Curating The Perfect Writing Office- what you need to create an inspirational, productive space.
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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: atmosphere is everything! Designing the perfect in-home writing office is about both functionality and aesthetic. Not only are there crucial elements to actually get words down (hello, laptop), but setting the right vibes can make all the difference between a productive writing stint and a flop. I looked around my own writing room and asked myself, what in this room is crucial to my writing sessions? What do I utilize every single time I sit down in this room to write? Well, the answers to those questions are below. Behold, my home office must-haves!
Lighting is so, so important! I love natural light and am very picky about artificial lighting. Everything’s all well and dandy during the day when I can open my windows and let the sunshine do its thing. But in the evening, when I have the most time to write, nothing puts a damper on my productivity or gives me a headache like bad lighting. Aside from headaches, the color of light can actually effect your sleep (more on that below). When setting up my office, the first thing I needed was a lamp because there are no lights in our ceiling fans. I researched which light bulbs replicate natural light the best, and ended up getting a two-bulb lamp with two LED bulbs, one in white light and one in a warmer temperature because I was worried about the white light being too fluorescent. In general, LED bulbs are the way to go- the technology is better and they’re more efficient. While no light bulb is going to perfectly replicate sunlight, the mixed bulb situation I created worked pretty well for me for a year. For our wedding, though, we were gifted the Phillips Hue Smart Bulb Starter Kit, which my husband was very excited about. At first, I really didn’t care. Who can’t use a couple of spare light bulbs laying around, right? Turns out, they’re a game changer. The starter kit comes with the hub that is needed to be able to control the bulbs with your phone as well as three light bulbs. If you want to start out with just the hub and maybe one bulb, you can purchase them separately. But with the Phillips Hue app, you can name rooms and create “scenes” for each room and choose the brightness/temperature of each scene. Writing a love scene in your novel? Create a hazy, dimmed scene and call it “romantic.” Writing something spooky? Bring that hue all the way down to a candle’s flicker and name it “haunting”. Play around on the app until you find the perfect setting. As an added bonus, once you have the hub you can slowly switch more of the light bulbs in your home to Phillips Hue bulbs and control all of your lighting from your phone so that the perfect scene is always just a touch away!
Most of us write better with a little background music, right? It’s fun to put together playlists that put us in the writing mood or even create WIP-specific playlists. Music provides inspiration, encouragement, mood elevation, and can even be a tool in concentration. I’ve done the iHome and phone dock thing, and then I transitioned to a Bluetooth speaker so that I could use my phone while still playing music, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that I switched to Sonos. Sonos speakers, like the Phillips Hue lighting kit, will transform your home! Using the app, you can connect your Sonos speaker to your Spotify or Apple Music account and even listen to your podcasts. If you have more than one, you can choose which room you want to play music in, and even have different songs playing in different rooms at the same time. Control the volume and the playlist right from your app, and your life has just been made that much easier. Sonos also has sound bars, which we currently use for our TV, but I would love to transition my cheap computer speakers into a Sonos sound bar for some serious sound while I work.
Obviously I can’t write a “writing room essentials” post without mentioning Scrivener. I wrote a whole post dedicated to the beauty that is this writing software here, and will sing its praises until the end of time. The organizational and compilation options are abundant so that you can customize both your story ( and they have formats for novels, poetry, screenplays, and more) and your writing style. It is so easy for manuscripts to get messy and a little out of control if you’re not keeping tabs on your timeline and organization, but with the ability to separate chunks of writing into folders you can choose to write chapter by chapter, scene by scene, or however pleases you and then know exactly where that piece of your story is because it is in a named folder within your timeline. With other key features like the cork board, project binder, full screen mode, and project targets, Scrivener is the obvious choice to get that manuscript completed in the easiest, clearest way possible. Basically, if you’re only going to invest in one thing for your writing career, I’d make it Scrivener.
Blue Light Blocker
Like I mentioned above when I was talking about lighting, the temperature and color of light have an impact on our bodies. I’m sure you’ve heard it before: watching TV or being on your phone before bed is no good. And it’s true. The blue light from our screens do effect our sleep and our eyeballs. As the light changes, whether you are outside and the sunlight becomes darkness or you are inside and the natural light from your windows becomes artificial light from your lamps, the brightness and color of your screen should change accordingly. With all the information about the damage too much blue light can do and depending on how sensitive a person is to it, some people opt to alter the blue light on their screens all day. I use f.lux, which is a free application for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS (and, oh hey, it can be linked to Phillips Hue), and I have mine set to switch on at a certain time. As you can see in the screenshot, the light of my laptop screen is set to normal during the day, warm at sunset, and firelight before bed. This gives me a natural progression not only for my eyes to adjust to the light but then to also wind down and accept that it’s time to call it a night. Also visible in the photo are all of the options. You can fully customize your f.lux exactly to your liking. Effects and extra colors? Yeah, you’ll want to play around before settling on a respectable setting.
Blank walls don’t exactly scream creativity, do they? I suggest surrounding yourself with inspiration. Create a mood board using cut-outs from magazines, assemble uplifting or vibe-inspiring quotes, put your favorite books on display, hang a poster from your favorite film, drape decorative scarves, put together some faux-floral arrangements, collect some art…anything that elevates your mood or puts you at peace. Is there a color pallet that energizes you? Splash those colors across a canvas. Go to a near-by thrift shop and pick up an antique that feels as though it has a rich history. I love browsing Society6 for art prints and tapestries- any mood you want, you’ll find it on Society6. And the decor you use in your writing room doesn’t have to be writing related. The goal is to put you in a feeling, a state of mind. The goal is to create a space that subconsciously raises your spirits. A space you actually want to spend time in. If you’re someone who’s happiest when out in nature, find ways to incorporate the outdoors into your office. Faux plants are always a beautiful, easily kept and changed touch, but you may also want to consider live plants. Aside from simply bringing a portion of the good old outdoors inside, there are tons of plants that actually clean the air, removing toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from your space. Eucalyptus, for one, has healing qualities such as stress and headache relief. Do a quick online search (Googling “plants that clean the air” immediately generates a list of top ten indoor plants for removing the above toxins), or purchase a book like this one and learn all about which indoor plants are best for you and your home!
It isn’t just your eyes that need to be pleased, though. Another crucial added touch to giving your home office a definite mood is scent! Candles are key (and they contribute to the lighting/visual ambiance too!) Bath and Body Works takes all my money, let me tell you. My husband has actually forbidden me from purchasing any more candles until the number I currently own drops back below fifteen. But unfortunately for him, I recently discovered Homesick Candles. And I am in love. The first one I bought was the Pittsburgh candle. I’m from Pittsburgh, and the nostalgia this candle evokes can contribute to my writing! I’m currently waiting for my France candle to arrive, which will remind me of my honeymoon. The power of feeling is crazy-it doesn’t matter what specifically it is, but strong emotion always puts words in my head which I then translate to my stories or poetry collections. Aroma therapy is a great option as well, especially for those of you who don’t like to burn candles for fear of fire (my husband will not light a candle unless he plans on staying right there with it). There are a ton of essential oils that all provide different benefits. Frankincense is a meditative oil that can also quell nightmares and provide respiratory support. Lavender is calming and promotes deeper sleep. Eucalyptus opens your blood vessels, improving the blood flow to the brain. Need I go on? I use this diffuser that also humidifies the air because it’s compact but still holds a good amount of water, has a timer, and a safety turnoff so that it automatically shuts down when it runs out of water. Just make sure you keep your diffuser clean! i once let mine go too long between cleanings, letting bacteria build up, and overnight it gave my husband and I terrible flu-like symptoms that lasted 24 hours.
A Comfy sitting situation
In general, try not to sit too long. Keep your body moving and your blood flowing by taking stretch breaks and walking around. But, by nature, there is a lot of sitting involved in writing. It’s important to make sure you have good lumbar support and an ergonomically correct set-up (carpal tunnel is no joke). If you can’t afford a fancy desk chair (like I can’t), you might want to look into a back pillow and at least try and get a chair with height adjustment so that you can sit at a good height for your desk without slumping or straining. My husband has back issues and purchased this back pillow that straps to his chair. I stole it one day while home alone on a writing binge, and the difference it made surprised me. I had to buy one of my own, but I chose this combo set that also gave me a memory foam pillow for my butt. Something else I “borrowed” from my husband’s office the other night was his Snuggy, which I scoffed at when he told me he ordered one. Turns out, they really are a genius invention!
These final three suggestions I’ve lumped together because, while I love having them and don’t think I’d enjoy going back to working without them, not having them would not kill my writing space.
Binders and a filing system. Keeping track of books and drafts and notes and launches and marketing and sales…it’s a lot. And it can get messy real quick. I have three binders: one for my stories (ideas, plots, characters, etc.), one for blogging and marketing (post ideas and notes, social media content, business ideas, goals, etc.). and one for sales and business info (sales numbers, money, ISBN lists, expenses, records etc.). I have organized and reorganized these binders so many times, and I know they will continue to change with my writing and business, but before I had them I had a notebook with scattered information and a stack of loose paper, envelopes, and sticky notes. I had no knowledge of how many books I was selling, how many books I needed to sell, how much money I had made, how much money I had spent…it was nuts. Filing systems: not crucial to ambiance, absolutely essential to success!
A dry erase board. White boards are great for outlining, note taking, sketching, and reminders. When I need to actively map something out, I love to do it on my white board because when I do it on paper, the scratch-outs and eraser marks get crazy. Dry erase markers make for clean, quickly altered brainstorming!
An extra screen. One day my husband asked me if I wanted a spare computer monitor that he had, and I said why not. So he set me up and now I have the screen of my laptop as well as one extra screen and it’s come in super handy. I can have my notes up on one screen and my WIP up on the other, or my inspiration showing on one screen, or even have Spotify or Netflix open on one screen while I work on the other. This eliminates the need to keep going back and forth between tabs and windows and has saved me time and annoyance.
While I believe that all of these elements are crucial to the perfect home writing office, everyone works differently. Hell, you may not even work indoors, choosing instead to write exclusively outdoors. But I hope this roundup was helpful in some small way and that you are able to curate the perfect writing space for you! Let me know what it is that makes your space perfect for your creativity in the comments. Any specific scents or visual aids? I’d love to learn how to improve my own home office!
Until next time,