I hope you had the chance to check out the "Writing Spots" post--accounts from those writers who have found specific places amid home and family and work and life. This series is about slightly bigger spaces, the corner of a room, part of some larger area that they have carved out specifically for writing. I asked them to share what works about their spaces and if there are any specific items that assist in their overall creativity and production. I hope you get as much out of their answers as I did.
As a mother of seven, my writing space has typically been some sort of bag stuffed with my ailing but prized "mini" Acer (a loyal companion for more than five years), writing folders, pens, mints, sticky notes, Hot Wheels and animal crackers (the latter for the current toddler). The Writing Bag has served me well, allowing me to capture a few vital minutes at a daughter's art class, in between carpool, or during said toddler's preschool.
Last week, I finally hit a nirvana stage when I created a Writing Corner in our bedroom. Thank you, IKEA! My daughter and I picked out the essentials, like a comfy chair but not TOO comfy (I'm to write, not nap); a back pillow, cozy lamp, and of course, the cardboard box (while I search for a side table). The Writing Bag sits like a trusted dog beside the chair.
My writing must-haves aren't many because--cue the martyr music--they're not likely. However, they include: protein bars and a water bottle (no sugar until AFTER I produce), a lap writing desk, a project clipboard (with synopsis/outline/notes), and a cell phone in case one of the seven children sustains an injury I absolutely, positively have to resolve.
I write at a little desk in my bedroom on a really old laptop. The most important element for me is the laptop. Because it's so old, it doesn't have a firewall, and I'm scared to access the internet from it. This eliminates the temptation to check my e-mail and social media sites. Unfortunately, it also means I have to use an older version of Word. When I'm revising, I often place the laptop on my tall dresser so I can stand while I type. Usually, music distracts me, but for some reason, I can listen if I stand up while I edit and do a little two-step back and forth.
Another great writing tool I have is a light-up pen that one of my sons got as a souvenir from the NRA museum near Washington, D.C. (I'd rather carry a pen than a gun anyway.) I keep it beside my bed at night, and when I get a good idea, I just grab my light-pen and write down a few lines. Before, I would have to turn on my lamp or a flashlight and always ended up disturbing my husband.
A couple months ago, I asked for a Neo 2 for my birthday and got an Alphasmart 3000 instead. Maybe it's not as good as the Neo 2. I don't know, but I love it. It's been a great way to turn off my internal editor. I have used it a lot for writing rough drafts and brainstorming.
I love my writing room, it’s actually in a little nook in our master bedroom. It’s away from the kids, quiet, and I’m surrounded by books. If I need to do some writing after our kids go to bed, I’m still in the same area with my husband without being distracted by whatever he’s doing. We bought the desk and shelves at Ikea so it didn’t break the budget, and I have lots of room to spread out.
But, for me it goes beyond my space. I have a favorite sweater that I’ve worn for probably 90% of the writing time for all my books. It’s not too warm, super super-soft, and when it’s on, I’m automatically in my happy place. I’ve mended it many times, and one of these days it’s going die and a part of me will die with it. For now, it’s my writing sweater.
One thing I totally LOVE about my writing space is my computer setup. I have a monitor that connects to my 13 inch Macbook. I love this because when I’m at my desk, I’ve got a nice big monitor screen to work with (plus the additional 13 inch screen of the laptop if I want lots of screen space.)
But when I go to a conference, a trip, a retreat, or anywhere, I can just grab the laptop and go. It’s small, lightweight, and so easily portable—and everything is already saved on it, no transferring of data. I know this is a little more pricey than some computer setups, but if you can fit it in to the budget, it’s so worth it!
The older I get, the more my ADHD-I has reared its head, making it hard for me to focus when writing. The best thing for my focus has been a new spot I concocted after researching coping mechanisms and learning that movement can be key for maintaining focus for those with ADHD-I. Without money to buy a new tread desk, I invented a workaround that cost about $15. I bought a pre-made shelf at Home Depot plus some foam pipe insulation, which I cut in half. I put them on the armrests of the treadmill to protect them, then placed the shelf on top. I used some clamps we already had on hand to hold it all in place, and—tada!—a tread desk that’s easily detachable whenever someone wants to work out, and putting it back together takes less than a minute.
I don’t walk fast while writing; 1.6 to 1.8 mph is right for me, an easy pace that keeps my hands steady on the keyboard and my mind focused. I can work on the tread desk for 2 or 3 hours. When I start aching (hello, age), I simply move my laptop to a table. After spending enough time moving, I can retain my focus at a desk for another hour or two, which is fantastic. It’s been a huge help for me.
I’m a left brained person in a right brained career. My writing space is a shared space in our office. My husband has his corner and I have mine. My space has all the tools needed to get the job done—my resource books, as well as my favorite author’s books sit on shelves to guide and inspire me. I have the good fortune to take my laptop anywhere and be able to write or edit my WIP. But when I need to focus and tune out the world, I head to my desk where everything is at my fingertips. It’s a mess sometimes, but I can put my hand on anything I need in seconds. That appeases my left brain, so my right brain is free to do what it needs to create.