We first featured this post from PhD candidate Julia Hallas in August 2013.
What’s your writing space like? Do you have a dedicated space? Do you have to clear the dishes from the kitchen table every time you want to write? Do you use a laptop or iPad and write anywhere and anytime?
Can having a dedicated and organised writing space improve your writing habits?
According to the writing experts a dedicated writing space, no matter how big or small, is the way to go. It doesn’t need to be flash with all the mod cons. Silva (2007) explains how he set up a writing space in the corner of a room with second hand furniture and an ancient computer. As long as he has a table, chair and computer, he can wake up in the morning and go straight to his space and start writing. Single (2009) is adamant that having a dedicated space is the catalyst to begin writing in a positive way each day. Of course, this only works if your space is organised and tidy and ready to go. Single (2009) advocates tidying up your space at the end of each session, making it as easy as possible to get started on your next scheduled or unscheduled session.
Another issue writing experts agree on is to minimise distractions when you are in your writing space. This allows you to focus completely on your writing and nothing else. Complete focus for 2 hours beats distraction leading to anxiety and procrastination for 5 hours. You will produce far better quality work in the 2 focused hours. Common distractions seem to be texting, browsing, Instagram, Facebook, phone, email and the old ‘I need to search for more articles’ trick. If you have scheduled in writing time, you should be writing and not searching.
So a big advantage of a dedicated and organised space is clear – it saves time. And when writing a dissertation, time is something that we never have enough of. Another important point Single (2009) makes is that the discipline of organising your space, so that you are ready to write each day, minimises stress, which can lead to writer’s block and procrastination. These feelings in turn lead to self-doubt and rob you of your confidence. Setting up structures such as these provide a foundation for you to work and by meeting the challenge of a regular routine, you can build your confidence instead of tearing it down.
- Create a writing space which motivates you and is pleasing to your senses. It will make you feel more relaxed and less anxious.
- Set up your writing tools to maximise productivity. Don’t forget to charge your devices at the end of a session.
- Create a system for keeping your drafts, papers, articles and books in order. Diarise library book return dates to avoid fines and more worry.
- Use wall space to post writing schedules, checklists, project plans and concept maps, so that you can see them at a glance.
- At the end of a writing session, note where you are up to and what you should start with for the next session.
- Keep your materials by your computer, ready to go. This will minimise start up time at the next session and should help to avoid procrastination.
So, what’s your writing space like? How does it help you to improve your writing habits?
Silva, P. J. (2007). How to write a lot: A practical guide to productive academic writing (Electronic ed.)
Single, P. B. (2009). Demystifying dissertation writing: A streamlined process from choice of topic to final text. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.