In this blog I’ve talked about what to write, now I’d like to talk about where to write. Why? I bumped into a writer this week that had recently launched her writing career. She asked if I would share a few thoughts on this subject. Well, here are a few basic ideas about home office space and equipment.
If you’re an experienced writer you nailed down your writing space long ago. But what if you are at the beginning of your writing career?
If you’re writing at the kitchen table, don’t lose heart. We all started there. In fact, while I now have a home office, I still resort to the kitchen table on occasion simply because I find it invigorating to change writing environments. A change of scenery stimulates every writer and makes him or her more productive.
The problem with the kitchen table is all too familiar. You have to constantly move all your stuff to the table to start writing and pack it up and put it away when you’re done. Not to mention, you have to prepare your meals there, dine with your family there, help with homework, feed the dog, cat, or both, wipe the counters, put away the groceries, and then watch the traffic traipse through this room known as the “heartbeat of the home.” And while you want good stuff in your articles that doesn’t include macaroni or grape jelly.
Naturally, a spare bedroom is the ideal writing space but if the kitchen is your only option, you will either have to run with it or create a mobile office. More on that later.
Start by assessing the rhythm of your home—The key to creating a writing space in the kitchen is to understand the rhythm of your home. Every home has its natural rhythm. It has its own energy and schedule. When is this space most active other than mealtime? More importantly, when is it least active? Schedule your writing time during extended kitchen downtime, when the kids are at school, playing outside, lost in video games in the family room, or asleep.
Next, claim this time for yourself. Explain to your family that you would like this to be your time. When my kids were young they got on board with this. When they understood that I needed this time and I requested their cooperation a funny thing happened. They respected my time and my schedule. When they needed to talk with me they would leave a note and I would follow-up with them when my writing came to a natural break. And a few published articles and a paycheck can go a long way in helping your family respect your writing time.
Laptop or desktop? This is obvious. You can’t lug a desktop back and forth to the kitchen. I recommend a laptop for a few reasons. First, in my opinion, desktops are becoming dinosaurs. Second, laptop screen quality is outstanding. Third, laptop memory rivals desktops. Fourth, cost is no longer a differentiating factor. Laptops are very affordable. Fifth, society is increasingly more mobile, so stay portable. Sixth, a laptop has a greater probability of being your exclusive property versus sharing a desktop with the entire family. (Sharing a family computer just doesn’t work for a serious writer because you not only have to share the computer, you have to share the room where it resides.)
Peripherals. If you don’t have them already (but I’ll assume you do), I recommend a wireless modem, router, printer and high-speed wireless service. This is a given today. With a wireless system you can be productive anywhere in your home. Print documents from your kitchen, living room, rec room, bedroom or patio. Watch the sales circulars; wireless equipment is not much more expensive than wired equipment.
Finding a Writing Place
Okay, let’s say you just can’t create a writing space in your home because you have a large family and a small home. Now what? Well, if you can’t create a writing space maybe you can find a writing place. Earlier, I mentioned that our world has gone mobile so your writing career and writing space may need to be mobile too. Once again, a laptop is the key. With Wi-Fi access available at Barnes & Noble, Starbuck’s, Arby’s, McDonald’s, Panera and several other coffee shops and cafes, you can write, check e-mail, conduct research, and surf the internet just about anywhere. (Check these sites for wireless service in your area.)
Funny thing about writing in one of these offsite locations, the ambient noise actually enhances the writing experience. Think about it. While the sounds of conversations, clanging dishes and the hiss of an Espresso machine may be a major distraction in the kitchen at home, at these locations they melt into “white noise” and mysteriously motivate us to write. So, if your office situation is not ideal at home, consider the possibilities of an off-site office.
What if I don’t have a laptop? While laptops are quite affordable these days, I respect the fact that your family budget may not have a laptop anywhere near the top of the list. My recommendation then is the more affordable netbook. A netbook has a comfortable keyboard, is great with internet research and managing e-mail. With a flash drive, you can easily transfer your files to the family desktop when you get home.
If you are a beginning writer, I hope these simple ideas will help you get started. For those of you well beyond this point in your writing career, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on where you started and be thankful for how far you’ve come.
Your Turn: Tell me where you started writing or about a turning point in your writing career.
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