Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What Should You Have in Your Writing Space?

Well, uh duh! This one might seem obvious. It doesn't have to specifically be a desk, but you should have a table or something similar that offers support for your arms and gives you something to lean over if you're writing by hand on paper. If you have a computer or typewriter, a desk or table is pretty much mandatory.

Uh duh, part II. If you have a regular writing space, you need a chair that's comfortable for you. Why? Because you're probably going to be spending a lot of time there. If you aren't comfortable in your own seat, this can be distracting from writing. Also, if you don't likely sitting there, it's an excuse for not writing. And none of us need those.

Computer or Typewriter or Pencil and Paper
Your basic writing tools. Of course you need these. If you're writing longhand on paper, I suggest you use pencils and not pens to make it easier for you to erase mistakes and other things you want to change. If you are using a computer, I suggest you use on that is not connected to the Internet, simply so there will be one less distraction (and what a big distraction the Internet can be).

Yes, I'm suggesting you give your writing space a little ... um, well, space. If at all possible, have your own room just for writing. If not, still try to have a mental zone around your writing space that is only for your writing space. You don't want to be cramped in because this creates an unfavorable working environment. You also shouldn't want a bunch of other distractions near, such as television or telephone or video games, etc. And if you can, turn off the phone and TV and anything else that could distract.

Reading Light or Lamp
This one might not seem necessary if you're writing with a computer. The monitor puts off enough light, right? Well, sure it does, but writing sometimes involves work off the computer screen. If you've printed out a story and want to edit it on paper, you're going to need a light. If you have to get up and look for a book, you're going to need a light. If you've set your soft drink down next to the computer, you're going to need a light or you risk knocking over your drinking and killing a keyboard or worse, the hard drive (and I speak as one with experience on this). So, a handy lamp comes in handy in lots of situations.

You're going to need paper. Possibly lots and lots of paper. Maybe you write or type directly onto paper, but even if you don't, you still most likely need paper. Yes, I realize this is the paperless Internet age. But I'm telling you, you really should consider editing and proofing your work on paper and not on the computer monitor. You are much more likely to find mistakes that way. Or maybe it's just me and I'm an old fogey. But I've worked with enough writers and editors and typesetters over the last 20 years to notice that others, too, seem to catch more errors when proofing on an actual hard copy.

Pens and Pencils
Okay, maybe you've got a nice computer and you're thinking you're going to do all your work on that. Think again. Sure, theoretically it's possible you can get by just with your computer, but it will prove helpful to have an old-fashioned writing instrument down when you just want to make a note to yourself about something. Maybe it's a plot point. Or a title idea. Or a potential name for a character. Whatever it is, why wait until your PC or Mac has powered up when all you have to do is take 2 seconds to write a little not and drop it on your keyboard for you to remember for later. If you happen to do most of your writing by hand, like I said above, I suggest a pencil over a pen. And maybe you should even carry a little pocket notebook and a pen for when you're out and about and you have a writing idea.

Writable CDs or an External Hard Drive
This is for those of you who, like me, do most of your writing on a computer. Not necessarily every time you write, but pretty often, you need to make a backup of your writing. That's why you need those burnable CDs or an external hard drive or some other way to copy your files (anyone else remember floppy disks?). Or, if your writing computer happens to have an Internet connection (which I've advised against), you could copy your files online somewhere private, maybe e-mail them to yourself or store them privately on a secret password-protected blog or something else similar, just as long as there's plenty of storage space.

Yes, this is something else you need in your writing space. Some people find peace in silence and solitude, others find it in loud music and crowds. Whatever works best for you, you should probably stick with it. If you're a writer who works best with a little noise and people around you, possibly you should leave the house and go write in a park or coffee shop. If you need quiet and to be alone when writing, you need to find and prepare an appropriate space at home. If you have a significant other, and especially if you have children, you need to have a talk with them and explain how important your writing time is to you, and you can ask them not to intrude except in the case of emergencies and to try to keep the usual roar down a bit.

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