Writing-Friendly Spaces

If you have visited this site before, you may know I’ve recently moved to the Far South Coast of New South Wales, where I’ve set up my first ever dedicated writing room. (Blog ~ Welcome To My Writing Home 13th August 2016)

This room is small, but lined with desks, bookcases and other writing paraphernalia. It is set up so I can walk in and go straight to the computer, or to the desk opposite where printouts related to my current work are laid out. On the adjacent desk are reminders of writing-related tasks awaiting my attention – a piece I’m working on for a local broadsheet, a poem that will soon be posted on Scriggler.com, my blog file and the date of my next get-together with local writers. Around the room, are inspirational messages, quotes and photographs that guide me through each day.

The printer is on a table under the window, which frames a dam in the foreground of rolling hills often dotted with cattle.

Sounds wonderful… and it is. This is my writing-friendly space, my workplace, my office – where I can retreat to focus on my current project and all other writing matters.

It has taken me decades to be in a position to create such a writing home. In the meantime, I’ve scribbled in some of the most unlikely places, including in the bath at midnight on New Year’s Eve. While waiting in the car or on railway stations, in trains and on buses have been familiar cocoons for me and my writing pads, as have the beach and the bush.

Once ‘in the zone’ I can scrawl ideas, notes, story plans and even short pieces of work regardless of where I am. But when it comes to the big stuff, I need space to spread out and come back the next day to find nothing changed. Before landing here in my haven, the less ideal spaces I had to work with were anywhere from the corner of a lounge room, standing at a bench, spreading out on the kitchen table, or sharing a desk/computer with others.

These spaces were the best I could manage, given my living arrangements. It was up to me to make the most of them. Earplugs were handy when I had to work in living areas. Picking the time to write in the kitchen was crucial – better in the early hours before anyone else was up and about, or in the evenings when others had retired… and never a good idea when a forthcoming meal was likely to topple me from my throne and scatter my books and papers.

When people ask my advice on creating a writing-friendly space, I tell them every writer’s ideal space is different… because we are individuals. How each person approaches their unique space will depend on their circumstances and resources, and what suits them.

The task is to find a way to set up a space that feels like it is yours alone when you’re in it, personalize it in some way, and make it as accessible as you can.

Make the most of whatever you have at your disposal. If at all possible, create a space that is exclusively yours for writing. Set it up so you don’t have to remove books and papers (or anything else) from around the computer each time before you start – nothing kills the creative urge quicker than a distracting delay. Surround yourself with all things writing and anything else that will put/keep you in the mood. Perhaps create small deadlines for yourself and put up inspirational quotes and affirmations.

If you have no choice but to share your space and/or the computer with others, I suggest you work out a timetable that suits all parties and negotiate options for how the partnership will work.

I once had the privilege of sitting at the desk Eleanor Dark used when she was writing. It was in the centre of a one room building in the gardens of Varuna Writers’ Centre, which was once her home. Behind the desk was the only other item of furniture; a cabinet divided into rows and rows of drawers, each one the size of a manuscript. Her husband had built it and her free-standing writing room, so she could work undisturbed.

As I sat in awe of the woman and her work, I was not only chastened but was hit by the realization that a writing-friendly (preferably writing-dedicated) space was as imperative for a writer as was a studio or attic (or similar) for an artist.


Do you have a dedicated space for your writing?

Share your thoughts in the Comments section…


Next Blog ~ Motivation

4 thoughts on “Writing-Friendly Spaces”

  1. Kathryn, this sounds ideal and I envy you. But it does bring to mind a Charles Bukowski poem. I’ll leave it to speak for itself, as all great poems do.


    ”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
    something has always been in the
    but now
    I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
    place, a large studio, you should see the space and
    the light.
    for the first time in my life I’m going to have
    a place and the time to

    no baby, if you’re going to create
    you’re going to create whether you work
    16 hours a day in a coal mine
    you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
    while you’re on
    you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
    you’re going to create blind
    you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
    back while
    the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
    flood and fire.

    baby, air and light and time and space
    have nothing to do with it
    and don’t create anything
    except maybe a longer life to find
    new excuses

    1. Hi Jen

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, Air and Light and Time and Space is a good poem with some truth in it for some people, but in true Bukowski cynical style he takes the extreme view… and I do wonder at his assertion that ‘writing… is an indecent profession’ (in A Suborder of Naked Buds).

      My approach is to encourage and support writers to strive for the ideal writing space for themselves — whatever that is, at the same time as making the most of the resources they have available to them. I believe this is what most of us do for most of our lives.

      There are, in fact, some things that impede a person’s ability to be creative at various times in their lives which are not merely excuses, but reality. The reverse is also true — excuses can be made with little substance.

      Procrastination, attitude and associated topics will feature in future blogs.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.


      1. True, Bukowski was nothing if not extreme. I’m not sure I could create with a cat crawling up my back and bombs exploding all around. But for me it’s a good reminder — just write!

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