Planting Your Flag: Making A Writing Space Where You Can Get Shit Done

Shown: future location for my Writing Lair. Laser sharks optional.

1. X Marks The Spot. If you can, have a dedicated writing space. I know this isn’t possible for everyone. Hell, it wasn’t for me for a long time. I’ve done most of the writing in my life sitting cross-legged on my bed or couch, because there was no damn room for a desk. Or, in most of my university apartments, even a table. But these days I have a desk—a drafting table, actually—that is solely mine. You can tell it’s mine because I painted it Really Fucking Red and have robots standing guard on the corners. Not having a dedicated place is no excuse for not writing, but, speaking from experience, having one makes it easier.

2. You’re Not A Fucking Toddler, Pick Up Your Shit. Just because you have a desk doesn’t mean you get to bury it under a pile of crap. If there’s no room to work, then guess what? You won’t. You’ll take one look at the bloody mess and do something, anything, else. So organize. Put your stuff away: books on shelves or in boxes, credit card statements in the filing cabinet or the paper shredded, the skulls of your enemies neatly arranged on a shelf somewhere. What’s the point of collecting all those skulls if you’re not going to display them properly?

3. All You Need Is Love. And Pens. Whatever you need for writing—laptop, paper, pens, skulls, whatever—have a place for it on your desk. Pens in the cup, notebook on the left for referring to, scratch pad to the right with a pencil standing by, coffee on the coffee mat, stereo remote next to it, computer in front. If you have what you really need nearby, then you won’t waste time looking for it.

4. Reset, Don’t Rage Quit. At the end of every day, reset everything in your space to zero. Put the pens you used away. Close the notebook so the cat doesn’t puke a hairball on it. Tidy away any scraps of paper, used coffee cups, full ashtrays, candy wrappers, and other miscellany of the writing day. Clean that shit up and reset properly. Even if you had a crappy day and all you want to do is throw it all, laptop included, into a trash compactor. Don’t leave it. Start the morning with a clean, organized desk. Otherwise, you’ll waste time and energy cleaning.

5. Headphones Are Proof That The Universe Loves Us And Wants Us To Be Happy. They block out so much: traffic, coffee shop noise, conversations you don’t want, the sound of my neighbours screaming at each other again. I’d get a lot less writing done if not for my headphones. They’re getting a page in my dedications.

How do you make your writing space welcoming? What does your dream desk look like? Don’t pretend like you haven’t thought of it.

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3 thoughts on “Planting Your Flag: Making A Writing Space Where You Can Get Shit Done

  1. I live in a small apartment, so a desk is a luxury I can’t afford. I do have a full drum set, but that’s another matter. For writing, I use a set of wire shelving I got from Home Depot for twenty bucks. I have a laptop, a monitor, a keyboard and mouse all set up atop it. On the lower shelves I have the printer and other ugly nonsense.

    This way I have a clean surface on which to write, with the added benefit of having to stand. Many of my favorite writers stood at their desks, and I find it really helps with the concentration. I generally wear headphones while I work, too. The choice of music depends on what I’m writing, editing, etc. I also have a strict rule of no Facebook or Twitter or other extraneous bullshit while I work.
    This method allowed me to win NaNoWrMo and get two novels finished in two years, plus a whole boatload of short stories and poems. I don’t know how much of that is due to standing, but I know some of it is.

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