When you sit down at your desk, is your writing workspace covered with doodads, distractions, and empty coffee cups? Keep in mind: Drinking a daiquiri at your desk won’t make you write like Hemingway, and using a quill won’t turn you into the next Jane Austen. But there are some items that will definitely help you write more efficiently and creatively—and others that will ultimately distract you from doing your best work. Here’s how to prepare the perfect writing desk:
What To Ditch From Your Writing Desk:
Clock. Being a clock watcher can make it seem like time is crawling and you’re not accomplishing anything. So banish any desktop clock and take off your watch. And consider popping a sticky note over that little clock in the corner of your computer screen. Focus on your writing, and you’ll be surprised how much time has gone by—and how much you’ve accomplished!
Cell phone. No text messages and no phone calls while you’re writing—interruptions can break your train of thought. Plus, with your smartphone tucked out of sight, you won’t be tempted to glance at Facebook and Twitter updates.
Clutter. For some people, working in a neat, streamlined workspace leaves more room for imagination. If you’re the type who keeps distracting knickknacks, books, or gadgets on your desk, consider tidying up anything within direct view while you’re writing. It could help your productivity.
Bills, to-do lists, letters from your insurance company, your bank, etc. Although your writing space might also function as your home office, don’t let the tasks of running your household sidetrack you from concentrating on your writing. Put paperwork elsewhere while you write.
What To Keep On Your Desk To Improve Your Writing Process:
Glass of water; small snacks. Before you sit down to write, grab a cool drink, or a warm one if that works better at nourishing your creativity. And gather your “food for thought,” whether it’s a snack or a few sticks of gum. That way, you won’t be tempted to use missing items as an excuse to veer away from the task at hand.
Timer. We know, we know: We just told you to get rid of your clocks. But for some people, writing against a deadline is the best way to be productive. Try setting a timer for one hour, then make a commitment to stay focused and on track until the timer goes off. You might see your productivity improve! Learn more about timed freewriting for productivity.
Style guide. Sooner or later, you’re going to want to confirm you’re using the correct form of “its” or “it’s.” Keep a style guide handy to quickly answer any grammar questions—you don’t want your work to be filled with errors! You can also use a reputable online grammar resource like Grammar Girl for quick advice.
Mood board. Gather visual inspiration to immerse yourself in your writing. For example: If you’re writing a medieval piece, gather bits of fabric and photos of weapons, castles, and tools that remind you of that period. Create a collage—a mood board—and gaze at it often while you’re writing. You can even create a virtual mood board.
When Your Desk Still Isn’t “Write”
If rearranging your workspace doesn’t improve your productivity as a writer, you might need to take drastic measures. Claim a chair at your local library or café, and work there for a while. You may be reluctant to leave your cushy home writing space, but getting out of your comfort zone may be just what you need. And if some writing days are more productive than others, don’t sweat it. Quality trumps quantity!
Want more inspiration? Take a look at the workspaces of famous writers!