With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, hundreds of thousands of writers will be gluing themselves to the keyboard (or even the pen and paper) to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Not only does this task require dedication, motivation, and inspiration, more practically, it also requires writing tools and space.
As many NaNoWriMo participants are not career writers (as of yet, anyway), creating a healthy and productive writing space may be a new or entirely unconsidered concept. Even career writers, who spend the majority of their days, every day, writing, may not have thought about how to best utilize their writing tools and space for their own productivity, or especially, their health.
Whether you are a casual writer or a professional one, creating a writing space that facilitates productivity and does not harm your health is vitally important. While I am not a health professional or productivity coach, I have been compiling and brainstorming tips to best arrange my writing space. Here are 10 ideas for you to help you make your work space a center of progress and wellness.
1. Clear Your Space
In her book, Wellness on a Shoestring: Seven Habits for a Healthy Life, Michelle Robin discusses the benefits of de-cluttering your space. She describes how, when you de-clutter your physical space, it helps to de-clutter your mind. By having an organized and clean work space, you won’t be distracted by a tornado-like mess, and you can focus on the task at hand: writing.
2. Clear Your Space of Distractions
Wherever you decide to write, make sure that only essential writing tools and essential nutrients are within arm’s reach. Obviously, you need your computer or pen and paper and research notes on hand, and maybe even a beverage or snack. But if you have anything else around, be it a fun distraction like your cell phone, or a practical one like your laundry, or even one for fidgeting like your car keys, chances are, your productivity will decline.
3. Drink Water
As I tell my husband every time he grabs his morning coffee, your dependency on caffeine makes you weak. I don’t know why writers have a romance with coffee (Although, I feel like Hemingway is somehow to blame — or was that just booze?). Seriously, though, water is the best resource for hydration and, believe it or not, long-term energy. If you need to drink a few cups of java to get you started, fine. But don’t forget to flush it out with your eight, eight ounce cups of water.
According to many NaNoWriMo posts, chocolate is the writer’s snack of choice. Trust me, I cannot throw any stones here. I love chocolate. It’s my biggest weakness. However, I know it is not the best snack to be mindlessly eating while writing. Instead, if you must chomp away while you write, try carrots or celery or an apple. Save chocolate and all the other tasty junk food for your reward when you finally reach your 1,667 for the day.
5. Get Up and Move
It’s been proven that exercise helps increase creativity. That alone should encourage writers to get regular exercise. However, even if a 30 minute walk isn’t your thing, you should at least attempt to stand up and stretch every 45 minutes. Even simple movements increase blood flow and reduce the risk of blood clots and other risky conditions. One tactic for this may be writing with the Pomodoro Technique, in which you work for 25 minutes and then take a three to five minute break.
Having a comfortable and supportive chair not only helps keep your back and bum healthy, it also allows you to concentrate on your writing instead of your aching joints. If you are looking for bonus points, you might even consider using an exercise ball for your chair. Sitting on an exercise ball requires balance, and as your body tries to stay upright, it works your abs and strengthens your spine. Bouncing may also help to jiggle those genius ideas out of their hiding places!
7. Support Your Wrists
Your wrists carry a large burden when writing, especially when typing. They are arched up and responsible for coordinating the movements between your arms and fingers. Health experts advise having a resting pad or other device to place your wrists on when you write and type. However, even if you don’t have that, make sure to give your wrists a gentle massage and light stretching before and after writing. After all — they’re doing most of the work for you!
Picking the right mood music can boost your productivity. Studies show that classical music is great for putting your brainwaves in a creative mode and increasing concentration. Of course, even if you don’t like classical music, listening to any music can help make writing more enjoyable. I strongly suggest listening to music that inspires you or that conveys the mood of the work you are writing. However, know your limits. If the music becomes distracting, turn it off!
9. Make Your Space Sacred
While husbands and parents and friends and pets are wonderful and we love them, they can also be really distracting. Ask your loved ones to respect your writing space. When you are writing, you need to be focused to be productive. If you make your writing space sacred, you will be given the distraction-free zone you need, and your loved ones will learn to treat your writing seriously (even if it is not yet a full-time career). As a reward to them and yourself, you can always invite them into your space later, when your word count goals have been met.
10. Disconnect from the Internet
While this may seem pretty self-intuitive, it is possibly the hardest tip to follow. Let’s face it: nowadays, we are addicted to the internet. What’s worse is the internet is an easy distraction to justify. I mean, it’s the easiest way to research your novel, right? So you can just search that one little question, and then you can stop. Well, 10 seconds on Facebook can’t hurt…oh, and someone posted a cute picture on Instagram…and there’s a link to something on Twitter…and Pinterest…and…you’re screwed. Do your research and your socializing before and/or after writing. If you have a question while writing, put a note in your manuscript and come back to it after you meet your word count goal.
You are your best ally in making your writing space productive and healthy for you. Know your limits: if you can resist playing with the Slinky on your desk, it can stay there. If not, hide it away. Listen to your body: if your neck or shoulders or back start to hurt, reconsider your chair, desk, and computer screen angle. You know yourself and your body better than anyone. Look out for yourself while you write, and you will come away from your desk healthy, happy, and ready for more.
How do you organize your writing space to increase productivity? What ways are you looking out for your health when you write? Share your tips below!