Yes, that is workspaces plural.

Because the ideal is different for everyone, and different workspaces can work for the same someone at different times.

sir walter scott library

Abbotsford Library

The study that started me dreaming about writing

But first, why talk about workspace? Isn’t that horribly prosaic?

Well, it may be, but everyone’s doing it. And to me, it represents an irresistible peek into someone’s mind. Messy or neat? Sun or shadow? Spartan or filled with research material? Private or public?

There are numerous articles about this topic, but I’ve never written about it, so here goes!

As writing is a solitary pursuit (no one can write for you, and it’s damn weird for someone to write the material with you), You the Writer have full control over where, when, and how you work. So where do you fall on the above questions? Ask yourself.

workspace with wall materials

Instead of books, this writer went up the wall with her materials. I like how colorful and organized it is!


For me, it varies depending on the kind of work I’m doing (fiction or non) and on the place where I was previously writing. For example, if I do one great session in the morning at home, I will definitely have to get out and go to a cafe to get another session going in the afternoon. It’s like the magic of the place is ‘used up.’ Or perhaps my inner child gets bored. Whatever it is, I don’t fight it anymore.

So: sometimes it’s private: the kitchen table, the corner desk. And sometimes it’s public: my favorite coffee shop, where they serve dynamite soups, vegan bowls, and delicious baked treats. They’ve also got reliable wifi, outlets, individual tables, plenty of light, awesome staff, and a killer chai.

In terms of quiet vs. background noise, I prefer the quieter side. I know that some people even get special background noise apps because where they are is just too eerily quiet for them to focus, but that’s not me.* My living room on Wednesday mornings is a veritable fantasia of noise: it’s when the landscape workers come to blow all the leaves away with their two-stroke gasoline engines. Right under my window.

So on Wednesday mornings I usually go to the cafe. But then there’s always the risk that someone will decide to treat the quiet public space as their own living room, pull out headphones and start having a lively conversation on Skype in Spanish. Or Russian. (Both happened last week, although not concomitantly, thank goodness)


My workspace at home looks messy to outsiders, but each pile of neatly-cornered books is there waiting its turn for my attention, just as each pile of papers is organized in my mind. When everything gets mussed together, I do go a little crazy, because–there went my system! As long as you have a system that allows you to put your finger on a resource or a business card within five minutes, I won’t say boo. You do YOU.

While others sing the praises of a comfortable chair and a desk that fits your frame,  I think it’s most important to personalize the space with reminders of why you’re doing the work. For me, that means a calendar with 3 goals per month, a cork-board with some writing inspiration photos, and a cabinet full of research books to hand.

For you, that might be a series of robot figures marching across the desk (sci-fi), an enormous map and imaginary locations marked off (historical), or–

…a comfortable chair.

Have an opinion? Leave a comment!


*It occurs to me that an app that supplies background noise of other human beings for those who prefer to write at home…just with imaginary friends… is a bit creepy. Selfie stick, anybody?

Images via The Tontine, The Writing Nut, and Improvised Life