Organizing Your Writing Workplace for Better Productivity

Today’s post is by Lesley Vos.

More often than not, we writers don’t craft novels from offices. No teammates, no corporate culture, no “all that stuff” from HR managers on training and engagement for better productivity and work efficiency.

And yet, who says we don’t need this? Procrastination and writer’s blocks run their course, and here we are, crying over a blank page in attempts to start the next chapter.

Productivity is a holy grail for writers. When I started my journey as a freelance writer in the hope of finishing a book in a year, I didn’t realize the size of a problem. I considered it natural to write in a bed with a laptop on my knees and a cup of coffee nearby. And when, in a month, I found I’d written only 5,000 words of my future book, it had become a warning sign saying I did something wrong.

Scientists have long since proven the influence of environment on productivity. Why do you think J. K. Rowling wrote her masterpiece in cafes? The atmosphere of coffee shops makes us writers more creative, inventive, concentrated, and—surprise, surprise!—therefore productive.
But, fortunately or not, none of us is Rowling. And what to do if you don’t like music, coffee, and people sneaking about your working place all the time?

Do your best to organize your workspace so it will inspire and motivate you to write.

But how can you do that?

Your Bed Is a Trap!

If you’re a free spirit, it’s hard to resist the temptation of writing in bed. It’s so cozy, and you believe it’s a perfect place for fantasy to flourish, but the truth is, our brain doesn’t work that way.

Although Johannah Bogart doesn’t believe laziness exists, our brain is,well, lazy. It’s hard for it to stick to goals and create new ideas because it requires slow thinking with a prefrontal cortex.

On the contrary, fast thinking, subconscious and living in the limbic system, is what kills our productivity and makes us choose procrastination.

As far as our brain chooses efficiency, it prefers fast thinking to save energy for more significant decisions. So, it won’t allow you to concentrate on writing in bed because it knows that this place is for relaxing, not working.

A bed, a favorite sofa, a kitchen table—forget these places when craving writing productivity. You need a specific workspace to tell your brain, “Hey, do you see this corner? That’s where we write, pal.”

Stephen King tells us in his book On Writing: “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

It all adds up to this:

Remember Zoning

To convince your brain that it’s time to write, make sure you have a corresponding zone in your workspace. What I did was create two zones in my room: one for computer work and another one for rest.

This trick will help to draw the line between writing and other tasks you might need to complete during a day.

Set limits. For instance, promise yourself you won’t leave your desk until you write 1,000 words. I don’t want to say you should sacrifice meals and breaks, but productivity will hardly come to those with no boundaries and deadlines. Besides, 1,000 words are not that hard to complete, don’t you agree?

But for all that, don’t cross the line. It seems daring and commendable to finish a book in the space of a month or two, but your writing should leave you enough time for other activities. And that’s where the second, non-computer zone of your workspace comes in handy. Otherwise, you’ll burn out soon.

Here are a few other tips for organizing a perfect writing workspace:

  • Work during the day if you want to stay active in the evening.
  • If you’re a night owl, make sure your desk lamp or other room lighting is bright, as it stimulates cerebration, therefore making you more productive.
  • Paint the walls of your writing room blue or green: those colors enhance productivity and better focus.
  • Put live plans on or near your desk: they will clean the air and boost your spirit.
  • Don’t forget about the small details that inspire you: walls with photos of your nearest and dearest or motivational quotes from writing gurus, shelves with favorite books—but . . .

Avoid Clutter

We writers are creative artists. For some of us, clutter in our workspace is a must-have component for inspiration. But researchers say that such an environment, full of physical clutter, negatively affects our productivity.

So, keep your writing workplace clean. Store all documents in folders on shelves or in desk drawers, and wash your coffee cup regularly.

Don’t like coffee? Try sipping green tea while writing: its known to have a positive impact on our bodies, making the brain more productive.

As creative artists, we writers need order and scheduling if we want to finish our masterpieces. Working from home, we crave for a writing corner or some other organized workspace to catch inspiration and escape from writer’s block.

So, let’s get out of our beds and off our sofas, no matter how cozy they are, and zone our rooms so the environment will encourage us to write.

Brighten your the walls and don’t let clutter take over. Organize your desk space with inspiration in mind, and write during the daylight or with bright light. Discipline yourself to stay in your workspace until you’ve completed your word objective for your allotted time period. And don’t forget to take breaks so you can “reset” for your upcoming productivity boost.

Lesley J. Vos is a seasoned web writer from Chicago who contributes to publications on business, lifestyle, and self-development. Check out Lesley’s portfolio and follow her on Twitter.

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    1. Thanks, Priscilla! Happy to know you find my work useful 🙂 I am sure your updated writing place will bring tons of inspiration for your future bestsellers!


    1. The same with me, Jacqui! 🙂 More than that, I fall asleep when reading in bed, no matter what an interesting book I hold in hands!

  1. Hi Susanne & Lesley. Thanks for this motivational reminder about good work and productivity habits. I really agree about changing locations to get past the blank page. I do a lot of commercial web content writing and have a workable process for as peak a productivity I can get. I research a piece at home, then pack up and go to the nearby university library to draft. That change of venue forces me to focus on the piece and get into a positive flow. Typically, I get 800-1,000 words per hour in that setting where there’s no way I can get that when distracted at home. I’m also with you about how distracting and destructive clutter is 🙂 Thanks again for this great post!

    1. You are welcome, Garry!

      My saviors are coffee shops and parks. Such an environment inspires me somehow 🙂

  2. Excellent advice. I stick to all the points you have made here – a designated writing space next to my art making spot. What passes for a living room in most other peoples’ apartments serves as a studio. Very important – it keeps one’s brain in professional mode.

    1. Great to hear that, Sue. Each of us has developed the own recipe and perfect place for writing productivity, and I hope the tiny details I mentioned in the article just could help to improve it 🙂

  3. Reserve special things for your writing time, things that appeal to your senses. For example, I have a “writing playlist” on Spotify that I only play when writing.

    1. Wow, it’s a thrilling idea, Steve! Never thought of crafting a writing playlist: all I do is just turning on Mixcloud online and listening to a particular music genre – jazz or blues – to feed my muse.

  4. I found this very helpful, thank you for writing this. I’ll be sure to share this with a lot of my friends.

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