Does A Writer Need An Office?

    What do you think, does a writer need an office to write?

    You almost wrote something that would make J.K. Rowling cry.

    But you got distracted and lost your train of thought. Drat.

    Maybe you need your own office, free of distractions and interruptions? Would that make you more productive?

    You know the writing you have inside you is dying to break free and pour onto the page. But how can you expect your muse to wait around while you keep leaving? A third cup of coffee in the kitchen, laundry to finish, and a mailbox to check. You’re getting distracted, and your writing is suffering.

    Sure, you might feel good about all the money you’re saving by not renting an office. But if you’re not writing your best work, what good is ‘free’? You want to write ‘bestseller’ material – stuff that will inspire, inform and solve problems. Where is the best place for you to write?

    Let’s stop wondering and get some answers once and for all.

    What have the great writers done?

    Stephen King balanced a child’s desk on his thighs between a washer and dryer in the basement of his trailer. On it was his wife Tabby’s portable typewriter on which he wrote. I didn’t even know that trailers had basements.

    Pulitzer Prize winner John Cleever wrote near the furnace in the basement of an apartment building in New York City. He probably sat there, listening to water dripping and pipes banging overhead, and somehow still managed to write.

    J.K. Rowling had the idea for Harry Potter on a train, and she wrote about him in cafés and in the one-room apartment she shared with her child.

    Apparently, a club of great writers exists whose members started out with writing spots in damp basements and bedrooms. An office is clearly not essential to success.  Among these writers, a common theme emerged:

    You must have a space to call your own.

    Then there are writers who achieved success and recognized the importance of having their own formal space in which to create.

    When novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, friend and future biographer of Charlotte Bronte, visited, “the room looked the perfection of warmth, snugness and comfort”, especially in contrast to the ‘bleak cold colors’ of the Yorkshire moors outside. This writer clearly needed to differentiate her writing space from her surroundings.

    Roald Dahl wrote in a little shed— a private sanctuary where he could work without interruption. He went into the shed in the morning, kept the curtains closed, wrote until lunchtime, and did not let anybody in.

    Margret Forster (award-winning British author) said, “The minute I walk into this room of my own, I swear I become a different person. The wife, the mother, the granny, the cook, the cleaner — all vanish. For two or three hours only the writer is left.”

    And you have to do the work, the writing, even if all you have is a closet.

    Traveling to coffee shops, writing at the kitchen table, and moving your laptop to the porch are wonderful breaks in the monotony, if needed.

    But without your own definite space, how serious are you about writing? Or are you treating your writing like a pretend career?

    One day, when you have some success, you can pull out your golden pen and claim a room with a view, an office/writer’s studio of your own, just like most great writers do.

    Until then…

    4 Tips for creating an environment conducive to writing

    1. Be selfish 

    Walk around the space you live in and claim any space that feels right to you, that calls to you, even if you have to move some furniture around. Trust your intuition. You may not have an entire room of your own, but you must work with what you have.

    When you find the spot you want to call your own, run a stake through the ground and thump your chest like Tarzan. Place a desk or table there. Own your space. This is where you create.

    2. Remove clutter from your space

    Clean up. If you already have a space that works for you, take time to go through the stuff on your desk and in your workspace often. Papers and accumulated items create chaos and distraction from your dream, which is to write. A messy workspace may be a subconscious form of self sabotage.

    3. Create a ritual at your workspace

    Perhaps a candle you light when you sit down, or a perfume bottle you spray, or a song you play. It could be a peppermint tin on your desk and you have one before opening your laptop. (I just ate my 6th cinnamon mint — maybe skip the tin.)

    4. Make your writing space about YOU

    Hang a quote, a picture, or place a trinket —something essentially yours, that reminds you of your goal and motivates you to write. Preferably not pictures of other people, even if it’s your family.

    So, does a writer need an office to write? 

    What are you waiting for?

    Are you off to read another blog post? Some more tips on writing? Check your bank balance again?

    Don’t. Now’s the time to make the best of your space. Pick up a broom and start sweeping. Box up your junk and hang a writing calendar. Change the light bulb.

    Don’t get caught up wondering about a right or wrong place to write, or whether to have an office or not. What is essential is that you have your own writing space and that you write.

    Make each word count, and give every word you write the environment it deserves — the office of your dreams. Because word by word, you create your life.

    Where do you write your best work? I look forward to knowing in the comments below.

    About the author

      Esther Fink

      Esther Litchfield-Fink is a writer and you can check out her newest blog at Your Life Untangled, a blog about claiming your best life ever. She also teaches  JourneyDanceTM classes.

    • John Cheever says:

      His name is John Cheever, not John Cleever.

    • Yes Yes and YES! When I was young I could write anywhere. Now, with my stone deaf mother who insists on blaring the television so loud it blows me against the wall, I am sometimes ready to lose my mind trying to write in the living room!!! All I want for Christmas, birthday, 4th of July, etc., is a ROOM WITH A DOOR. I don’t care if it’s in the basement, in a closet, in an attic, in a damned pool house! I just need somewhere quiet. Stephen might have balanced a typewriter on his lap, but at least he had quiet somewhere!

      • Esther says:

        I can totally relate. I grew up with 10 siblings : ) and a room with a door was just a dream. Hopefully you can find yourself a spot, even if its at the local library or coffee shop. I sit in the same spot near the window at the coffee shop so it feels like ‘my spot’. Good luck to you.

      • Vinita Zutshi says:

        P.I, I often have to wait for hours, with no real place to wait. So I’ve taken to carrying around a fully charged laptop, and I work on it while I sit in the car and wait.

        I’m alone and quiet, and even if it’s not ideal, it beats a lot of other situations. Hope this gives you an additional option.

    • LadyLagoon says:

      My entries that I write out at my diary at my-diary.org,are all from my bedroom.I just sit on my bed,and start writing.Sometimes,all you need is a space to call your own,and nothing else.

      But hey,that’s just a thought from a diary writer who has Aspergers.

      Ciao,
      LadyLagoon{www.my-diary.org/read/d/809141}

    • Go for it David! Set up a corner and write : ) Excuses be gone.

    • David says:

      Up to this point I was convinced that the reason I have not won the Nobel prize for literature was because I don’t have office space, now I have been stripped of this excuse, thank you Esther.

      • Johnw says:

        Hey David you mean say that if you have an office you can win Nobel prize for literature. As per your thinking anyone can win Nobel prize who all are having an office.

    • Rita says:

      Esther, you’ve done it again! I look forward to reading your inciteful, entertaining articles on life!
      Keep it up…I’m an avid fan of yours!
      Now let me find an office, phone booth, or bathroom with a childproof lock, and try to get my thoughts together
      So that perhaps I can at least write a line or two in my journal……!

      • Everyone can find a corner no matter what! Go for it.

    • Johnw says:

      Great sharing!

      I think all the writer should have a kind place where they feel comfort while writing.

      • John, how true. Everyone feels comfort in their own unique way. Thank you for your comment, and much writing success!

        • Johnw says:

          I am totally agree with you, comfortable place means you need a kind of place where no one disturb you while writing.

    • Michael says:

      What a great piece!

      I always shuffle from place to place, drag my laptop and files with me and pitch my tent. You gave me ideas..
      I must designate a ninth hole that I will call my own.

      Thanks again, and I cannot wait to see your next article.

      Michael

      • Enjoy finding a space to call your own. Once you do, it changes the game entirely. You really start taking yourself seriously and set yourself up for success. : )

    • Matt says:

      I’ve considered renting an office, just to have the space to myself, but couldn’t justify the expense. I’ve begun organizing my own space around the house, but it isn’t easy. I’ll be thrilled when it’s done, but it’s a slow process!

      • Yes Matt it is a challenge. As long as you keep writing…

        : )

    • I’ve discovered I need to have a space that I own, i.e. have complete control over. Also, there are times where I feel more product in coffee shops, so for month and a half, sometimes, i coffee shop hop and get a lot done too. the most important thing is for writers to understand themselves well enough to know what helps get the most out of them.

      Coincidentally, I wrote about my space yesterday here: http://blessingmpofu.com/favorite-place/

      • Thank you for the comment! That is so true, that the writer has to know themselves. For each person it can be different! Much success with your writing. : )

    • I’ve discovered I need to have a space that I own, i.e. have complete control over. Also, there are times where I feel more product in coffee shops, so for month and a half, sometimes, i coffee shop hop and get a lot done too. the most important thing is for writers to understand themselves well enough to know what helps get the most out of them.

      Coincidentally, I wrote about my space yesterday here: http://blessingmpofu.com/favorite-place/

    • Paris Golec says:

      I am a student @ IIN and I saw your post to check out your guest post! Let me say that your post has hit me spot on… I have been in so many of these places to need to have to have the perfect space instead of conquering the perfect space. I love it!
      I have a several topics for books of living life but I always feel that I need to be organized to do so.
      My sanctuary for writing is nature, near the beach sitting in southern California and to be away from all the noise and distractions of the busy lifestyle that we live.
      Thanks for inspiring me to get busy with pen and tablet ( I mac) !!!

      Paris

      • Paris, books on living life sound super. Enjoy writing in the California sun. It is so beautiful there and conducive to writing.

    • I write my best secluded in my bedroom away from all family members.
      IT works fine for me.

      • Rich, sounds like you have something that works. My kids follow me!

    • Thanks for your wonderful post. I do my best writing in a certain coffee shop that has wood tables (an essential) and a magnificent view of the Judean hills.

      • Toby, that sounds, well magnificent! Glad you liked the post. Thank you for commenting.

    • Surinder says:

      I have forgotten about writing but your blog has again created inspiration in me. I want to write a book but I have been missing an environment. Now I will create it and I am sure that it will work. Thanks for the blog.

    • Noaefame says:

      I have been thinking about space lately. This speaks a lot to me. I am working with what I have now. sometimes I try to be selfish but it does not work well for me. But I know that making more rooms for my writing will help me a lot . But what if the distractions are coming from someones own blog, Can she quit the blog for a while to get her sanity back . or join other bloggers?

      • Noaefame, when I get distracted by my own blog, I read from Julia Cameron’s book The Artists Way. She has such great tips about taking yourself on artist dates to recharge creatively. Much success with your writing and thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Zelie says:

      I love the idea!
      Yes, I figured that sometimes we need to find our sanctuary.
      And yes, you need to write anywhere. But to write a story, you need special place, right?
      I will try to find my sanctuary as well.
      Thank you for this! 😀

      • Zelie, hope you find yourself a perfect sanctuary, perfect for you. Everyone does it in their own way.

    • Jennifer says:

      Great article Esther, I agree, and I love the part about being selfish with your time and have a ritual around something that is important to you. Around my relationship and love life those are 2 of my priorities.

      • Jennifer thanks for the comment. I love rituals too, they feel so zen.

    • Jo Ann says:

      Trailers have basements? That was my first thought also. Thanks for the chuckle. I love this article.

      My laptop sits on a desk in the corner of a room. The Wifi is lousy here so I pretty much have to be connected to a ISP. I always seem to have a gecko supervising from the wall. It is probably reading what I write so it can plagiarize later.

      I get my most creative ideas at night so always have a notebook and pen handy at bedside. I often write at night and then rewrite and tweak on the computer.

      • Glad you liked the article Jo Ann. A pen and notebook handy is great!

    • Suzi Sandoval says:

      Thanks for the reminder Esther. I needed it.

    • I have a desk beside my bed, but it kept filling up with “stuff.” So I moved to a TV tray, just big enough to hold my laptop, my mouse, and a drinking cup. This is my portable “office” — when weather is nice, I take it to the patio; when it’s too hot/cold/wet, I put it in the bedroom next to the window. If I’m distracted by household noises, I plug in my earbuds and go to simplynoise.com (I love their “brown” noise) or simplyrain.com (customizable thunderstorm sounds). I’ve written about 200,000 words since I moved to the TV tray!

    • Rochelle says:

      I love the last part, don’t worry about what space is the right space and just get to it. I tend to be a perfectionist about silly things that make no real difference. I love the ideas in the comments. Having one spot for just writing and use the others for work and the minutia. I get distracted so easily so I have to have a dedicated spot for efficient writing. I just move that spot around the house depending on what my family is up to. It’s usually my room with a lock on the door so my kids don’t come barging in asking for water and snacks (even though their dad is right there with them)!

      • Rochelle, thanks for your comment. Yes I totally agree – the ideas in the comments are amazing. I am going to try some myself. Much luck finding a spot and time for your writing.

    • Stella says:

      This was some wonderful motivation. I have been meaning to decorate my office space for quite some time since my husband usually uses it as a place to drop junk mail rather than work.

      • Stella I love your blog layout. Go for decorating your office space!

    • Vincent Ik says:

      This is the number one tips. I do it always and my work moves faster but still I do not no what I have done. I normally believe that it is just part of me.

      But with no much attention in what is working for me… I go ahead and pull out my greatest assertion… ” Ideas has no alerm, so writing down is required” It comes anytime anywhere in as much as your mind is on something…”

      The book am about to publish now as my starting point is an evidence. I cannot say: this is where I wrote the book because I write anywhere. I write while walking ,siting, standing, and on the road side. In fact , I click a smile whenever I remember all I did. Thanks..

      • Vincent so many writers have different methods and places to write. Whatever works!

    • “Remove the clutter from your space” is why I don’t much use the office that i have. I’m regrettably lazy, and that frequently means writing on a laptop on the couch rather than sitting at my desk in my office. Maybe that should be a “this week” project, now that CampNaNoWriMo is done.

      • Jen, It’s way more fun writing than cleaning the clutter…at the same time once its done it feels great!

        • Almost anything is more fun than cleaning the clutter.

          It’s true, though. A clutter clear room is a luxury!

    • I have an office for my writing, but it is not the best place for me to write.

      I think you are right about “A messy workspace may be a subconscious form of self sabotage.” My desk is piled with bills, post-it notes and unopened mail. This weekend’s project: CLEAN UP this mess office.

      • I’m right there with you Clara cleaning up. Thanks for the comment : )

    • Leah says:

      LOVE THIS PIECE! So inspiring to know what other (now successful) writers have gone through. It’s so important to have a space to do the creative work. Love the tips, they seem actually manageable and I will be definitely be trying them. Especially the one about doing a ritual every time. So simple but so great and potentially helpful. Please keep writing more pieces like this!

      • Leah, yes – rituals are SUPER. I have 2 songs I listen to when I sit down to write and it puts me right in the zone.

    • Roselle Zubey says:

      I kind of resent the idea that, if you don’t have an office, you don’t take your writing career seriously. Not everyone can afford to rent an office. Not everyone lives in a nice house where the basement can be turned into an office. I take my writing seriously, but can’t afford an office. I am inspired by the fact that JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books in cafes and coffee shops. That is what I do so I will be happy if I have a tiny fraction of her success.

      • Hmmm. The idea here is really about creating a space no matter how small in a corner of your living space – not going out and getting an office before you are ready and able. If cafe’s work — super! Much luck and writing success.

    • suri says:

      Esther, I enjoyed this so much! Thank you for such adding such pleasure to my day.

    • Mirel says:

      I had one of my most successful days writing recently when I was returning from an out of state trip. Wrote for over an hour in the busy terminal while waiting to board my delayed flight, and then for almost 3 hours on the plane.

      Still not home. When at home, I have my own home office space (which also doubles as a second guest room), but problem is that my own family finds it hard to respect my space. I constantly find others at my desk, using my computer. It is very frustrating…

      • Mirel isn’t it great when you find something that works? Like writing away from home! Thanks for the comment and good luck on claiming your space : )

    • Abby Litchfield says:

      I love the way you paint such a vivid picture of going back for that cup of coffee; the frustration is palpable, and I can so relate. The thing I love the most, though, is your determination to be a bestseller, because that is what you should be, and that your intension behind that is for yourself but also to add value to others. You want to make an impact, inform, and solve problems. All of those things are so desperately needed, and it inspires me and adds value to my life. Thank you Esther.

      I love the way you find SO MANY CREATIVE SOLUTIONS- it’s incredible, and I totally started laughing about the cinnamon mints!!! 🙂

    • I had to laugh out loud: my first thought was that I didn’t know trailers had basements either! I have the corner of an extra-large living room where my giant desk stands and that I’ve been at for five novels. Still I’d love to have an official office mainly to drown out the television, endless questions from my family, and the interruption of two overzealous MaltiChus. I worry I’d distract myself with procrastination if the office was outside my home since I do it a lot where I am at now!
      Great post!
      Patti

      • Thank you for your comment! An official office…sounds nice doesn’t it? : )

    • I think the last tip is the most important one for me. I have my own cozy space, and it’s great, but if I get distracted that space isn’t doing my writing for me!

      • 🙂
        Jessica,

        Thank you for your comment and keep on writing.

    • Beth Havey says:

      Peace and quiet and no distractions, at least for a good hour every day. That helps form the writing habit. The place is not as important as the quiet and freedom to write without interruption–wherever you can find it. I wrote one of my best pieces on a tablet in my daughter’s guest room while waiting for my granddaughter to wake up.
      An office is wonderful–but you must go there.

      • Beth, how true. Sometimes the coffee shop is peaceful and home is a chaotic wreck! And sometimes the opposite. : )

    • Beth says:

      I would argue that even more than a proper work environment, writers need community. Since I’ve become a full-time freelance writer, I’ve worked in coffee shops, at kitchen tables, in fast food restaurants, libraries, and pretty much anywhere else I could poach Wifi. It wasn’t until I joined a coworking community that I realized how important camaraderie is to both productivity and success. A coworking space is a shared office space build around collaboration and community. All types of workers gather there, but I’ve never seen a space that lacked at least one writer. There are many benefits from working in close proximity with other creative people, even if they’re not writers. It has benefited my personal and professional life tremendously, especially when it came to the business side of things. Today just happens to be International Coworking Day–I would encourage you to search for #CoworkingDay on your favorite social media network to learn more about this global movement!

      • Esther says:

        Beth, thanks so much for adding this idea. I read about it in a community in San Francisco and that would be a great way to end writers isolation for me!

    • Diane says:

      i wrote my first book (so far) using a combo of places, but I have since honed it down. I write, create, in the office in my home – the extra bedroom in our empty nest. I am fortunate. It is a haven, although I must fight distraction tooth and nail. But I learned that it must be the only place I actually write. The rest of it – marketing, blog reading, researching for future post and book ideas, catching up on FB, anything that distracts from writing content – either blog or book – must be done somewhere else. Coffeeshop, McDonalds, corner of Wegmans cafe, local diner. Anywhere that has WiFi. If i do this other stuff in my haven, I find it too easy to slip back into it when I should be creating. A place to write. Another place for all the other associated ‘stuff’.
      At least that is what works for me; and it gets me out of the house each day to expand my view. (;o)

      • Esther says:

        Diane, I love that idea – to write in one place and everything else in another. I’m sure to try it!

      • Mirel says:

        Great idea, I love it! I’ll try to implement it when I get back home.


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