Creating Your Perfect Working Space


A Room Of One’s Own

Recently, I’ve been building out an old garden shed behind my house to be a little getaway – a place where I can go when I need to focus on writing or work. With three kids in the house, sometimes it can be hard to find a quiet place inside.

This exercise got me thinking about what it takes to make the perfect working space. I know this varies by person, but for me I like to have the following:

  • No Distractions: I work better when I can be heads down and get into the flow. Once I’m interrupted it takes a while to get back into it again so I try to find places where I can work without interruptions — this includes physical and electronic distractions. So I try to keep my email closed and only check it every few hours.
  • To Do List: I like to have a physical list in front of me with a few key tasks to get done. Then I love to slash through each one as I finish it. That tends to motivate me and give a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Music: I prefer to have light music playing (usually with no words) to really block out the world and focus. For me, classical music is perfect.
  • Materials at Hand: I hate digging around trying to find my work stuff so having everything out in the proper place just makes it easier to shift into “work mode”. I do the same thing with running and try to lay out all my running clothes the night before an early morning run.

This is what works for me, but I’m always interested in the creative spaces that other people do their best work in. Let’s take a look some of the interesting places where writers perform their mysterious craft…

To Each His Own

Poets and writers magazine describes some wonderfully unique examples of where writers write:

Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up;  […]

Ben Franklin wrote in the bathtub,

Jane Austen amid family life,

Marcel Proust in the confines of his bed.

Balzac ate an enormous meal at five in the evening, slept till midnight, then got up and wrote at a small desk in his room for sixteen hours straight, fueled by endless cups of coffee.

Toni Morrison found refuge in a motel room when her children were small;

E. B. White sought it in a cabin on the shore.

One more that I love is JK Rowling writing the first Harry Potter book longhand at her local coffee shop. Could you imagine being the owner of that shop and finding out that the single mother who was always hogging a table in your shop became one of the best selling writers of all time?

Where I Write

Another more visual example is the Where I Write project by Kyle Cassidy. He photographed a variety of Sci-Fi authors in their offices. Here is a small sampling (many more at his site):



I have to say I like the decidedly low tech approach of Joe Haldeman (above). All he needs are some candles, a notebook and a fountain pen.

In my opinion, the hardest thing to do in our modern world is to disconnect. To not take the cell phone with you and not get sucked into researching some obscure topic on Wikipedia. So when you build your perfect working space, make sure you don’t ruin it by bringing your cell (or at least put it on silent).

…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction…
— Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own