W is for Workspace

Posted by on June 24, 2016 in author's alphabet, recent | 4 comments

W is for Workspace.

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Every author has a preferred workspace. Lucky authors get to work under those conditions on a regular basis. Everyone else figure out ways to make do.

A workspace has many elements.  First, authors have to have some way of setting down their words. Some people work with pen and paper. Others work on computers (including phones, tablets, and anything else that takes typed or tapped input.)  Others record their work, using programs to transcribe the spoken word into a file that can be edited later.

Brainstorming is often done with a variety of office supplies, spreading out inspirational notes on walls or tables.

Any method of capturing words should include a method of backing up data.  Handwritten words can be photocopied and stored offsite or promptly typed into a computer file. Computer files can be backed up to thumb drives, external hard drives, and off-site locations such as cloud storage. Audio tapes can be duplicated and transcribed.  Ideally, each file will be saved in multiple ways in multiple places.

Of course, authors rely on furniture to support them while they’re writing. That furniture must accommodate whatever writing method is used.  Some authors stand at tall desks or walk on treadmills while they work.  Others prefer a more traditional chair (often, one that is ergonomically designed) while sitting at a standard desk.  Some people work in an armchair; recliners can be especially comfortable for people with certain back problems or reduced mobility. Authors who dictate sometimes walk as they work, taking inspiration in a changing landscape.

A workspace includes other elements as well.  Writers often need telephones (to speak with other writers, business partners, and takeout Chinese restaurants for those nights when inspiration is flowing and there really isn’t time to cook. Occasionally, writers need to print documents (including, for some, entire manuscripts), and they may need to scan documents as well.  Sometimes, materials must be sent by mail or other delivery service, and a well-designed workspace includes office supplies to complete those transactions.

Some writers are fortunate enough to have a dedicated home office. Others make do with allocated space elsewhere in a home—a table in a family room corner, a dining room table, a laptop computer that can be stored away when not in use. Still others rely on co-working space outside the home, taking advantage of office machines, electricity, and an absence of distractions.

Every author has a preferred workspace. And for most authors, those preferences change over time as career needs modify, as technology advances, and as financial constraints ebb and flow.

Bottom line, the rational writer is flexible about workspace.  If a computer has run out of power, the rational writer switches to writing words in ink on paper. If a home office doubles as a guest room, the rational writer stows away writing supplies in a different location, ready to snatch a few moments of creative time if the possibility arises.

Those disruptions can actually be a positive thing. While changes in routine can be unnerving, they can also help the brain to break out of ruts.  Authors can find inspiration in new surroundings. They might enjoy brainstorms as they physically manipulate novel objects—paper, pens, recording devices.

Changes don’t need to be permanent.  A single walk, taken with a notepad and pen in hand, might shake free new ideas for a particularly stubborn story. Reclining in a family room chair might provide inspiration for a new book’s outline.

So? What about you? What is your current workspace? What is your ideal one? What barriers are keeping you from working in your ideal workspace?  Can you remove any of those barriers today?

4 Comments

  1. I agree, Mindy, workspace is vital to creativity. I’m just thrilled that it’s summer and I live where I do. On nice days I make sure my work is accessible on my phone, pack my notebook into a backpack and head out to the park or a coffee shop (if it’s raining). I love changing things up, working in different environments. I think it helps my creativity.

    • I *wish* I could work anywhere! I can plot anywhere, and I can edit (on paper) most places, but I need peace and quiet to write!

      • I used to need absolute quiet too, but I’m getting better at being able to work with white noise. 🙂 It’s an aquired skill, I think.

        • I used to work in much noisier spaces, when I was younger; it’s been years since I’ve tried. Maybe I’m overdue for experimenting — I’m not nearly as good at multi-tasking as I used to be and I easily tune out some distractions (e.g., the television if I’m working on designing graphics while a baseball game runs in the background…)