Virginia Woolf’s classic essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” summed up one of the key things any writer needs to succeed: space to work. We need both mental and physical space in order to let the words flow—if we feel too cramped and cluttered, we get thinking about all the deadlines pressing down, that appointment on Tuesday, how the car needs new brakes, the laundry needs to be done…the list never ends.
Without space to write, it’s easy to get bogged down in daily tasks and to-do lists instead of focusing on completing the next chapter.
Achieving your dreams is all about setting goals and priorities. So if you want to become a best-selling author, you need to have finished a book first! Believe it or not, the laundry can wait.
But carving out space for writing can feel…well, self-indulgent. Most of us don’t have the means to build a whole separate structure just to write in, like Mark Twain famously did. Heck, most of us don’t even have a spare room we can dedicate exclusively to writing!
Sure, writing at the kitchen table can work, but it’s not ideal. Again, those daily tasks start creeping in around the edges when you don’t have a space of your own to write in.
A space of your own doesn’t have to be a whole room, though. It’s easier than you’d think to create a writing nook that lets you block out the outside world while you’re working, getting into the zone and flying through your draft.
Regardless of how much time, space, and money you have, you can still create a writing nook that’s perfect for your needs and that will help you focus better and write more.
Here’s a few tips:
Figure Out Your Writing Posture
How are you most comfortable working? Do you write longhand, type, or dictate? Do you prefer to work on a laptop or a desktop? Can you stand while you’re writing, or even walk while you’re writing?
If you sit at a desk all day, it may be hard not to let your mind wander to work if you sit at a desk to write, too. Try switching to a standing desk for your writing—it’ll give you a clear physical prompt to switch mental modes, and it might even help your health!
If you write on a laptop, consider getting a lap desk. This will open up a world of possibilities for creating your writing nook, because you’re no longer tied to a desk and normal chair. Personally, I like one that has a built-in wrist rest to help with ergonomics.
Inventory Your Space
What wasted space is there in your home or apartment? No matter how small your living space, there’s always some cubby or corner that isn’t being used to the fullest…and that’s a great place to set up your writing nook.
Do you have extra room in a walk-in closet? My first writing nook was actually in a closet, wedged between a shoe rack and a small set of plastic drawers. I stuck two storage ottomans there, filled with out-of-season sweaters; I would sit on one, leaning my back against the wall, and put my feet up on the other. A bigger closet might even have enough space to put a small desk and chair without sacrificing storage space.
Unused corners are another great spot to put your nook. Check the bedroom; there’s often a corner that isn’t taken up by a dresser that can get turned into a great writing space, especially since you can close the door while you’re working. Adding a comfy chair, like a folding moon chair, will let you work on a laptop but can be packed away when company comes or if you want to switch to another location.
To get some privacy, consider investing in a folding screen or building one out of a few pieces of MDF and some piano hinges. Screened off from the world, you’ll be able to focus better on your writing—but you can fold up your “wall” and stash it when it’s time to call it quits for the day.
Do you have a window with a little space in front of it? Perfect! A sturdy board and a few inexpensive shelf brackets can create a mini writing desk with a view. You can create a basic writing setup this way just by screwing shelf brackets into the wall and topping with a plank cut to length, or you can spend a little more time (still just a Saturday!) and follow these instructions for a modern-rustic working window ledge. Bring over a chair or stool, set up your laptop and a cup of coffee, and you’re ready to write!
If you prefer to work standing up, you have a lot more options. Yes, the laundry can wait—but will anyone bother you if you’re in the laundry room writing? Resting your laptop on top of the dryer (though not while it’s running—heat and vibration don’t make for good writing conditions!) and standing to work can be a great setup.
You can also try clearing some books off a shelf and setting up a writing nook that way. Use a shelf around eye level to hold your laptop, then position a wireless keyboard and mouse on the shelf below it. Not only do you have an instant writing nook, but you’re also surrounded by books for inspiration and research!
Add Some Comfort
Once you’ve found a good place to set up your writing nook, add a few extra touches to help you get the most out of your writing time.
No matter where you write, you need good lighting. Natural daylight is best, but often, the place you can shoehorn in a writing nook isn’t right next to a window. If you can’t use natural light, go for indirect light—not bright fluorescent overheads—and use either a desk lamp or a floor lamp to cast adjustable light that won’t glare off your screen or make you strain to see. LED desk and floor lamps are inexpensive, efficient, adjustable, and often feature different light settings and intensities so you can find your optimal setup.
Add a small side table or storage ottoman so you have a good place to put a cup of coffee or a candle. You can also set up a white noise machine or a place to put your phone when using an ambient noise app; this can help cancel out any distracting noises that make it into your writing nook and improve your focus.
Setting up a space dedicated just for writing can help you focus better by prompting your mind to let go of other thoughts and switch into a productive mode. Take the time to go through your living space and find somewhere you can tuck a chair and a few writing tools that you use only when you’re getting into the groove of writing.
Before you know it, you’ll find that just being near your nook gets you itching to write—and can remind others in your household that you’re at work and shouldn’t be disturbed for inconsequential stuff like laundry.
Hang up that “Writer at Work” sign and get going!
Do you have a space just for writing? How did you set it up?
For more on fitting writing into your busy life, read on:
- Schedule Your Success: The One Key Habit that Can Transform Every Area of Your Life
- How to Write Your Screenplay in 24 Hours – Advice from a Hollywood Screenwriter and Producer
- 4 Ways to Practice Mindfulness and Master Your Mind