You Don’t Need a Desk to Be a Writer

If you developed powers of invisibly and came by my house on a writing day, you probably wouldn’t find what you expect. I don’t work in an office with bookshelf lined walls and a reading nook in the corner. I had an office like that once, and I avoided it like the plague. I blame it on a condition I call desk-a-phobia.

For years, I tried to get comfortable writing at a desk. I wanted to be creative, productive, and as efficient as possible. Articles and books suggested strict organization and schedule were the keys, so I bought pretty office organizers, big calendars, and too many planners to count. Unfortunately, I ended up less creative, less productive, and less efficient.

Disappointed in myself and in my office, I decided the problem was physical discomfort. I bought an ergonomic chair, a footstool, a floor heater and a little trickling water fountain for soothing background noise. Still, the problem persisted.

About a year ago, I realized something important. What the articles and books said worked for a lot of writers was never going to work for me. Sitting at a desk put me under pressure to produce, and I absolutely cannot be creative when I’m under pressure. After this grand moment of self-understanding, I stopped trying to force myself into someone else’s box.

If you, in your invisible state, came by to see me writing, I’d likely be sitting on the sofa with my laptop balanced precariously on one knee and a diet Pepsi on a coaster near my elbow. The soft melodious sound of Bach would not be playing in the background, as so many articles suggest it should. Instead, the TV would probably be on. I like to run through episodes of Bones while I work. I don’t pay attention to them, but the sound of conversation keeps me from feeling lonely.

Articles and books call my method messy and chaotic, but I don’t care anymore. I know it works for me.

Another box I stopped trying to fit myself into is a long work day. My most creative period is between 10:00AM and 1:00PM. I try hard to devote those three hours to writing. On a first draft, pushing myself longer than three hours is wasted effort. No matter how much I want to write, my creative juice is gone 180 minutes.

It’s different when I’m editing. Creativity can take a backseat as I focus on ordering, clarifying, and evening out the rough patches in my story. I switch into all or nothing mode, meaning I work for stretches of (hopefully) uninterrupted time. I usually need one week for the first two rounds of edits, and sometimes 36 hours and no sleep for the third. When I work fast, I remember the changes I’ve made, and I don’t repeat myself.

Once again, my method would be termed messy and chaotic, but I’m okay with that. I know it works for me and that’s what matters.

So my advice to you, my invisible friend, is figure yourself out. Get an understanding of what works best for you. There are a lot of great ideas floating around, but don’t try to fit yourself into someone else’s box. You don’t need a desk to be a writer.




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