Whether you write for a living or for leisure, you need a space to let your creative juices flow. No matter if you’re living in a 2500 square foot home, or you share a two-bedroom apartment with 3 other humans…there are ways to create the space you need. Think how resourceful we’ve gotten with our space over the past 2-3 years, with WFH options and people choosing to embrace their living space!
Why Space is Important
Your environment matters. There have been a lot of studies that show the calming effect a clean space has on the mind, for example. Conversely, a cluttered space can feed a cluttered mind.
When I sit to write, if I see dirty laundry on the floor, a glass that needs to be taken to the kitchen, or plants that are so desperate to be watered I think I hear them gasping…well, I get distracted and my brain immediately shifts from creative zone to practical zone. Then you know what happens?
Yup, zero words get written and, instead, I’m up dealing with the mess.
You want to create a space that enables your creative zone…however that looks to you. For me, this means a clean space, with zero home-life distractions (this is not the time to be focused on chores!), and just a little smidge of indulgence—a scented candle…some extra comfy clothes…calming tunes playing…maybe a special hot drink at my side…
For me, these things work together to create the creative zone I need to be in to write. It’s important, when reading my tips below, that you factor in your own personal preferences. What works for me may not work for you—we’re all beautifully unique, after all!
So, with that in mind, here are some tips for creating an inspiring writing space that you actually want to write in…
Choose Your Space
This is a pretty obvious first step. Where will you write?
In your office?
A guest room?
On the couch?
At a coffee shop?
Obviously, the most convenient space would be in your home…but, for some, the home can be a Netflix-sized catalogue of distractions and busy. If it’s impossible for you to find a private space (or create one via headphones), you may need to leave your home.
A quick search of Pinterest writing spaces is sure to inspire you to try new places or create one in your home. Don’t be intimidated by the Pinterest aesthetic though—make it your own with the space and resources that you have available to you.
I tend to go back and forth between writing in the comfy chair in the corner of my office and taking my laptop to a local library. Note: I don’t write in the same space I work—I want to do every single thing I can to separate pleasure writing from work writing (not that I don’t love my job—but you know what I mean!), and that includes physical location. At home, I’m surrounded by plants, art, books…all kinds of creative inspiration.
Some days, though, I need to just get out, and the library is the place for me. It takes enough effort to get there that I want to make it “worth the trip” (aka, write some words!), and what’s more inspiring than being surrounded by all those books?
Choose Your Device
Typewriters are popular with a certain crowd, pen/paper with others, and still others prefer to sit at a computer to create.
If it’s within your ability, many people find it helpful to have a device (tablet, laptop, or ye olde pen/paper) that’s sole purpose is for writing projects. This helps to set the mood and switch over to writing mode when the device is not also used to watch cat videos on Youtube.
My tip here: Don’t be lured in by trends or what your concept of “what a writer should use.” Write using the tool that works for you! Simple reason for that: You’ll be more likely to continue writing if you go with a system that works for you (bonus: You’ll probably save some money, too…).
Manage Your Internet Connection
Unfortunately, it’s increasingly easy to get caught up in distractions when you’re connected to the internet. Oh, how many times have I sat down to write, only to be drawn into the latest Twitter debate, grocery sales, or catching up on local news…all under the (wrong) reasoning that “I’ll just take a 5 minute break…” Sound familiar? Before you know it, an hour has flown by…an hour that you could have been writing.
Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate distractions and make use of the latest technologies.
The obvious thing to do is disconnect from the internet altogether while you are writing. Most devices have options for a “focus mode” or “do not disturb” setting that not only shuts down the internet but also disables notifications. Another tip: If you’re using a computer, create a separate writing profile that doesn’t have an Internet browser at all. Give yourself that devoted writing time you said you were going to have by eliminating all possible Internet distractions.
If your writing requires research, try separating research and writing time so that the internet can be enabled only when you need it. There are even devices designed specifically for writing that don’t connect to the internet at all. Should you run into a “I need to research this” moment while writing, try to flag it with a comment and move on—constantly switching between research and write mode will only slow you down and interrupt those creative juices!
Have a Regular and Predictable Writing Time…When Possible
Whether it’s once a week or once a day, having a predictable time that you commit to sitting down and writing will help you stay focused and be in the right headspace. This will certainly take practice as you learn the best time for you, but start by trying to find the best time of day for you. Try writing in the morning, afternoon, and evening and see which is best for your energy and creativity.
Once you find the best time, try experimenting with the length of time you spend writing. Some people like to work in small 20-minute blocks while others reserve half or full days to dedicate to writing. There is no right or wrong way to do it!
Of course, your own personal circumstances will decide what is “regular” and how “predictable” you can be. If you have young children, you might be laughing at my advice right now, am I right? There is no predictability with littles in the picture, so if that’s your situation, your “regular” and “predictable” might look more like “whenever you can” and “what is convenient for the house.”
Same goes if you have any medical condition where you might have flare-ups and that might impede your efforts to have a regular schedule. This is my personal situation right now actually, so I write when I can, when I’m able, and when my health allows. I don’t get up at 5:00 am to write because I have sleep challenges and mornings tend to be difficult for me—so that’s a predictable state for me, I guess! I’m a huge fan of take what you can when you can…but if you can try and create some kind of regular schedule, you will train your mind and body to accept a regular writing practice into your life with greater ease.
Set the Mood
I like to light a candle when it’s time to write—it’s a simple and pleasing way to signal that it’s time to get to work. The ambiance and soft glow of the candle is calming for me and the scent is a nice treat. I have candles that I only light when I’m writing creatively, too, so it acts as a bit of a reward.
You can set the mood of your space with anything from the paint on the walls to plants on the shelf. The type of mug you pour your tea/coffee into to what art you display. This is a truly personal experience and one that requires you to figure out what you need in your space to feel comfortable and inspired.
If you’re taking your writing on the road and leaving your home, you can still set the mood—bring headphones and listen to creative music, go to a space known for beautiful art, or take your own beverage with you in that special travel mug.
Take a Break
That’s right, walk away.
Ideally, keep walking until you find yourself outside and get some fresh air.
Many writers swear by walks. In fact, in 2019, Tanya Gold started a movement to get editors out from behind their desks and outside. This has since blossomed to include all kinds of writers and creatives to participate in daily #StetWalks. (If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen me post this hashtag from time to time.) “Stet” is a word used by editors that means “let it stand” and is a way to encourage people who are normally found behind a screen to get out and move.
Walking and fresh air have been proven to invigorate and get those creative juices flowing! If you’re not able to physically walk, try to sit by an open window, sit on a porch or stoop outside…anything where you can get the benefits of fresh air into your system.
Time to Get Writing!
Now it’s time to write! Set the scene but don’t allow yourself to overthink this one. You don’t want to be so focused on creating the “right” space that you neglect to use the space for what it’s intended: writing!
Your writing space will be as unique as you…so enjoy creating a space that fuels your creativity.