…is often half the battle. At least that’s how it always seems to be for me. I finally get to the point where I have decided on an idea or project, and committed to seeing it through, but then I get stuck at where and how to start.
Thankfully in this instance, my trusty Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2017 is proving to be invaluable and has countless suggestions for the novice author lacking direction. The chapter which stood out to me as an obvious starting point was ‘The writer’s ultimate workspace’, by Rib Davis (p. 635 for those of you interested).
As someone who likes things neat and tidy (in theory if not always in practice…) this seemed like an ideal place for me to start.
Davis goes through some key points that are well worth looking in to. Have a read of the chapter for yourself, but the main things I took away were suggestions such as:
- Location: ‘finding the ideal workspace’ can make all the difference to a writer’s level of productivity. Knowing what works for you, or taking the time to figure it out if you’re not sure is definitely worth doing.
- Think about your ideal temperature
- How close are the ‘amenities’ (food, water, loo…)
- Do you prefer a window view or are you too easily distracted by clouds?
- Isolation vs. a bit of ‘background noise’
- Are dark/bold/muted/no colours better for your concentration
- People: are you the kind of person who needs to be in complete isolation to get in the ‘zone’ or do you prefer not to be cut off from the rest of the world?
- Working from home – how easy is it for your family/roommates/whoever to distract you?
- A door with a lock can be useful if small children are in the house so they can’t keep interrupting you (*to be clear: lock yourself away, not the child…*)
- Be selfish – make sure people know not to interrupt you if you’re writing: this is your job (hopefully).
- Explain that just because you’re taking a break does not necessarily mean you are available either, sometimes you just need a brew/wee/stretch of the legs.
- Space: making sure you have enough room to do everything associated with writing is also important. It’s not just about having space for your laptop/pen and paper.
- Think about research and planning. Is there space for your notes to be out and available while you’re writing.
- Admin work – a lot of people forget that things connected with publishing/producing/selling your work take up space too.
- Files – having a good physical and electronic filing system in place is invaluable, and takes up space! Make sure there is room in your work area for this.
Finally, Davis sprinkles his essay with a few useful suggestions to help make your workspace more writer-friendly and keep distractions to a minimum:
- Write offline – obviously research and planning may need some online time but when you actually sit down to write, make sure you’re not going to be distracted by constant alerts and notifications, or even just the lure of checking your Twitter feed or Facebook messages.
- Turn off email notifications – You may not want/be able/know how to work offline, in which case you can alter your computer settings to make sure that your emails and social media accounts don’t keep popping up in the middle of author-ing. Have a dedicated time to check all of that, and then log out and leave them alone.
- Ignore your phone – just because it’s ringing doesn’t mean you have to answer it. You can set it to silent/vibrate or even airplane mode if you really don’t want anything coming through. Some phones have settings where you can have it on silent but pre-programmed important numbers will still be able to get through (eg. pregnant wife/elderly mother/kids’ schools) so that emergencies won’t be missed.
- Use books – online dictionaries and thesaurus’ can be useful, but inaccessible if working offline. Invest in a good physical copy of each, and any other books that may be relevant to your specific genre/project.
- Take breaks – combat exhaustion, writer’s block, cramping fingers or a numb bum by getting up and stepping away for a little bit every so often. Then come back refreshed and ready to resume writing!
Quite a lot of good things to think about, some of which I’d never really given much consideration to before and all of which are probably applicable to other work-from-home professions too.
Personally, I can’t sit by a window because I do get too easily distracted by clouds, so the dining room is a great place for me. I don’t like being interrupted by people but I do need a bit of background noise, so having the TV on quietly in the other room while my husband is out is the perfect solution. Our dining table is big enough for all of my files, folders and books for the projects I’m currently working on, and I actually quite enjoyed spending this morning sorting through everything and getting it all organised in a way that works for me.
It doesn’t look like much, but I feel like the day has been productive, and as I’ve sat here researching, writing, planning, and currently blogging, I’ve felt calm and in control because I know that everything I need is in reach, and there’s no clutter, people or clouds to distract me.