Here's part 2 of Barbara Ardinger's guest post on creating a writing space. Part 1 ran on August 11, 2010.
What are your basic needs? Do you start with paper and pencil? Then perhaps you need a desk or table and a chair that’s comfortable, but not so comfy you’ll doze off. Do you start at your computer? You can’t be staring at that monitor all the time, so what do you want to rest your eyes on between phrases or paragraphs? A tree like mine? I also have a calendar with nice art, my framed Ph.D. diploma, a drawing of a woman writing what may be a journal, and two goddesses, Green Tara and Sophia, who is Holy Wisdom. (Well, let me be honest: there’s also a Muppet-sized witch nearby, and she’s wearing a red button that says Cherish Your Agent.) What can you hang on your wall near your computer that inspires or comforts you? Maybe you want some friendly houseplants. And do you have a good desk chair with adequate back support? It’s hard to write well when your lower back is screaming at you.
Do you like to eat or drink while you’re working? How far away is the kitchen? Do you have a nice coaster for your cup? Room for a little plate? I drink Coke all day, but I don’t eat while I’m working because I’ve discovered that crumbs in the keyboard are counterproductive.
What else do you keep on your computer table or desk? Is the printer within easy reach? Where’s the paper? Is your cup of pencils, scissors, Sharpies, etc. within easy reach? I have two small stacks of paper, right and left, under paperweights. One is mostly printed sample formats for book reviews, and there’s a map of London on top. The other is printed emails, including notes from authors with specific requests or instructions (like the list of words one author wants capitalized in her book). I also have a tube of hand cream and a little desk lamp.
Do you work in silence or do you want music? When I was in graduate school, I was reading works like The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, and the plays of John Dryden, all of which demand enormous concentration, so I learned to crave quiet and solitude. Even today, as I edit at the comma and semicolon level, I prefer peace and quiet. But I know some writers like music. If so, are your speakers properly positioned? Are your CDs within reach? And how close is the telephone?
Finally, how much is going on around you? I know it’s fashionable to boast that we can multitask with ease, and I myself have done decent work while sitting on a bench at the mall while I was waiting for a friend, but I firmly believe that we do our best work when we are not being interrupted all the time. How private is your writing space? You’re allowed to get up, of course, while you’re working on your novel or self-help book, but I can assure you that you’ll do better work if you’ve got a clean, well-lighted, reasonably quiet writing space. If you’re serious about writing, create—or improve—your space now.