Working from home has always been a nice notion for many. No more office distractions: pungent food smells at lunchtime, ad-hoc meetings, general chatter… all gone. No more arduous commute: say goodbye to lengthy drives or uncomfortable rides on crowded buses or trains. No unpleasant feeling of being watched from the corner by managerial types.
And though there are jobs that don’t really suit remote working, writing isn’t one of them. Seclusion is a tried-and-tested boon for writers. When you really need to get some words on the page (or screen), it’s often a great idea to get away from any company, tailor the area around you to your exact liking, and attempt to enter into a flow state.
Even as we entered into 2020, though, there were plenty of bosses and company boards that wouldn’t allow their employees to work remotely — even if they were doing nothing but writing. That all changed with the onset of a pandemic that’s keeping many of us at home as we move into the middle of the year, and could keep us home for months to come.
The result is that huge numbers of writers are finding themselves working from home, and though it sounds good, it can be hard to adjust to it. What they need to learn is that having the right setup is extremely important — and in this piece, we’re going to cover some key tips for creating the perfect station for writing from home. Let’s get underway, shall we?
Cultivate a relaxing atmosphere
Here’s the issue with trying to replicate a generic office environment, which is something that inexperienced remote workers can do: that environment is great for keeping people awake and alert, but it isn’t great for driving creativity. Even writers with the most utilitarian workloads can’t operate relentlessly like data-entry automatons.
Writing productivity waxes and wanes. Hundreds of words tumble from your fingers in what seems like seconds, then you glare at your screen for an eternity while tumbleweed drifts lazily through your mind’s eye. Now imagine trying to operate that way while perched uncomfortably in a cubicle with sickly paint on the walls and awful motivational posters in your eyeline.
On the whole, it’s better to be relaxed. Surround yourself with things that soothe your spirit. The richness that you need for character development alone can only stem from long-form thought, and while history is riddled with authors who suffered brutally for their art, those aren’t examples to follow. You don’t need to steadily lose your sanity while holed up in a freezing bunker to create a hero who’s expertly written and developed: you just need patience and a reasonable understanding of the foundational principles of narrative structure.
Focus on ergonomics
Relaxation isn’t just about the spirit: it’s also about the physique, because writing — while not exactly an Olympic-level physical challenge — is still demanding in a specific way. Sitting in the same position for hours every day can cause some major back issues, and hammering on a keyboard can lead to repetitive strain injuries or even nerve damage.
Due to this, it’s vital that you focus on the ergonomics of your setup. You need a keyboard that you can comfortably type on every day, and a chair that doesn’t hurt your back, and a computer display that doesn’t leave you with aching eyes on a regular basis. How does your neck feel after a typing session? If there’s value in getting a standing desk, go for it.
Ensure even lighting
Lighting really matters for a writer. Glaring artificial light will likely end up giving you a headache, and it will certainly mess with your circadian rhythm. Sleep is critical for everyone, but particularly for creatives, because you need that REM sleep to get ideas swirling around in your unconscious mind. Having the light telling you to stay awake when you get to 4am isn’t ideal.
Does this mean that you need to sleep at standard times? No, of course not. Some people are night owls, and if you get a great idea in the early hours of the morning, then you should absolutely write them down and work on them. But let that stem from your creativity, not your static lighting.
Whenever you can, rely on natural light. It will keep you alert in the smoothest and most comfortable way. When you need to work at night, have even and relaxed lighting: nothing so bright that it will threaten to stop you sleeping, but enough that you’re unlikely to drop into a deep slumber in the middle of a sentence. And the evenness matters because moving shadows can be distracting, as can shifts in screen visibility (or screen glare).
These core tips should help you create the right writing-from-home station for you. Everyone has slightly different needs, so feel free to experiment with the layout and equipment: just remember to make it relaxing, comfortable, and evenly lit.