This article is part of my series How to FINISH Your First Novel. They are the basis of a book by the same name, which will include expanded versions of the blog posts along with contributions from fellow writers. So if you have something you’d like to add to the conversation, or if there’s something you want to know more about, please leave a comment at the bottom of the post.
There are a number of reasons to have a place devoted to creative work. Honestly, I don’t really want to have to get into them. In essence, having a workspace is about having just a few things necessary to get writing work done. Here are my personal preferences.
Reason 1: It’s Set Up for Work
First off, it’s nice to have a quiet place where everything I need to work is in reach. This is why I insist that there is always a bedroom set aside for me as a study. (A workspace is not the sole reason, however. My wife is not a dog person, so the pooch also needs her own space. And my mother-in-law has been known to stay with us for months at a time, which I think speaks for itself.) My study is where I keep all my books, my desktop, my standing desk, and a pile of clutter and scraps that are slowly migrating across my desk like windblown sand dunes.
But I’m fortunate enough to make enough money between my wife and me to afford this extra space. What if you don’t have an extra room to turn into a home office? There are a few options.
- Set up a small table in a corner that gets less traffic than other places.
- Pack everything you need (e.g. pen/paper, laptop, writing guides, etc.) in a bag so that you can set up at any table or on any flat space.
- Go to a coffee shop (or diner, restaurant, laundromat, etc.)
Reason 2: Maximum Focus
The second reason for a dedicated workspace is to minimize distraction, or at least maximize focus. Your space means that it won’t (or shouldn’t) have any of the other various entertainments around. It should be a place that you immediately associate with writing, possibly even as part of a writing ritual. Of course, for many of us who are working on word processors, our computers are now multi-purpose work/entertainment super-machines. They also have the regrettable feature of being connected to the Internet, with all the distractions of social media, cat videos, and video games. (In fact, it’s very much this analog disconnection that makes me most enjoy writing in longhand.)
So at the very least, we can minimize distraction by having a dedicated workspace that best suits your flow. Please note the wording there: your flow. While I may prefer a tidy desk – which I rarely have – some people thrive in clutter. You may work better seated or at a standing desk. (I personally love my standing desk and don’t use it nearly enough.)
Reason 3: The Space’s Associations
And the third reason to have a space of your own: it’s good to have a place you immediately associate with writing. We tend to associate certain states of mind with specific places.] (This is why insomniacs are told to get out of bed if they can’t sleep. Bed should be reserved for sleeping or you know… that.)
So by getting into a writing space, you can actually help get into the writing mindset. But it doesn’t matter where you choose to make physical space for yourself. It’s certainly nice to have a private place at home where the creative juices can flow, but you could get the same effect from just going to the same place outside: the same coffee shop, ordering the same piece of cheesecake at the diner, or sitting in the same quiet corner of a local library. My favorite is a little pizza place near my house that does cheap, tasty food and bottomless coffee.
Apparently, my creative juices respond well to caffeine and melted cheese. Wherever I can find those two things will be my happy place.
If you’re working on your novel – first, fifth, or last – then you may want to check out my blog series How to FINISH Your First Novel. And for more about the importance of space, read the rest of my Make Space mini-series below:
What do you look for in a creative space? Let me know in the comments below!