Where to write: Find or create your ideal writing arrangements

As writers, we’re all different as to our preferred arrangements for writing. In this article, ‘arrangements’ refers to the location and everything that goes along with it, for example the noise level, the distraction level, and the access to electricity.

Getting the arrangements right can be crucial to your productivity. Here’s a picture of where I write. 

In my case, I write best sat at a desk at my laptop, in complete silence with no distractions(!) My house is small so I don’t have a room I can use as an office. The only desk I have is the kitchen table so I write there, and it works pretty well. I live alone so there’s no noise, and I’m quite content sat there, usually with a cat or two on the table or on my knee. It’s not always this tidy – here’s another picture of me taken unsuspecting at work!

There are three areas to address with respect to your writing arrangements:

  1. How to discover what your ideal writing arrangements are.
  2. How to create that ideal environment.
  3. What to do if, for whatever reason, you’re unable to create your ideal environment.

I’ll address them in turn.

Discover and create your ideal arrangements

You may already have a good idea of what your preferred arrangements are. If you know what conditions you like and it’s working for you then stick with it. But if you’re struggling, then this is the time to perhaps try a new location. Success may be defined by how easy you find it to write there, or you can monitor your output, for example in word count.

At home

There is great choice just within the walls of your home. You can try writing lying in bed, sitting on the living room sofa, at the kitchen table, or in the garden. You can try working with or without sound in the form of television or music (vary the type of music to find the type that works best for you). Try working when the family is or is not at home. Turn off the wi-fi if you get easily distracted by the internet. 

When you’ve found your ideal location, make it as comfortable as you can, for example use a chair you can sit comfortably in for a reasonable stretch of time. Use cushions if they help. Gather any material you need, such as reference books and stationery. Have a printer near if you need one.

Outside the home

Outside the home, places to try include a library, a fast-food restaurant like McDonalds, a bus/train station, a park, or of course a cafe/coffee shop. There is a great range of coffee shop type: You can try one in a shopping mall, a bus/train station, a book shop or a museum.

The disadvantage of working outside the home is that you don’t have access to your books and other stationery you might need, although if you are using a laptop you can save books and other documentation to it, and if you are connected to the internet there is of course a wealth of information at your fingerprints.  You also probably won’t have access to a printer (the exceptions are libraries; see below). Each location will have its own noise level; this may vary over the course of the day. There may or may not be access to drinks and snacks. 

Method of writing

Do you prefer writing with pen and paper or do you always use a computer? If the latter, buy a laptop if possible to enable you to try writing outside the home. If you can’t afford one but still want to get out, most libraries have computers you can use. They usually have printers as well, should you need one. Alternatively, perhaps try a different method. Some people successfully write on their phone. This works well if you have a long commute on train or bus. Try it. Try dictating, for example using an app such as Dragon Dictation to transcribe your voice into text.

Dictation is good is you suffer from repetitive strain injury from typing, or from neck and/or back pain from sitting at a computer for long periods. Always remember to get up and walk about away from your desk for at least 5 minutes at least once every hour. Have a stretch. Use a wrist rest if you need one, and if at all possible, position your screen vertically so the top half of the screen is straight ahead. At home, I use a laptop stand and separate keyboard to achieve this. I also use a short keyboard so the mouse is nearer to me. See below:


When it is difficult to create your ideal arrangements

If you are very busy, for example at work, you may need to snatch time to write whenever you get the opportunity. It will be more important than ever to be versatile in your writing location and method. You may only be able to write a few words here and there but learn to see each addition as a victory – they will quickly add up.

If you write at home but noise is a problem, you can invest in a good pair of headphones. You don’t have to listen to anything on them; they will simply help to block out sound. Alternatively, you can wear ear plugs.

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