I’ve read many articles and seen many forum posts about what the “ideal writing environment” is for an author.
“Whatever works for you” is the most common answer. It should be. If it doesn’t work for you, then what’s the point?
However, I’d like to share an environment which has worked for me, and which could work for others. If you’re looking for the ideal setup, please give this a try.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A laptop computer with a Wi-Fi connection and a wireless mouse.
- An older, smaller computer (an ASUS EeePC 1000 is my weapon of choice, but it requires a wired mouse).
- An Amazon Kindle.
- A Dropbox or Google Drive account.
- A television.
- One or more candles, preferably unscented beeswax.
- A desk, coffee table, or stand which holds your laptop at a comfortable level.
Here’s how I’ve got my computer hardware configured:
- My main laptop is front and center. It’s an old (2009) HP running Windows 7, which is a good indication of how little computing power you’ll need for it.
- Directly to the left is my Kindle Paperwhite, resting on a “beare” brand acrylic stand.
- To the left of that is my old EeePC 1000. I run Arch Linux on it, but any OS which can run Dropbox or Google Drive will do.
- Mice for both systems sit to the right of the main laptop.
The fun part is in how you use them, especially if you’re on a critique group like Scribophile. I write using the laptop, of course. The EeePC is for reading other sources, but mainly Scribophile critiques—I save my critiques off to PDF files (using the Firefox Print Pages to PDF extension) and copy them to a Dropbox folder, which I access from the EeePC. This keeps me from having to do a split-screen or alt-Tab on my laptop, since everything’s visible at once. Last but not least, the Kindle gets used for looking things up in various reference books.
The beauty of this is that you can use whatever writing software you want (e.g., MS Word, LibreOffice, Scrivener) on your main system and still have quick and easy access to critiques or other material on your secondary computer. You don’t have to waste computing power and/or screen real estate on running two programs on your main system.
Now, what about the rest of the items? Well, those set my atmosphere. I believe that my atmosphere is as important as my layout. Here’s how those are set up:
The television is on the wall to my left (I write in my living room (which drives my wife crazy, but she’s not the one writing a book)).
Some people will say it’s impossible to write with the TV on. I disagree. In my case, it’s essential, since it provides what I call “audio/visual white noise,” since I’m not really watching or listening to it (I have the volume set at minimum, but not muted). I use it to distract the parts of my brain which would try and hijack my verbal creative process. That said, the channel I (don’t) watch is just as important. It has to be something with very little movement and not a lot of talk. Most of the time, I’ll tune in to Willow HD (channel 806 on Verizon FiOS) and let a cricket match play, since they don’t add a ton of visually distracting jump-cuts.
Continuing on, the candle(s) are to the right of my laptop, sitting far enough away from my mice that they don’t cause thermal failure. I prefer beeswax, since it’s unscented and burns steadily without soot. Try the ones at Big Dipper Wax Works—they’re not cheap, but they burn a long time and are well made.
The desk is self-explanatory, except in my case I have a coffee table with a tabletop that lifts up and toward you. It looks like the rear wing on an IndyCar or Formula One car when extended.
I don’t have the hubris to suggest that this setup will work for everyone. Some people write with music in the background—I can’t, since I’m also a composer and the music will push everything else out of my brain. Others have to have complete silence—again, I can’t work this way, for reasons stated above.
As I said in the post title, this is just one man’s opinion. Therefore, if you haven’t found your ideal writing environment yet, consider giving this a shot.
Comments? Feel free to leave them here!