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Guest Post: Give Me Some Space: The Importance of Declaring Your Workspace

Sara Cleveland

A word from Sara Cleveland:

One of the things I have struggled in my journey as a writer is my space. Writing for me takes an inordinate amount of space. There must be room for all the notebooks, maps, world-building, reference material and of course the computer itself.  I’ve found that it’s important to declare this space and make it my own. Right now I’m fortunate enough to have a whole room to set up shop. I’m still getting my spot just the way I want it, but I’d like to share with you what I feel are key points to it. So here’s my top three steps for creating your writer’s retreat right in your own home.

Declare your space

As writers we need to declare our space. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a spare bedroom or office to do their writing in. Yet we all can find a chair at a table or a stool at the counter and make it ours. The important thing is that it needs to be clear to our loved ones that this spot is our spot. When we are in our spot with our laptop or notebook we are working. When we are working we need to be left to do what it is that we need to do.

This is a concept we’re still working on at my house. My hubby has a hard time with this. It’s actually a miracle I haven’t strangled him yet.

I don’t know about you all, but when I’m in the flow of things I really, really can’t be interrupted. When I was a little girl like most kids I played pretend. To me the worlds I made up were so real and so vivid that I could almost see it, touch it, hear it. When I was in the flow the places and characters came alive to me. But as soon as my mom opened the door or someone called my name it was like a magic bubble burst. Pop! The world was gone, and it wouldn’t come back for a while. Usually not for the rest of the day. Writing is like this for me. When my husband sticks his head through that door and asks what’s for dinner… Pop! Reality rushes back over me like a cold shower. It’s most unpleasant.

Even if you aren’t weird like me interruptions can still be challenging. That great thought you just had, that perfect description, that witty one-liner… Poof! The thought train has left and you’re still on Platform 9 & 3/4. Whatever you were thinking, it’s gone from your brain while you’re telling the spouse where he left his tie clip.

Another reason for declaring your space is other people’s good intentions. Other people’s well meaning hands need to stay away from your writing things. No touchy-touchy. I know from personal experience how much it sucks to lose your work. My mother once threw out half a novel and about a year’s worth of world-building notes. Why? Because I was keeping them in a laundry basket in my bedroom and she assumed it was trash. This is also a case for backing up your things and not using a typewriter, but it also illustrates a problem with not declaring your space to your family.

Make your space comfortable

Get a chair that provides good back support. Get or make a rest for your wrists. Buy a pair of glasses to help with eye strain. I like Gunnars. Buy an air conditioner or a space heater. Do whatever it is that you need to do to make your space a space you can comfortably sit in for extended periods of time. Maybe for you this means digging out granny’s handmade afghan or keeping your favorite PJs on standby. You know, the ones with the bunny feet? Hey, I’m not judging.

This isn’t just limited to physical comfort, either. Is that hideous shade of baby-food green the previous owners painted the wall of your space is getting you down? Paint it! Paint doesn’t have to be expensive. I have had surprisingly good success with Wal-Mart’s brand, even if it does take an extra coat. It’s amazing what a simple change in wall color can do for the psyche. Here’s some thoughts on wall color from WebMD. On that note…

Make your space inspiring

When I was about fourteen my grandmother had a book about writing romance novels. I believe it was this one: How To Write A Romance Novel and Get It Published. I of course read it in the dead of night while Mamaw and her husband were asleep. Why on earth my grandmother had this book I will probably never know. In anycase, one of the big things I took away from the book has stuck with me for over a decade now. It was about keeping inspiring things nearby.

For example, I have a satin pillowcase I keep around for when I need to have the tactile experience of satin. This can be particularly useful if you’re writing smut, but satin has been used for more over the years than negligees. I also like to keep pieces of leather, wool, ringmail, etc handy since swords and sorcery is my thing. I used to have leather scented melting wax (no joke) that my mother absolutely hated. Which brings me to my next point.

Keep things like scented candles handy. When Bath & Body Works is having a sale, stock up! Scents can trigger memories and can be quite inspiring. I’m a big fan of linen scents, sandalwood, and warm spices like cinnamon. I could take or leave the fruity smells. Candles also make for great mood lighting which can also help get the creative juices flowing.

If you’re not one of those that likes to work in complete silence, then consider having a stack of CDs or a couple of playlists handy that inspire you. Country, rap, R&B, Polka… whatever gets you going or fits your book. When I’m working on fantasy I sometimes like to keep the Dragonheart soundtrack on repeat. It just makes things feel epic.


Ultimately, every writer is different. The things that comfort and inspire us are wildly varying and often unique to each person. That’s part of what makes writing (and reading) so cool; discovering each author’s special voice. So, just like your voice your space is a reflection of who you are and what it is you’re hoping to accomplish. So go out there and claim it.


For more from Sara visit her author page here

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