Every writer has a lair. It may be in the empty space under the stair. [Sorry, I couldn’t help that one.] It might be in the garage, or the laundry room, or any place really. This is a photo of the desk area where I wrote Rama’s Labyrinth. There’s a window on the right, so I knew when every car drove down the street, and when the mail came, and if the neighbor’s yard service was working. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant place to work. Because it had a door and it was mine.
November is National Novel Writing Month, a time when every aspiring writer can set her or his challenge to complete a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. Last year 325,142 participants registered at the official web site, and a large number of people wrote without bothering to register.
At the end of the month, every participant, known and unknown, is a winner. She or he has put 50,000 connected words on paper. The product isn’t done yet. There will be edits and rewrites, gnashing of teeth and tears of frustration. But the basic premise, the seed that could bloom into a novel, is done.
Writing is portable. Even before laptop computers, there were various options. This damsel with a quill pen has a portable writing desk placed on a table. But since she’s sitting on a sofa and leaning forward, I would guess her arms, shoulders, wrists, back and neck were all complaining before she finished her letter.
Rama, the subject on my historical novel, used a lap desk. I can’t sit the way she does, and can’t comment on whether she was comfortable or not. Rama exhibits excellent posture for the portrait, but I would guess she was leaning forward quite a bit while actually writing.
This charming lady seems to have perfect posture – and also to be ambidextrous.
Jessamyn West, contemporary librarian and blogger, sits at a desk which many writers can relate to. Reasonable lighting, clutter, water bottle, and coffee cup at the ready.
But Environment is Important
Through my own experiences I have discovered that most of the advice for a productive home office is relevant. Here’s what I find most useful.
1. Every home office should have a door. It allows the occupant to separate from everything else. Walk in and close the door. You’re at work. Day over? Walk out and close the door. You’re off duty.
2. Surround yourself with what makes you happy and positive. Pictures. Souvenirs. Anything that sparks the creative muse. Build a space you like to be in.
3. Try to keep desk clutter to a minimum. Otherwise, you’ll keep losing things. Trust me, I know about this hazard.
4. It’s important to have adequate storage and office supplies. Otherwise, you’ll keep leaving to find more folders, or the stapler, or whatever.
5. Bring in some life. Hardy plants. Flowers that last. Plants boost positive energy and help clean the air. But pay attention. Dead plants are not helpful.
6. Pay attention to lighting, windows, and furniture. Get a desk chair that supports your back and encourages you to sit upright. Configure your keyboard at the proper distance for your hands.
7. Remember to get up and walk around. Sitting all day isn’t good for you. Your eyes need to take breaks.
I’ve moved my office upstairs. Can you see how many of these principles I’ve managed to use? Answers below.
I’ve got lighting covered and the lower desk for the keyboard. My main desk is on the messy side. Did you catch the jar of peanuts I keep for stress munching? I usually keep anthuriums as fresh flowers because they last so long.
Though you can’t see it, there is a door. And this space is upstairs. Once I arrive, I can’t hear anything going on in the house. A luxury.
What’s your Home Office like? How many of these features do you have? Remember, if you have to, you can make a work space in any spare corner. Lots of ideas on Pinterest.
Featured Image: The desk I used while writing Rama’s Labyrinth. Photo by Author.
National Novel Writing Month. Here.
“17 Surprising Home Office Ideas.” Real Simple. Here.
Annie B. Bond. “13 Do’s and Taboos for Feng Shui Office.” April 15, 2008. Care2. Here.
Amy-Mae Elliott. “10 Tips for a More Beautiful and Functional Home Office.” July 30, 2012.Mashable. Here.
Alyssa Gregory. “Check List for Setting up Your Home Office.” About Money. Here.
John Patricik Pullen. “5 Secrets to Making Your Office Ultra-Productive.” Oct. 23, 2015. Time.com. Here.
Rodika Tchi.”Increase Your Office Success with Feng Shui.” Here.
Jessamyn West. Web Page.
Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.