At first, switching to writing full time rather than on the side doesn't seem like it should require changing where you write (a topic already covered in Three By Three: Creating A Writing Space).
But what works well when fitting writing in around the edges of other jobs might not be ideal when writing full time.
Physical Comfort And Well-Being
Whether you sit, stand, or walk as you write, there's a vast difference between writing for short periods a few times a week and writing many hours each day. If your keyboard set up, for example, causes pain in your neck, hands, arms, or other parts of your body, it'll likely be that much worse the more time you are in that position.
Two things helped me:
- Writing areas that allow varying positions and writing methods.
If you usually sit, consider creating a space where you can stand at least part of the time when you write.
Adjustable desks are one option, but I've found the mechanisms for raising or lowering tend to break, so it's more cost effective in the long run to have one sitting desk and one standing area. (I use stacked storage cubes for my standing “desk.”)
If you always type, try working somewhere quiet and private so you can dictate. A couple options are at home if you live alone or have a room where you can shut the door or in a reserved conference room at a library or school.
As far as how to dictate, many laptops and computers now have a dictation function, as do most smartphones.
There also is specialty software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. Or you can pay someone to type your dictation if you can afford that. (For tips on dictating, check out this The Creative Penn podcast.)
- Experimenting with keyboard set up.
Having your keyboard and monitor at the correct height can ease the strain on your body. You can find advice on general rules (such as, according to WebMD, placing your keyboard slightly below your elbows and the top of the monitor 2-3 inches above eye level) on the Internet.
In my opinion you also need to experiment.
I love my desk, shown along the wall in this photo, but it's far too high to place my keyboard on.
The table (which cost about $25) from World Market works better for my keyboard height, but when I placed my laptop directly on it I had to look down too much. I solved that by buying a laptop stand and buying a separate keyboard to place on the table.
Over the years I've also experimented with moving my mouse to the left, using a Microsoft Natural keyboard (which I found very helpful when my tendinitis in my hands and arms was bothering me), and connecting my laptop to a separate monitor.
If your budget is limited, you can use books or boxes as laptop or monitor stands. I've also used folded yoga mats to raise my standing height.
The main concern is not whether it looks good but whether you feel good when you write for hours at a time.
Avoiding Work Spread
When I worked many hours as a lawyer I rarely worked at home. I lived only a mile from my office, and I preferred to keep work at work. That way I didn't associate being at home with working, adding stress to what little free time I had.
I don't find writing stressful, at least not in the same way. So I figured I would enjoy the convenience of writing at home.
And I do. To a point.
The danger is that loving your work can make it easy to spread it through your entire life. For a long time I used my dining room table to write, watch videos for relaxation, eat, and visit with friends. I liked the view out the windows. (The view shown here is on a rainy day.)
But after a while I found using the dining table most of the day to work meant I always felt I ought to be writing. Or doing social media. Or watching classes on marketing.
So now I work for half an hour first thing in the morning at the dining table and then I switch to my home office. While I still occasionally work in my main living space, when I leave my office it's a signal that I'm on a break or done for the day.
Writing somewhere other than home can also help this process, as well as help you separate writing time from writing-adjacent work like interacting with other authors on social media, taking courses online, or scheduling advertising.
You might choose to work at a library or cafe when you are actually writing and do the other tasks from home or vice versa.
As I mentioned last week when writing on emotional health, when I worked many hours as a lawyer I craved quiet time alone to write.
Now that I mainly write, I really value the hours when I teach because I get to interact with people. In the summer when I'm not teaching, I'm more apt to write in cafes simply to be around more people.
There's no right answer for every writer as to where you will write best and how much contact you need with others. What's best for you will likely vary over time depending on things like whether you live alone and whether your other activities bring you in contact with people.
But it's worth giving a little thought to whether the need for contact with others will require adjusting your writing space if you switch to full-time writing.
Always The Same or Always Different?
A lot of writers ask if they should always write in the same place.
When I wrote on the side, I preferred to mainly write in one spot. It was a good way to divide writing from my other work and the rest of my life, so it helped me switch gears and focus.
There are advantages either way:
Same, Same, Same
- The feel, look, sounds, and smell of a particular spot, whether it's a desk in your living room or a corner in your favorite Starbucks, signals your brain that it's time to write
- As talked about above, it can help avoid work spread
- It's easier to design or create one space with your ideal noise level (or quiet), keyboard set up, lack of distraction, etc., than to create multiple ideal spaces
- Varying your writing space might help ease physical strain from being often in the same position, as noted above
- Changing spaces can help break up your day, making it easier to write more hours
- It might be easier to achieve whatever balance you need of being alone v. being with people, noise v. quiet, open space v. coziness, etc., if you move from place to place.
That's all for today. Next week I'll write more about caring for your physical well being when you write full time.
Until next Friday–