The Perfect Writer’s Desk

hope_000.gifTime Management for Writers

By C. Hope Clark

A new writer in my critique group asked if she could look at my study to see what a real writer’s workspace looked like. I fought to hide my surprise and puzzlement. Your workspace is yours and will reflect your quirks, talents, desires and organizational skills. I won’t touch the first three, but I can definitely address what the efficiently organized desk should include. I’m a fanatic about mine, and it’s served me well. As an organizational guru, I see the following items as absolute necessities to managing a writing career:

  1. Spiral notepad – Mine is 5” x 6”. I work in the evenings, so each night before I shut down, I open to a new page, date the top for the next day and list the to-do items. That next day, my work duties await me. I jot ideas, references and connections on the rest of the page, often continuing to the back. Then at the end of my day, I note what hasn’t been done or what needs addressing anew and turn to a clean page. It’s amazing how many times I’ve referenced past dates and counted my lucky stars that I documented my work.
  2. Week-at-a-glance calendar – Mine is a “Bylines Writer’s Desk Calendar,” 5” x 7” and lays flat, thus the need for a spiral binding. While the notepad addresses day-by-day details, the calendar notes long-term deadlines. Not only is this organizationally wise, but it’s a great record for income taxes where you can note mileage, meetings, trips to the office supply store and phone calls. My old calendars are in my tax drawer with past years’ returns. I purchase this one each year, and adore it so much I offer it on my personal Web site. Each week features a writer like you and me. This year I’m featured on the week of February 25.
  3. Phone – I prefer a land line. Mine is also a speakerphone so I can work and talk at the same time. This is effective for interviews and documenting information. If you prefer a cell phone, consider a head set to leave you hands-free.
  4. Thesaurus and dictionary – Hardbacks lay open better. When I’m intensely engrossed in a freelance deadline, mine stay open until I’m finished.
  5. Printer – My printer sits to my left within reach from my chair. When I’m busy, the last thing I want to do is jump up to retrieve a page. Printers are the cheapest of the electronic tools of your trade. Purchase the best you can afford with a laser jet being the ultimate goal. The savings in toner alone makes the investment worthwhile.
  6. Assorted envelopes – My desk is stocked with 9” x 12” bubble envelopes for books, 8.5” x 11” white envelopes for queries and small manuscripts, 9” x 12” for larger manuscripts and #10 business letter envelopes. Make an editor’s job easier by presenting your work in the best envelope for the job. Having a variety of sizes also keeps you from cramming too many papers in one envelope. Presentation is as important as your font size and grammar. Mail your work so it arrives pristine, without creases and with less chance of paper cuts.
  7. Light – I installed overhead lighting in my office with one floodlight shining straight down on my keyboard. I have night blindness, so dim light can make a G and a Q look alike to me. Tired eyes can also play tricks on you. Providing proper lighting can ease your eyes and help you be more efficient and accurate. Even a small lamp can make a huge difference.
  8. Chair – The chair has to fit you comfortably. Shop hard for the right one so you can prevent back, neck and shoulder pain.
  9. Mouse – Again…think ergonomics. Your mouse has to fit nicely in your hand; but even more important is using it at the right height and angle in relationship with your keyboard. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has a marvelous site for how to properly place your workstation so you’ll have fewer ergonomic problems.

Having the proper basics allows you to focus your days on writing in lieu of finding this or reaching that. Another friend from my critique group often asks me how I accomplish what I do. He thinks I’m a whiz kid and a computer guru, making my system produce faster for me. I assure him it’s all in the organization of one’s space, one’s day, one’s frame of mind. With a good set up, your production increases ten fold.

C. Hope Clark is founder and editor of FundsforWriters.com, annually recognized by Writer’s Digest in its poll of 101 Best Web Sites for Writers. She delivers four newsletters each week to thousands with her specialty being grants and income opportunities for writers of all sizes. She’s published over 200 articles on paper and online. Her magazine credits include Writer’s Digest, The Writer Magazine, ByLine Magazine, NextStep Teen, College Bound Teen, Landscape Management Magazine, TURF Magazine, and American Careers Magazine. Hope is a motivational soul known as “Freelance Hope” in many circles. Those reluctant to promote their writing cherish her trade paperback The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success. Find more hope for your writing career at www.fundsforwriters.com & www.theshywriter.com

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1 Response to “The Perfect Writer’s Desk”


  1. 1 Susie May 23, 2007 at 1:08 am

    I like the way you have described your work space. I felt as though I were standing in the door way looking in. The organization is great. I hope to one day be as organized as that with my writing. Thank you for sharing.


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