Five Tips for Tricking Out Your Writing Space

Hacks for Hacks (sense of humor required)Your workday is over, the kids are asleep, and your spouse is passive-aggressively checking Facebook while you talk about how your book’s coming along. It’s time to head to your happy place, your home office, where you go to build, conquer, and lose yourself in your own little world of writing. But what’s this? Your little nook makes Harry Potter’s room under the stairs look like the Waldorf Astoria.

If you’re courting the muse, don’t invite her into a dump. These gadgets and gizmos will enhance your productivity, spark your inspiration, and transform your workspace from shack to sexy (be sure to say “sexy” in a Sean Connery voice to make it alliteration).

Have a Vision

Get a really loud keyboard so everyone can hear how hard you’re working.

For a workspace befitting a serious writer, you’ll need at least three computer monitors to update Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, your blog, and check your email while working on your masterpiece (bonus: all those screens will obstruct real-world distractions like wall calendars, windows, and photos of loved ones).

Think on Your Feet

Get yourself a standing desk. Isaac Asimov wrote on a standing desk, probably. A standing desk has all sorts of health benefits–you’ll burn more calories, and you’ll have more energy working while standing rather than sitting. Plus a handsome devil like yourself cuts an impressive figure while standing at attention instead of slouching in a chair with your shoulders hunched up to your ears. Pair your desk with a treadmill to maximize your health benefits. Writing your novel will seem like a lovely hike through the woods, except that instead of lush trees and birdsongs, you have two hours of being exactly three feet from a slab of drywall.

Don’t Just Type. You need to TYPE!!!

Get a really loud keyboard so everyone can hear how hard you’re working. Consumer Reports found that Lenovo keyboards scored the highest in clackiness. I got one, and find that a good writing session will leave my ears ringing and the neighbors yelling at me to knock off that racket. It’s like being in a rock band!

The time you spend optimizing your office counts as writing time.

Think Outside the Box

And by box, I mean the traditional notions of what your office can be. And by that I mean ask yourself if you really have enough space to create. Remind your children that, in pioneer days, Ma and Pa made all eleven kids sleep in the same Conestoga wagon. So putting three kids in the same bedroom so you can knock out a wall to expand your home office isn’t much of a hardship, really.

A Brilliant Deduction

You can get a tax deduction for your home office expenses, so long as they don’t exceed your income. Since a smart cookie like you is obviously on your way to literary stardom, go ahead and start spending your advance in advance. But don’t forget that the bloodless bean counters at the IRS read books, too. When filling out your return, drop a few hints that this is your WRITING SPACE where you are composing your LITERARY MASTERPIECE! Maybe enclose a few sample pages to pique their interest, or at least to convince them that your deduction for a $700 Aeron chair is legit. They know you’re a writer and they’ve asked to hear from you; they’ve basically signed up for your mailing list! This is what Seth Godin means by Permission Marketing.

The time you spend optimizing your office counts as writing time. Remember: this stuff is an investment, and not just in your creativity. Bram Stoker’s writing desk is estimated to be worth $80,000. Are you going to let your fans squander their life savings on your chewed-up Bic pen and some Post-it Notes? My definition of success is when, a hundred years from now, a collector will take out a second mortgage to buy Bill Ferris’ deskside white-noise generator. So grab your least-maxed-out credit card and plan on making daily trips to Staples, which also counts as writing time.


About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.


  1. says

    I love the idea of putting all of the kids in one bedroom so you can knock out the wall to expand your writing area. Since I don’t have any kids, I took over my husband’s downstairs man-cave (because Stephen King said write in the basement ya know) then I made my upstairs office a REVISION office (bigger table, different vibes needed), the dining room table is for emails & research (must turn off internet everywhere else, uh huh) and my stand up desk is the kitchen counter (for all of the reasons you mentioned.) All of these areas must be outfitted with lots of Italian dictionaries, writing instructional books, pictures & souvenirs of Venice (my book is set there, I need to create the mood) & each room has to have its own coffee maker–ok, MAYBE that is going too far because someone might actually suggest I stay in there & work! If I haven’t taken over the entire home by the time my debut novel is published (it will be, LOL) then I consider myself a poor starving artist and then “those other people” (the ones who live in or visit my office mansion) will really have to feel sorry for me. Its all so wearisome.

  2. says

    A standing writing desk? Hm, now that’s something I hadn’t thought of, although I do take my print out to the kitchen counter and reread it there to get a new perspective on the page. Great idea, Bill.

  3. says

    lol One of the best posts I’ve read in ages!
    I currently write under the stairs (no, not Harry Potteresque, we’ve an open plan house and the dining table happens to be under the stairs) but we’re planning to build our dream house soon – my future office is going to be outstanding ;)

    Suzy Turner, YA Author

  4. says

    Great suggestions. I love the 3 monitors. I need to get a standing desk. I can go to the kitchen and put my laptop on the counter, since I’m short … oops, excuse me … since I’m vertically challenged the height works. But because I’m no longer invisible to my family, I’m fair game. Not good. So I definitely need that desk. :)

  5. says

    My newest keyboard has more of a typewriter feel to it … alas, now my family knows when the writing is flowing and when not. As soon as the clacking stops, there are requests …

  6. says

    I will remember this post Bill for future, future reference. I want to make sure I have some stories worthy of such a sophisticated office. Adjustable desks and a treadmill will definitely be on the list.

  7. Robin says

    Seriously? Does anyone really have a monitor anymore; especially three of them? I have a laptop, a tablet and smartphone. All of my social media and blogging is done from my cell phone on a schedule after my daily writing is done; even blogging is extra curricular. Efficiency and time management are key. Monitors these days are dinosaurs.
    Be sure to find time for enjoyment and relaxation. Walk your treadmill and meditate.

  8. says

    Robin – sad to say, I have two monitors. Just ordered a laptop yesterday with an extra keyboard to do some clacking from the recliner in the living room. Smartphone? Still not evolved that far but maybe someday.

    I wonder how much of the laptop I can deduct on taxes?

  9. Cathy Plum says

    Hi Bill,
    What a great article. The standing desk has been on my list – the treadmill I could do without. LOL! I’d probably wipe out on a word. I have a two computers (laptop & dinosaur) and I can’t part with that dinosaur! Raaaarh – the keyboard sings to me.

    As for the writing space, this IS one of the first things I learned about writing and freelance. To have a special place “where the magic happens” as one of my friends stated, is the key!