What Does Your Ideal Writing Environment Look Like?

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Your ideal writing environment should be a hub for productivity — but what does that mean?

After all, there are actually scientific reasons for why we magically turn into productivity machines when we’re at a coffee shop. The so-called coffee shop effect happens because when you’re in a new environment, your brain has to make new connections to stay focused in light of unfamiliar noises.

It’s funny, because if you go to the same coffee shop every day, you lose that magic. It just turns into another of your familiar places that don’t challenge your brain in the slightest.

Subsequently, it’s hard to keep feeling fresh at your home desk. Regardless, there are ways to craft a perfect writing environment that can help you be more productive.

Here some ideas that can help you build your own writing sanctuary.

Organization is a good thing.

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It’s easy to be a chaotic mess. Let me tell you, when I was freelancing nearly full-time and going to college, my desk was a hot mess. There’d be class assignments, textbooks, about five hundred water bottles, pens, pencils, erasers, and miscellaneous other nonsense.

It’s easy to be messy and sometimes it even feels comfortable, but it’s distracting. Organizing things — at least to a state of organized clutter, if you can’t manage to declutter things completely — can really help you focus more when you sit down to write.

Humans are simple creatures. We can become distracted easily, especially if we’re writing something that we’re struggling with. Looking around seeing that stack of bills or school assignments can be just enough to take your mind away from your writing and down a bad rabbit hole of distraction.

Don’t share your desk with too many other electronics.

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Don’t clutter up your desk too much sharing it with other electronics. One solution that I’ve found works great for me is getting these cute little $8 Ikea tables and placing them under my desk to hold my printer and art scanner. Having them on the desk just made things too cramped and cluttered.

This is a very cheap solution, but another great option is to invest in a desk with a hutch, since all those little shelves make for ample room to spread out your essential electronics. It may not quite be the minimalist style that’s very popular right now, but they still look nice and they’re very practical for organization!

If you’re a student in a dorm or simply have a small apartment, you might be sharing your desk with entirely different electronics, such as TVs or game consoles. (Or am I the only really nerd writer around here?) If you are, try to see if you can budget for a cheap coffee table or any sort of cheap table that could spread these devices out more. One of my old desk configurations was absolutely crammed; I had my desktop tower, my screen, then my PS3 standing on end, then my TV, with my controllers, remote controls, headphones, and microphone constantly falling off since I had absolutely no extra desk room.

Your desk troubles may not be as extreme as that, but keep this in mind. Your ideal writing environment and desk configuration shouldn’t have constant little inconveniences and distractions cropping up from being too cramped and having things fall over.

Choose personal flares that inspire you.

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When crafting your perfect writing environment, find things that actually do inspire you. The cute handout on happiness and self-care that your coworker gave you may do that, or it may not. If inspirational and motivational reminders and designs work for you, fantastic, get all you can. They’re all over social media, so choose some that resonate with you.

If you like nature, flowers or plants are always fantastic to have on your desk. A lot of people like the ease of having an artificial plant, but I personally always advocate for having a real plant! It’s not too much work to water them and just think about the little trooper on your desk making oxygen just for you.

However, I’ve found that sometimes, if I’m at a low point, I almost find those blatantly motivational things to be a little bit of a downer. It almost feels like a mockery when you’re having a stressful day and see this little bright colored thing about peace and happiness.

If you find yourself in that same plight, try things that are sure to make you feel a little better even in your bad times. You could get binder clips with funny messages, amusing sticky notes, perhaps a picture with a poem or lyrics from a song that are very meaningful to you.

If it’s something very personal to you and not something generic, it’ll have more resonance to inspire you on normal, relatively happy days and stressful ones.

Treat yourself to a few desk ornaments!

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As you sit down to write, it’s nice to have some desk ornaments at your fingertips that you really like. For me, I have this silly little cat sticky note holder and a cat tape dispenser. These were actually gifts, ironically, from two different people, given to me about there years apart. People know me well, huh?

While I was lucky enough to be given these, it’s not too expensive to get a couple little things like this for yourself. It’s the sort of purchase that you tell yourself you don’t need, that you don’t need to indulge in, but picking out a few little things that total up to $20 or $30 isn’t going to be the end of the world.

It’s not easy to survive professional writing and editing, so beautifying your space is very helpful.

Having a little something that you can turn to that brightens up your day a little or perhaps even makes a smile tug at the corner of your lips is a good thing. Plus, it makes the space yours.

Personal photos?

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This lends itself a little bit more to making the ideal writing environment at work rather than at home. Of course, you might want to have personal photos on both your work desk and your home desk. Alternatively, if you work from home, well…it’s all one desk!

These are tricky; for me, when I have personal photos on my work desk, I’m torn between feeling warmed by seeing them versus feeling sad that I’m seeing them because I’m at work and not seeing those pets or persons pictured there.

Think it through and give it a try if you think this would be more of a plus than a minus for you. In one of my past jobs, I put up a picture of my partner and me to subtly ward off unwanted attention, and it was a photo of us sitting on a bench at a beach boardwalk. Lovely photo, it did its main goal, but I’d stare it at on my night shifts sometimes and just wish I was at the beach! If you’re a stronger person than me when it comes to responding to weird aches, you’ll probably enjoy photos, but maybe don’t pick that photo that’ll make you homesick.

If you have deadlines, consider a calendar or whiteboard.

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If you’re juggling a lot of different projects with strict deadlines, a little visual aid can help you keep everything straight in your head. A physical calendar that sits on your desk or hangs on the wall nearby can be helpful.

Personally, I recommend a whiteboard more. You can make to-do lists with the deadlines you want to keep track of, but you can also add little doodles or other fun flares to make this an enjoyable reminder rather than a nagging one.

Ultimately, put a positive spin on everything that’s in your writing environment. This includes your reminders of when deadlines are; don’t let the reminders stir up dread in you.

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If you’re still not sure exactly what you want, try to form a mental image of what your ideal writing environment would look like. Imagine the space and then slowly start arranging and purchasing the things that you need to make it a reality.

We’re always battling with productivity and trying to dig up ways to make ourselves more productive. It’s easy to fall into procrastination when you should be writing, but having a great desk and work area can help you keep focused.

The place where you sit down to write should have everything you need. If you like to make physical notes, make sure you’ve got a cup with all the pens and pencils you need to make that happen. If you really want to make it fun, try to nab a pack of multicolored sticky notes just to brighten things up a little.

You can build your perfect writing environment without spending too much time or money to do it. It’s just a matter of starting to craft it.