10 Things on My Desk That Help My Writing

Experienced professionals in just about any field will tell you your work environment can be critical to productivity and performance. One of the nice things about being a writer is that we get a great deal of control over our workspace. Some writers carry their work around with them in laptops and notepads, writing on porches or in coffee shops. Others prefer a wide-open room with a breathtaking view. Some, like myself, prefer a private office with a cozy desk in the corner.

Whether you choose to write in bed or out on the beach, you can tweak your output by surrounding yourself with sights and sounds that assist and inspire. Today, I thought I'd give you a glimpse at some of the elements of my workspace that help me forge worlds and breath life onto the empty page.


  1. It's tough to make out in this picture, but taped above my monitor is this image, which reminds me that there's no time like the present to put hammer to steel.
  2. My army of external hard drives. As you might have guessed, I'm a bit of a data hoarder. This works out well for my writing though, which is backed up twice locally and twice on the cloud.
  3. This one's hard to make out as well, but that's a pink post-it note that says, "Fix it in revision!!" I have a tendency to over-edit while I write, so this reminds me to cool it down until I get at least a few words on the page.
  4. Oh, come on. You know what this is . . . sweet, sweet coffee. Rocket fuel for writers.
  5. Music is a big component of writing for me (in fact, it will likely be the subject of a future entry). Since I do all of my writing late at night, the headphones stay close at hand.
  6. When you get in the zone and lose yourself in the universe at your fingertips, sometimes it's easy to forget basic needs. It's always a good idea to keep plenty of water within arm's reach.
  7. This is my printer, though I like to call it the Mangler. Not only because it seems to have a mind of its own, but something about it just feels inherently evil. Maybe because I use it to print all of my rejections (filed into the folder that rests atop it like a wicked crown).
  8. I know what you're thinking. How on earth is a video game controller helpful to writing? Think of it as the carrot dangling before the mule. It serves as a reminder that a reward is in store if I meet my nightly goals.
  9. The iPad becomes my auxiliary screen when Word (or lately Scrivener) is open. I don't allow myself to hit the minimize button once the writing begins, so if I need the internet for impromptu research, I use this. My work stays on the large screen that dominates my field of view.
  10. An ergonomic keyboard and mouse keep my wrists and fingers in action without cramping up. Pay no attention to the second mouse up top--that one's for shooting zombies.
So there you have it. That's my workbench. What about yours? What are some of the things you surround yourself with when it's time to put pen to paper? I'd love to hear about it (or see it; pictures welcome). 

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a carrot to eat.

Comments

  1. Nope. I just work on my bed. :-D

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    1. Whatever works for you! Thanks for reading.

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  2. Oh.

    My.

    God.

    Where did you say you live again? *readies ski mask and skeleton key*

    The picture of the clock is awesome, the note on the pink post-it could be my next tattoo, and seriously? Scrivener?! That piece of software is a geeky writer's hot dream and I'm totally addicted to it. Not to mention I have a Trust mouse just like yours, and store my work in five different backup places. Dude. *fist-bump*

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    1. *fist-bump* What's that about great minds? ;)

      I only just started using Scrivener last week, but I definitely like it. I didn't think it would be that useful for shorts, but all of the bells and whistles have me enjoying it regardless. And I can tell that whenever I go back to novels it's use is going to increase tenfold. I don't think I can fully divorce Word just yet, but all of my outlining and drafting will probably be in Scrivener going forward.

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  3. Oh, and, yeah, I'm one of those writers who hasn't had the benefit of a designated work-space for so long, that I've come to write all over the place and on any gadget or surface available. I now have a home-office (that's only 3 months old) and I love it, but I still write more at work (*cough*) than I do at home, where I read and harass my PS3 controller. :)

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    1. I'm jealous! I wish I had the type of job that allowed me to write at work. I'd probably hate going there a lot less!

      Thanks for stopping by, Vero.

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  4. Fantastic! I like the no minimizing rule - wonder if that would boost my own productivity? Though I don't have my own desk at the moment. Sad times. Desk envy!

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    1. Give it a shot! I can't tell you how often I used to get sidetracked when clicking over to the web for impromptu research while I was writing. Keeping the work front and center has done wonders for me.

      Thanks for the comment, Simon!

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  5. I have a second monitor when I'm at my desk for the same purpose. Amazing handy! But these days I usually end up working on the sofa with my laptop, because my desk is in my room and I get insomnia less often by not working in my room (I know, weird, but apparently there's actually science behind it.) You've got a great set up (like Simon-Desk envy!). My desk never looks that clean (or cat-free, when I'm trying to work. How can two cats be so omnipresent???).

    Oh, and I'll trade you tea for coffee. Mmmm, rocket fuel.

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    1. I'd never heard that before about working your room--that's interesting. I'm lucky to have my own office in my current apartment, and I think I'm too spoiled now to go without the next time I move. I'm also lucky not to have any omnipresent cats, but I do have a pesky dog that seems to want to go outside whenever I'm on a roll!

      Thanks for reading, Juturna!

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  6. I'm surprised by how many writers listen to music when they write. I'm jealous. I would get too distracted. I think I could use a note like that, though! I tend to over-edit, too. :)

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    1. I love listening to music while I write, but I can only listen to Orchestral, Ambient, Electronic--basically anything without vocals. If I listen to something with words, I do get distracted (unless it's a language I don't understand).

      Thanks for stopping by, Rachel!

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  7. Nice setup J.W. Rocket fuel for all of us I think. What would have happened if they hadn't invented coffee?

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    1. Well, I can tell you what wouldn't have happened: my writing career! Thanks for the comment, Maurice.

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  8. ALL good things to have close by!

    Game controller most important. :D

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    1. It's practically an extension of my arm! Thanks, Diane.

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  9. My iPod docked and blasting music, my iPad nearby, and water. And Hot Tamales. And I'm slacking - I only have two external hard drives.

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    1. Sounds like your setup isn't much different than mine, Alex. Two of my hard drives are on their last legs, though. I'm going to have to take them out back and put 'em down soon.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. I like working from my laptop so my space depends on the most quiet place in my house at the time. I usually run Word, internet, Spotify from the laptop. I like to have a large jug of Arizona tea, a notepad, and a pen on hand.

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    1. Sounds nice! I have a laptop that I use on vacations and road trips, but I miss my ergonomic keyboard layout sorely when I have to use it. I've got one coming up though, so it'll be time to get used to it again.

      Thanks for sharing, Noree!

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  11. I'm also jealous but not because of the content on the desk (even though that is nifty too!) but because you actually have a desk! I've been in temporary accommodation for almost half a year and though my room is beautiful I have no desk :( And writing in the living room with roomies around is not very productive! In a couple of weeks I'm moving again though and will have a desk this time *yay* Oh, and I love the inspirational post-its and images btw!

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    1. Thanks, Katharina! I love my desk, so much that it's actually on its last legs and I don't want to let it go. It used to have a nice rolling shelf for the keyboard underneath the main part of the desk, but it slowly came off until I was forced to perform emergency surgery. :(

      Good luck with the new desk, and thanks for stopping by.

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  12. Love seeing a part of your writing process, JW! I'd switch the coffee to Dr. Pepper and pretty much have a similar set-up. And you know what? My printer actually IS evil. It won't print black and white unless the color ink cartridges have juice in them. It's gettin to the point where I think I'm going to sell the thing on e-bay and buy a new one (seeing as a new printer complete with ink cartridges costs about the same as the ink cartridges themselves.) Now I'm ranting... I blogged about this same subject a while back that showed my desk and what I need. Mostly Dr. Pepper. Anyway, thanks for the insight into what moves you forward!

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    1. Is there anything more frustrating than an evil printer? I'm thinking about getting a new one myself. In fact, I'm considering spending the extra cash for a monochrome laser printer solely for printing manuscripts and rejection/acceptance letters, considering how much black ink I go through.

      And I could go for a nice Dr. Pepper myself right about now . . .

      As always, thanks for reading, Randi!

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  13. You are so very organized! I love the pic on your screen. And the note to fix it in revision is an essential reminder. I have pix of my mentors and most inspiring teachers in front of me. When I get discouraged they look out at me and I can hear them in my mind saying, "You can do it. Keep going!"

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    1. Awesome, that sounds very motivational. You wouldn't want to let your mentors down, after all.

      Thanks for the compliments, Catherine!

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  14. I wish my workspace was that tidy. My mess is organized, but still a mess. Great post! It's interesting to see where other writer's work. You'll never see photos of my desk though! Not without blackmail.

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    1. It's seen worse days, trust me! I'm far from the picture of organization, but I spend more time on average at the desk than pretty much anywhere else in the house, so I've certainly carved it into a domain that I'm comfortable with.

      Thanks for visiting, Christina!

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Thanks for reading!