Building a Writing Studio

I’ve written this entry to outline the ideas I have for a new writing studio. Along the way I found photos of famous writing studios, some feng shui tips for a workspace, and some ideas for how to organize a writing studio.

What is a writing studio anyway?

I looked at the workspaces used by other writers, to see if I could find any inspiration for what to do with my new space.

Mark Twain and his desk Mark Twain appeared to keep a messy desk. He also enjoyed having a billiards table nearby. He would drink and play pool with his friends, and probaby sneak by his desk from time to time to write down an amusing bit of ribald commentary.

Ray Bradbury also kept a messy workspace, filled with lots of things to stimulate the senses and to inspire the imagination.

Hemingway's studio Hemingway’s Studio, as it appeared after his death. The desk faces away from the window, presumably to avoid distraction.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing room F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing room

The space I have is more like The Beat Hotel than any of these places, and I didn’t find very many of these famous writing spaces to be that inspiring.

The 21st Century Home Office

This new space of mine is not just a writing and living space, but it will also be where I conduct my freelance business, so I decided to take a tip or two from the wealth of online materials about how to setup a “home office” “” not the most human approach, but useful nonetheless.

Layout the room

I don’t need any fancy room design software, or any life-size paper models of furniture. I’m just going to sketch out a simple floor plan, with scaled down paper models of things. I can easily arrange and rearrange my two-dimensional paper dollhouse, until I’ve settled on a layout I like.

Commanding position

I’ve picked up quite a few of the feng shui notions that seem to be creeping into our culture. One that comes especially well recommended (by Steve) is the notion that a workspace should be in a “commanding position”

This is the position where you feel supported from behind (and optionally on the sides too) and open in the front. For example if your house has a mountain or hill behind it, then your home would be in the commanding position, much like a highly defensible castle. In workspace terms, the commanding position ideally means that you work facing the entrance to your work area and have a wall right behind you.

The commanding position creates a feeling of security. It makes it easier to relax when you work. When you are cornered and you face the entrance to your workspace, your focus is forward, and a forward focus contributes to high productivity. You never have to concern yourself with someone approaching you from behind. If part of your focus is on what’s happening behind you, you’ll be more distracted, and your productivity will suffer.

If you think of the layout of a top executive’s office, it’s almost invariably in the commanding position. The person sits facing the entrance to the room. You don’t walk into an executive’s office and see their back.

Creating Centers

The smart folks at Lifehacker suggest that a space can benefit from having “centers”, or areas where things are organized by task.

Organizing by task lets you group objects by the tasks you need to perform. Create “centers”: a personal hygiene center, a computer repair center, a lunch prep center, a gift-wrapping center, and so forth. “¦ Centers ensure that all the items you need to get a task done are always at-hand when you need them. It also keeps the question of “How will I use this?” foremost in your mind. If you own something but it’s not used to help you reach any particular goal, then maybe it’s time to find it another home.

Lifehacker also provided tips for a usable home:

Create space for incoming stuff Put items you need to remember in your path Stow away stuff you don’t use; put stuff you do within easy reach Strategically place items to make tasks easy Make task-based centers Leave writing material everywhere Set up an inbox Tame stray wires with zip strips

Supplies

That ubiquitous book about keeping things organized entitled “Getting Things Done” suggests that I should have this list of things handy when organizing a workspace.

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