How to create an inviting writing space

When Forgetting English was reissued in April, I did a weeklong Virtual Book Tour, during which several stops focused on my writing space. Having moved into a new space just a few months before, it was interesting — and a little alarming — to see how quickly my nice, clear writing space became, shall we say, “lived in.”

Now, having had to replace a dying computer, I’ve once again spruced up my writing space — it’s now neat, organized, and clutter free. Why is it, though, that I only seem to clear my desk during a time of change, like moving or getting a new computer? The problem is, these changes happen only every few years, if that — and so I find myself living more often with a cluttered space than a neat one.

As an example, below are a couple of before-and-after photos of my desk, during my last move to a new house.

On moving day:


Shortly after moving day:

It’s not pretty, as you can see (though it is homey) — and the problem is, a lot goes on at this desk. This is not only my Writing Space, but it’s also where I read submissions, edit, email, chat with authors, and spend far too much time on Facebook. As a result, when I’m working on my own writing, I find that I’m looking for another spot altogether.

But it doesn’t have to be this way — and the writing must happen, no matter what sort of space we’ve got to work with. So here are few tips for all you writers who, like me, probably struggle with how to create an inviting writing space, i.e., one you can’t wait to get to and never want to leave:

Just do it. “Spring cleaning” should not happen only once a year, and this is especially true for your writing space. At least once a month, go through everything on your desk and see whether it needs to be there. If not, remove it. (I have many scratches from removing the cat, but it is nice to have a clutter-free space.)

– Allot a certain amount of time each day for writing, and stick to it. Even if your writing desk is the same desk at which you do your day job or pay your bills, set aside some time when you will do nothing but write. Set a timer if you have to; disconnect your computer from the Internet if you must. And move everything that’s not related to your writing project off the desk and out of sight. (This may sound like a bit of a hassle, but I’ve tried it, and it works. Out of sight, out of mind.)

– On the other hand, write any time the mood strikes you. Some writers work well with a fixed schedule; others fit in their work when they can. I do a little of both, and often it’ll depend on the project itself. So figure at where you are in your project and how you work best. Sometimes ideas need to simmer; sometimes plotting out a novel takes thinking, not typing. Allow yourself the freedom to write when you’re inspired rather than sit at the computer trying to force it; you’ll save time and avoid lots of frustration.

Do try another spot. While you want your own space to be inviting, it’s always inspiring and eye-opening to get out for a bit. Go to a cafe or library, or trade offices with a writing buddy — often you’ll be most efficient when you’re away from (your own) home and the distractions of pets, kids, partners, bills, the TV, etc.

Above all, clear a space. You don’t need a home office, a b0ok-lined library, a sound-proofed room — all you need is a small and uncluttered space that will allow you to focus on your writing, and nothing else.

Are you still reading this? Go. Write.


3 thoughts on “How to create an inviting writing space”

  1. I always love to see and hear about other’s writing spaces and their reasons behind them. Something of an affirmation in the way a fellow writer’s mind works, I suspect. I recall the first moment I realized it was the bookish and writing life for me at the deepest core of me…I saw a picture of a professor’s study in fading sunlight; books in stacks, bookcases stuffed with not only books, but with interesting odds and ends, a pirateship of an ornate desk littered with papers, orbs, pens and fabulously illustrated opened books. A fireplace cozied by a gorgeous oriental rug and 2 over stuffed chairs. Ah, that was the life for me and the way I wanted my room to look! I have achieved that space in all of my houses from my earliest 20’s. It’s bliss!

  2. Deborah, I too love an overstuffed bookcase. And an overflowing desk, as is clear from the photos…I can’t seem to help it! So glad you have achieved your dream writer’s space in every place you’ve lived — it sounds amazing!

  3. You need a bigger desk! And there is no such thing. I HAVE a bigger desk and that just allows for more clutter. My neighbor across the street has an office that looks like your first picture. His whole personality looks like that picture. Hard person to like…..seriously, I love having my “things” around me…endless number of books, for instance. How to achieve that nookiness with ebooks is my current challenge and I’m failing. Just spent 99 cents to buy Archaeologies and will curl up with it after the ironing is done. Ebooks vs print books: five to one according to your WIR article. Wow. Books are part of my decor. No, I don’t buy them by the yard, but do keep them for re-read, and so my writing space is also my library, my comfort zone, my getaway at the top of the house. But I seriously lack drawers. Drawers are the necessary hide-it-away places for all this detritus I’m sitting in the middle of. My kingdom for a set of drawers….

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