I’ve been thinking about what I need to work efficiently and productively, and, perhaps more importantly, what I don’t need.
I’m lucky enough to have an office, which because it is primarily mine to use, is set up in a way that makes me comfortable and happy. Which is good, since I spend most of every day in here. It’s recently been repainted a color that I love, and I gave my desk and other furniture — some of which I have had for many years — a makeover with some fresh white paint. The room is now cheery and bright, which is something I need in a home office. …There’s a window, but it’s not too distracting, since you have to stand right next to it and crane your neck to see anything much.
But what do I need to write? At the most basic level: Just my laptop. Ok, and maybe some coffee. But one of the things I like about having an office is that I can keep pictures, books and other things around me that inspire or that I sometimes refer to. So there are reference books in here: Chicago Manual of Style, a 4-year-old Writer’s Handbook, an AP style guide, some writing-related guides, a pile of lit magazines, and a few anthologies that contain writing I admire. I keep writing magazines in here (Poets and Writers and the Writer’s Chronicle), and I keep my notebook full of submission guidelines and deadlines. There’s a folder for rejections on my desk, and folders I use to keep track of administrative things related to freelancing. I’ve put images (art in the form of postcards) I like on my bulletin board, instead of (well, mostly instead of) reminders and practical things.
My desk is almost always a mess. It’s rare to be able to see the surface. I am usually jotting down things in notebooks, and sometimes (like now) I have three going at once. (Yeah, ok, so I have a thing for stationery and notebooks…) The notebooks are all over my desk, as are two calendars (weekly and monthly) a bunch of pens, printed research for a story I’m working on, various assorted dirty dishes (I tend to eat breakfast and lunch at my desk), a tangle of power cords for a ridiculous number of devices …(I recently quarantined these in a bucket, which has helped a lot), some carpet samples, a stuffed Totoro, the dog’s vet paperwork …my desk is kind of my dumping ground. Some people might not be able to work amidst all that clutter, but I don’t mind. I guess I kind of require it.
Other things in my office that are helpful from a writing perspective:
– a USB jump drive …I used to back up my work every day, particularly when I was working on my MFA thesis. I’ve started to get out of the habit a little, which is bad. Don’t do that. I keep mine on my key chain with my house keys, so where ever I go, my writing goes, too.
-speakers. I don’t necessarily need to listen to music when I’m writing, and I can only listen to certain types of music (jazz…and, um, jazz) when I’m sitting down for a serious writing session anyway, but when you work from home, it can get pretty quiet and music sometimes helps with the conversational silence.
-a headset I attach to my cell phone so I can do interviews and type at the same time.
-a good chair. This one is probably the most important. I have horrible posture and having a decent chair that forces me to sit correctly is a must. Otherwise I end up with muscle spasms and knots in my back and all kinds of carpal tunnel fun.
Things that I don’t need in order to write, but think I do:
-The Internet! Wireless is an awesome technology, but it has really increased my Internet addiction by about tenfold. This is my greatest distraction (she says, while blogging) bar none. The writer Stephen Elliott wrote a great piece about his experiment to not use the Internet for a month which I greatly admire and fully admit that I would be unable to do. (via After the MFA)
-Snacks!…chocolate chip cookies, jelly beans, pretzel sticks, dry cereal, and Twizzlers being the ones that have me making regular trips down the stairs to the kitchen recently. It’s a time suck, getting snacks, because inevitably, once I’m down there I’ll get distracted by something else (the mail, the backyard, the dog…). Plus, not healthy, too much sugar, watch that figure, blah, blah, blah. And snacks are not a good way to ease writer’s block, stress over deadlines or other such woes. Except that sometimes they are.
What do you need to be able to write?