You almost wrote something that would make J.K. Rowling cry.
But you got distracted and lost your train of thought. Drat.
Maybe you need your own office, free of distractions and interruptions? Would that make you more productive?
You know the writing you have inside you is dying to break free and pour onto the page. But how can you expect your muse to wait around while you keep leaving? A third cup of coffee in the kitchen, laundry to finish, and a mailbox to check. You’re getting distracted, and your writing is suffering.
Sure, you might feel good about all the money you’re saving by not renting an office. But if you’re not writing your best work, what good is ‘free’? You want to write ‘bestseller’ material – stuff that will inspire, inform and solve problems. Where is the best place for you to write?
Let’s stop wondering and get some answers once and for all.
What have the great writers done?
Stephen King balanced a child’s desk on his thighs between a washer and dryer in the basement of his trailer. On it was his wife Tabby’s portable typewriter on which he wrote. I didn’t even know that trailers had basements.
Pulitzer Prize winner John Cleever wrote near the furnace in the basement of an apartment building in New York City. He probably sat there, listening to water dripping and pipes banging overhead, and somehow still managed to write.
J.K. Rowling had the idea for Harry Potter on a train, and she wrote about him in cafés and in the one-room apartment she shared with her child.
Apparently, a club of great writers exists whose members started out with writing spots in damp basements and bedrooms. An office is clearly not essential to success. Among these writers, a common theme emerged:
You must have a space to call your own.
Then there are writers who achieved success and recognized the importance of having their own formal space in which to create.
When novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, friend and future biographer of Charlotte Bronte, visited, “the room looked the perfection of warmth, snugness and comfort”, especially in contrast to the ‘bleak cold colors’ of the Yorkshire moors outside. This writer clearly needed to differentiate her writing space from her surroundings.
Roald Dahl wrote in a little shed— a private sanctuary where he could work without interruption. He went into the shed in the morning, kept the curtains closed, wrote until lunchtime, and did not let anybody in.
Margret Forster (award-winning British author) said, “The minute I walk into this room of my own, I swear I become a different person. The wife, the mother, the granny, the cook, the cleaner — all vanish. For two or three hours only the writer is left.”
And you have to do the work, the writing, even if all you have is a closet.
Traveling to coffee shops, writing at the kitchen table, and moving your laptop to the porch are wonderful breaks in the monotony, if needed.
But without your own definite space, how serious are you about writing? Or are you treating your writing like a pretend career?
One day, when you have some success, you can pull out your golden pen and claim a room with a view, an office/writer’s studio of your own, just like most great writers do.
4 Tips for creating an environment conducive to writing
1. Be selfish
Walk around the space you live in and claim any space that feels right to you, that calls to you, even if you have to move some furniture around. Trust your intuition. You may not have an entire room of your own, but you must work with what you have.
When you find the spot you want to call your own, run a stake through the ground and thump your chest like Tarzan. Place a desk or table there. Own your space. This is where you create.
2. Remove clutter from your space
Clean up. If you already have a space that works for you, take time to go through the stuff on your desk and in your workspace often. Papers and accumulated items create chaos and distraction from your dream, which is to write. A messy workspace may be a subconscious form of self sabotage.
3. Create a ritual at your workspace
Perhaps a candle you light when you sit down, or a perfume bottle you spray, or a song you play. It could be a peppermint tin on your desk and you have one before opening your laptop. (I just ate my 6th cinnamon mint — maybe skip the tin.)
4. Make your writing space about YOU
Hang a quote, a picture, or place a trinket —something essentially yours, that reminds you of your goal and motivates you to write. Preferably not pictures of other people, even if it’s your family.
What are you waiting for?
Are you off to read another blog post? Some more tips on writing? Check your bank balance again?
Don’t. Now’s the time to make the best of your space. Pick up a broom and start sweeping. Box up your junk and hang a writing calendar. Change the light bulb.
Don’t get caught up wondering about a right or wrong place to write, or whether to have an office or not. What is essential is that you have your own writing space and that you write.
Make each word count, and give every word you write the environment it deserves — the office of your dreams.
Because word by word, you create your life.
(this originally appeared on Write To Done as a Guest Post I wrote)