Every person’s writing journey is unique, every situation is unique, and you have to design your writing space based on what you have and the way your mind works.
Everyone needs a space to write. But everyone’s space looks different. I know that I’m super lucky to have my own office. I know many writers who just have a bag as their space.
Examine Your Space
What do you have access to? A bag? The dining room table? A desk in a closet? Or a whole room? The space you have determines what you will do. However, if you have no space to call your own, it’s okay. I do some of my best writing out of a bag on the go.
A mindset that you can write no matter what you situation will help you. If we we wait for the right set of circumstances, the perfect space, we may never write. And the PLACE you write doesn’t determine your success.
If you have to share a space with family members, it’s good to talk to your family about your priorities and really establish that you are serious about your writing life. Even my kids know that I’m serious about writing. If you have to be in a room with others, consider getting noise-canceling headphones. I’m also not above locking myself in the bathroom with my laptop.
Up front, determine what supplies and space you will need. Here are the spaces I have:
This is where I keep my writing books, mentor texts, and children’s literature textbooks. Because I have two young kids, this is not the only place we keep books. We have children’s books in every room—both of their bedrooms, our family room, and my office. I keep the ones in my office that I refer to often or use for teaching classes. I also get loads of books from the library, so I always have piles of books on the floor. This is one advantage of being able to close the door. I’m organized but not always neat.
I actually have two desks. One desk holds my computer. One is for writing by hand and holding files. They are parallel and my chair is in the middle. These are cheap $30 tables that fold up. I’d love my desk to be set up like this, but I can never keep it this neat.
Computer and printer
My computer and printer are staples that I can’t do without. Mine are sitting on a extra sturdy bookshelf that used to be a changing table when our kids were babies.
I do keep file folders, post-it notes, pens, etc. Most things are above my desk in boxes I purchased at The Container Store.
If you don’t want to do stackable boxes, I’d recommend getting baskets from the Dollar Store. I tend to hoard office supplies. If you can make do with a less, then I’d recommend just putting a few supplies in a pencil bag, kind of like these ones that fellow picture book writers, Sarah Davis Maynard makes.
I have three spaces for files: 1) stories/books on submission 2) research 3) in-progress. I tend to like to have things out for me to visually see them. This does take up a lot of space, but since my filing cabinet is in a closet and is a bit hard to access, this works for me.
One of the best books I’ve read about organizing is Julie Morgenstern’s ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT.
She talks about ways to organize files. I’d personally love to transition to digital files ONLY, but I find printing out and marking on paper to be a useful revision strategy. I wrote a post about my files here.
I do have files in very organized files on my computer, backed up by Dropbox. I date revisions by the title and date. Example: PERFECT PICTURE BOOK 11.15.15.
I often have things around my desk that inspire me. I actually made vision board based after I read this post. I created it using fabric I bought in Thailand wrapped around a cork board. Most of the items on the board mean something to me or provide me of a reminder of why I'm doing this writing thing.
I also have small, tangible items that are representative of books that I’m working on or have worked on. I have Carrara marble, a signed baseball and baseball rule book, fairy stones, and more. These are all things that are tangible reminders of my projects.
I have file boxes (banker boxes) for my novels and research and a filing cabinet which stores both personal and business files.
When I’m working on a novel revision, as I am now, I tend to need binders available. For example, I keep one binder as my “bible.” This is all of the “off the page” work I do for the novel. It holds research, histories of characters and their backstories, maps I’ve drawn of the settings in the book, calendar for the timeline in the story, and more. I also have a binder with my latest version of that book and my notes for revision.
We writers are a quirky bunch. Sometimes we need weird routines that summon the muse. My writing day begins at 5:00am where I write before I go to my day job. Part of that involves coaxing myself out of bed. Because my office has always been on a floor away from my kitchen, and I have zero desire to wake up the pattering feet in my house that might keep me from writing, so I brought my comfort station to my office. I keep a covered glass pitcher of water there, pour it into my hot pot, and I boil water for tea every morning. My favorite is Yogi Green Tea Kombucha, which I buy in bulk. I also have a KIND or LUNA bar with it. I bring it to my desk and don't make noise or waste time in the morning. It's completely unnecessary, but it makes me very happy.
Sherri first asked me to do this post because she wanted to redo her office. My biggest piece of advice is do what works for YOU. Organize the places in your office that make sense for your projects, your space, and your habits.
But most importantly, make it a place that you want to go to often.
Stay tuned, because coming up next will be a post about how to organize all those things you have to do!