Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why You Need a Writing Space

I love my Monday posts every week, when I get to comb the Internet for pictures of funny, warm, beautiful, and interesting offices and writing spaces. Coincidentally, I heard from two readers in the last few days who mentioned that they don't have a work space of their own. I'm here to tell you:

You need an office.

And here's why: writing (or editing or copy editing) is your job. It's not a hobby that you like to do in your spare time (even if you like to do it in your spare time). It's a job. And it's not something that can be done sitting on the couch or while jockeying for space on your kitchen table. I know there are lots of people who do just that and do it well, which, if it works for you, that's great. But I still want to make my case for why your own space is incredibly important and will actually help you get your work done.

When I made the big "real" job to writing job leap, I was worried that I wouldn't have the discipline to actually sit down and write for 8 hours a day. I wanted to force myself to stick to a routine, to recreate as much as possible an actual work setting. I promised myself two things:

1. Get an office
2. Don't wear pajamas every day.*

When we were apartment-hunting, the only thing I thought about was "I will be here for literally the entire day, and I have to love it." Luckily, we hit the jackpot with our apartment, and I built myself my dream desk, and I absolutely, up-the-wall, adore my sunny little corner. It is beautiful, it is relaxing, it is mine.

The mine part is very important. My desk is not the husband's desk. My desk is not where the mail goes or where we drop off groceries. My desk isn't even where I get other work done. It is a space absolutely dedicated to writing. I have all my papers there and my notes and my pens and pencils. I have a big, gorgeous external monitor and space for my laptop. Everything I need is within arm's length, and when I sit down every morning, everything is exactly where I left it.

Having a desk has given me boundaries and guidelines, which, with a job as freewheeling as this, is incredibly important. I make sure my butt is in the chair by 9AM, and I do not leave until 5PM. While I'm actually at the desk, I might write or I might stare out the window for 45 minutes or I might spend an hour researching Chinese mobs on Wikipedia. But the important thing is that I'm at the desk for 8 hours a day, and in general, that makes the work get done.

I know for a lot of people, having your own space can be extremely difficult, but it is so rewarding that I urge you to try to carve out something: a desk or a corner of the room that is purely for you, where no one else sits, where you can go to every day free from distraction. I'm sure it's possible. I am sure. I lived in a teeny-tiny apartment that I shared with two other people for three years, and I still managed to give myself a corner in my bedroom that became my writing space.

And writing spaces don't even necessarily have to be in your own home. A favorite coffee place can be a writing space (although you run the risk of angering barristas). You can write in public libraries or even find a shared office space in your area where you can rent out a desk by the month.

What's most important is that the space supports your work, not distracts from it. You're doing serious, important, hard work, and it demands the respect of its own dedicated area. So get an office.

What do you think? Do you have a space or are you a couch-bed-kitchen table writer?

*I wear pajamas every day. The first few days, I tried changing into real-people clothes, but after a week or two I realized I was more comfortable just staying in pjs, and when I was comfortable and not thinking about my clothing, I was less distracted and more productive. So most days I wear pj pants, a t-shirt, and a huge bright-blue bathrobe that makes me look like a muppet and is exceedingly warm. Except because I have a standing desk, and my slippers don't provide enough support, I also have to wear my running shoes. It's...not an attractive outfit...


  1. Currently I write where-ever I am in the house. And since I live alone (besides my dog and my cat) it's not too big of a deal. However, I do find myself easily distracted.

    I did set up an area specifically for my art/writing, but the cat has run it over and it often smells like cat litter and is very messy. So I don't go in there very often. Also, there isn't enough room on my desk for my computer and my printer and all the other crap I have piled up on it.

    I need to go to Ikea when I have money lol :)

  2. I'd definitely suggest trying to build a space for yourself, someplace where you like to be and that you only, only use for working. It's really amazing how much more focused you can be, just from the little psychological kick of "Now I'm in the place where I get my work done."