When I write, I usually try to get out of the house. Most days, I’ll bike over to my local library, where I’ll stare at a screen for a solid two hours and then write a hurried frenzy of inspired words in the last 15 minutes before the library closes.
I like going to the library because it makes everything simple.
Other than the two ladies playing a heated game of Scattergories, there are no distractions. No TVs or radios, no loud noises, and most importantly, no kitchen to go get food from. (Other than taking photos of my dog wearing my glasses, eating is my favorite procrastination practice. I find Goldfish pair well with wasted time.)
But going to the library isn’t always ideal. Sometimes it’s raining. Sometimes it’s too dark to ride my bike. Sometimes I only have a half an hour or so to write, and can’t waste that time trying to transport myself.
It used to be that I’d just plop down on the family couch and decide to work there instead. I tried to type while the Yankees game played in the background. I tried to brainstorm story ideas while my sister studied for her vocabulary test the next day- by shouting out all the words and their definitions. Needless to say, these writing adventures didn’t go very well. I decided I needed to create a space to write, in my own home.
This is where I write now. I made an area that not only is practical for writing, but also inspires me to do it. A little mini library-atmosphere, right inside my own home.
Here’s how I did it: (and how you can do it to!)
Picking a location
1. It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate. Listen. I love Pinterest as much as you do. In fact, I’d rank it my third favorite procrastination practice, after the whole glasses-on-the-dog-thing and eating. But if you search “Writing Space” on Pinterest, you are going to find long, swooping wooden tables with perfectly-aged typewriters sitting on top, surrounded by bookshelves that stretch from the floor to the ceiling.
Let’s think about this image for just a little bit. It seems like the ideal place to write. Surely, this is how all the great writers of the past did it, right? You need a space like this to be a real writer. Take one more glance at that image. Great. Now burn it. Stomp on the ashes. Blow the smoke out of your ears. You don’t need a big desk to be a real writer. I have proof:What room is this, you ask? Who could that impossibly small desk belong to?
The answer is Emily Dickinson. Emily Dickinson as in, considered-one-of-the-most- famous-poets-in-American-history Emily Dickinson. You know what other famous writers scribbled their words on small desks? Mark Twain, (Don’t let his big office fool you- he wrote on a tiny table by the window) Jane Austen, and if all goes well, you.
When choosing my writing desk, I actually opted not to go with, well, a desk. You see, years earlier, I had attempted to build a bookcase. I managed to make the space between the shelves so spectacularly uneven that you could have fit a computer in between them. So I did. This imperfect bookshelf actually made a pretty perfect desk. Be open to thinking outside of the box when choosing a writing zone.
2. Pick a space that makes you happy. If you have a favorite room or corner that you adore, why are you reading this section? That’s great! Set up there.
However, if you’re like most of the general population, you have no idea what makes you happy and are nervously reconsidering your life’s aspirations while reading this. That’s okay. This is not the time for a life crisis. Consider me your overbearing therapist. WINDOWS. Windows will make you happy.
You see, windows offer this real great feature that writers tend not to get a lot of: Natural sunlight! Outside air! And these things will make you happy. Why? Because science says so. Also, Oprah says so. Or at least her magazine does.
Windows are also great because they’re not distracting, but they’re inspirational. The view won’t drive you from your writing, the way a TV might, but if you look out it when taking a break from your writing, you may see something (or someone) that sparks a story.
3. Use a space that’s your own. You’ve already heard my horror story of the communal couch. Don’t repeat my mistakes.
If you share a home with others, pick someplace low traffic. Better yet, choose a room that can be shut. Writing doesn’t mean closing yourself off from the world. In fact, I’d say it’s the opposite. Writing is opening all of your senses at once and letting everything around you filter through your head in an attempt to transfer the most beautiful and ugliest parts of it onto paper.
But to do this, you do need to concentrate. And if you leave your door open, there’s a high chance your sister’s going to come in and talk to you about the most recent feud on Project Runway. (Can you believe Rick used cotton as his fabric choice last night?)
Equip it with your very best writing tools
1. Add books. Books are the best tools for writing, because, hey, they got published! You might want to keep around some of your favorite novels to see how your beloved authors handled a particular type of scene.
I’d also recommend keeping around some books that specifically help you write. The entire shelf above my writing area is filled with these. I have the standard dictionary and thesaurus, but I also have books that made me and continue to make me a better writer, my favorite of which I’ll list below. If you don’t own these books, go buy them. Right now. Pull up amazon, it’s okay, I’ll wait.
- Bird by Bird, by Annie Lamott
- On Writing, by Stephen King
- Spilling Ink, by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer
- Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro
- The Describer’s Dictionary, by David Gram
2. Get sticky notes. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that if you have an idea while writing, you’ll just remember it and work on it later. Don’t you think it’s high past time you stopped lying to yourself? Just get some sticky notes. You’ll thank me later.(Bonus tip: I like to stick mine on the shelf above so I can see them.)
3. Stock up on pencils and pens. I like to collect pens that look cool. Maybe you do too. Regardless of the coolness of your pens, make sure you have some on hand.
4. Make it inspiring. Print out some quotations that mean a lot to you. And not any old quotes. Try to hang up prints that directly address writing. As soon as someone sees your workplace, they should know that this is a place to write. Not a business desk. Not a table to do pottery on. Not a surface to make Washi tape DIYs. (Though I’d recommend making one of those too, they’re a lot of fun.) This is a WRITER’S desk. Be proud about it! Shout it to the world! What you’re doing is amazing. You’re creating people and places that didn’t exist before. That’s magic. Don’t be humble about it. For example, I hung up a literal warning sign. Because you’re dangerous. Be proud.
Keep it a place that inspires you to write
1. Don’t be afraid to change it up. Switch out some books. Change the angle of your desk. Find that your writing area just isn’t working? Move to another place in the house.
2. Make it a cell-phone free zone. I mean it. The point of creating a writing area was to eliminate distractions. Don’t bring one in. In fact, if you like writing on Pages, Word, or another program that doesn’t use the internet, turn the internet off. It will lower the desire to open a tab and mess around on the internet. (If you’re reading this right now while you’re supposed to be writing, I just want you to know that my blog is actually the exception to this rule )
3. Use it! Okay, now I’m telling you to get off my blog. Go create a space and write in it!
Thanks for reading my first blog post! Tell me how I did in the comments, or share stories of your own writing zones. Want to read more of my literary ramblings? Follow me on Instagram and Pinterest, and follow my blog!