The Writing Zone: Stage 1
There are many aspects to making a space that is conducive to writing.
Where you choose to spend your time in creating your book can be the difference between you completing your first draft and not completing it at all. Though for the last couple of years I've had a space in a house or apartment that I could call a home-office, the changes I made to said space for the purpose of dedicated writing were substantial.
One of the biggest challenges that I believe most authors would encounter if they are just starting out is taking a room in their home, or even a corner of a room (because square footage, especially if you live in a large city where prices are high and living space is tight, can be a luxury), and setting it up for minimal distractions and maximum privacy. How you go about doing this will differ from person to person, as your threshold for being distracted wouldn't be the same as mine.
A big test for me in this regard came two years before my book idea was realized: When Kim and I relocated to San Francisco, following a job she accepted that brought us from the East Coast to the West (or "Best", as some friends of mine have stated as a "matter of fact") Coast, I had some decisions to make regarding the status of my own employment. Would I leave my DC job - a traditional office where I had a desk with a name plate and a decent cube to call my own - or would I find a way to convert my position into something that would be one hundred percent remote? Fortunately, I had a boss that was willing to work with me, as he didn't want to lose me as an employee and I didn't want to quit - so in a month's time he hammered through the paperwork needed to allow me to hold my position while working from a home-office nearly three thousand miles (and three hours behind) away.
Even with this opportunity to hold my position and not have to throw myself back in the job market, I was concerned over the idea of remote work, as that meant ensuring that I could be effective at my job from home. This was more complicated than it appeared, as I lived in a one bedroom apartment at that time, and the room that wasn't the bedroom was just one large room that comprised the living room, dining room, and kitchen with no walls to separate them. On top of that, my computer was primarily a gaming machine, and my console games were just a few feet behind where I sat. As you can imagine, temptation to not work was all around me!
Despite all of this, I was determined to make my work-from-home situation work in my favor. However, other than installing the software I needed for my daily work on my computer, I didn't fundamentally change too much. I had my computer, my desk (with enough storage for paperwork and business cards), and a decent set of headphones with a mic attachment for business calls to and from the office.
Today, my dedicated writing zone is in my "mancave", a single room that houses all my video games along with my entertainment center - all of which is still just a couple of feet behind where I work, patiently waiting to get some attention. My writing desk, pictured below, has very little sitting on it other than the core requirements I've set for an effective work environment: keyboard, mouse, speakers (for my lofi hip hop beats that play softly as background noise as I write), my dual-monitors, and a spot for my tea or water (usually tea). There's a small server that sits under my desk, and the main rig, a tower PC, hums just off to the right side. Keeping my desk clear of clutter and random items helps with my occasional temptation to just pick something up and examine or read it if it seems to stand out.
I keep the room-darkening roller shades drawn and my door closed during my writing period, which is usually from 9:30am until the early-mid afternoon. I also like working with the lights dimmed, allowing the room to be lit more by the natural light that peaks around the roller shades than by artificial light. What's also not pictured is the fact that the wall behind my desk is bare - nothing is hung from it at all; a blank slate that doesn't have to try to not get my attention.
My primary monitor is where Scrivener would dominate, giving me more than enough virtual space for bringing my creation to life. Though I'm not the biggest fan of writing out all my ideas on paper or using oak tag or a cork board to manage an outline (I use Scrivener for all of that), I do like to draw scenes or characters that would likely end up in my book - to that end, one of the drawers in my desk has all I need for moments when I feel the urge to whip up a quick pencil sketch. Anything that is drawn is also scanned and uploaded to Scrivener as well. The smaller, secondary monitor has a browser window open, usually with details on whatever content I'm researching for my book. While I work, my phone sits out-of-sight and on mute, with exceptions for making sound only if my parents, sister, or Kim gives me a call.
All of this contributes to an environment where I've been able to thrive and be productive. My time working remotely in the professional world confirmed that I was able to keep myself focused through the day - that experience all but assured me that I would be able to maintain the same kind of fervor while I wrote.
Of course, the space in which you work is but one piece of a very important puzzle: Ensuring you are mentally and psychologically prepared for the challenge is equally important. This will be covered in Stage 2 of this blog entry - see you at the next Writing Zone!