them and check things off of your lists as you accomplish them.
  • As mentioned already, earphones—either for listening to music or just for shutting out the outside world.
  • Post-it Notes. Because . . . Post-it Notes.

What are your must-haves when it comes to your writing space(s)?

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  1. Writer-Talk Wednesday: Ready, Set, Write! |

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