Charlotte Rains Dixon  

The Space You Work In

A clean desk is the sign of a …. oh never mind.

Where do you do your writing?

Do you have a dedicated space for it, or are you a nomad, roaming from table to couch to bed to desk?

I tend to be very settled in my writing habits, i.e., I sit at the same space every day and work at my computer. Problem is, I’m also a very messy human. Well, maybe not messy, but disorganized.  I like paper and I like making notes and I have this thing that requires I write something down to remember it. All this adds up to lots of stuff to keep organized.

Or, put another way, a very messy office.

I had stacks of paper all over, along with towers of books, binders and spirals spilling over the edges of tables, and general assortments of things nobody knew what else to do with except put in my office.  My business coach told me I needed a clean space in order for money to flow in. I told myself I needed a clean space in order for the words to flow.  But no matter what I did, that didn’t seem to happen.

I lived with this mess for, um, almost a year and a half.  Ever since I moved my office to its current space.  Before this, I worked upstairs, where I felt removed from everything, and not in a good way. (When FedEx knocked at the door, it was a mad dash down slippery carpeted stairs to get there before they returned the package to the truck.) Before that, I worked in the same space I am now. Before that, I worked in a corner of our unfinished upstairs (and when the house caught on fire, the fire stopped just short of my computer and my lifelong collection of journals). Before that, I worked on the kitchen counter. And before that, I worked at a desk set up in a corner of our bedroom. So I’ve been in a variety of spaces over the course of my writing life and pretty much none of them have been organized.


I finally accomplished it. My office is clean and I love it.  I can think better when I’m not staring at piles of paper.  And thinking better translates to writing better.  But it took me a long time and a lot of trial and error to figure out what works well for me.  And I’ve been an inveterate studier of writing spaces for forever. So I offer up a few ideas in case they might help or inspire you:

  • I really love surrounding myself with things I love. Like photos of family, goofy gifts people have given me (I have two, count ’em, two physical representations of Poo–as in the Poo emoji), pictures of France taken and drawn by my husband, the first weaving I ever did.
  • Must have books around me
  • I work best when my computer desk, where I spend most of my time, is clean and neat and not surrounded by teetering piles of crap. So I traded in my massive long Ikea desk/table for an old and very small desk. Most of the time, it stays clean. The tables and shelves around me might not be, but at least my desk is. Helps that it’s too small to stack much on.
  • Because of the above, I created a space where I can do my journal writing and other creative projects, which makes a huge difference.
  • Lots of space for office supplies. This was part of the problem before–I didn’t have enough room for them and they got piled and buried all over the place.  I finally figured out I had room to move a long shelf in and this has made an enormous difference.
  • Boxes of file folders beneath the work desk. Here they can stay out of sight until I need them.
  • Good lighting.

Because of all these requirements, my office is cramped.  It is a small room, after all. But I don’t care–I love it. Instead of staring at piles of crap and thinking about what a disaster I am, I now stare at pictures of family and think how lucky I am.  I feel more productive in a space I love. And since I spend most of my waking hours in this room, that is a very good thing.

Where do you work? What kinds of things do you like to fill it with?

PS.  An article I wrote for Magical Goddess magazine just came out! It’s about writing, natch. Find it here.

0 thoughts on “The Space You Work In

  1. cgulbro

    Great tips, Charlotte! And great article in Magical Goddess Magazine! This post is timely for me. I’m hoping to do some reconfiguring of my writing space in the next few weeks. I currently write at the same desk and in the space where I work (from home, teaching counseling and psychology online), and I feel a need to have a separate space for my writing. You’ve given me some ideas to ponder. Thanks!! Courtney Gulbro

    1. Charlotte Rains Dixon

      Thanks, Courtney! Yeah, I’ve found it really helpful to have an auxiliary desk. Now, if I can just keep it from getting totally piled up again…

  2. Amanda Moon

    I also reduced from my IKEA work table to a smaller desk (old library desk my neighbor was giving away) and it is so much easier to keep clean! The problem is that it’s in my dedicated office space in the basement, so the only time I get to use it is when I have the house to myself– otherwise I have to be more accessible for the small people here that need me. So that means I write all over, and never feel very settled. I added a small desk to our living room and that helps quite a bit to make me feel a little more in place.

    1. Charlotte Rains Dixon

      Oh boy do I ever well remember those days when I had to be near the small people who needed me! I admire how much you get done with them around. And at least you have a place of your own in the basement. That helps to anchor you. We probably had the same IKEA work table. 🙂

  3. Don Williams

    I move from place to place, sometimes in the home office where I have a lamp that gives off natural light, and sometimes, and most often in bed with my MacBook Pro or on my iMac. I was told, when I studied writing, it’s best to have one place for most of your writing and someday, when I have the energy, I shall try that out.

    1. Charlotte Rains Dixon

      I know you probably do a lot of writing in bed because you’re tired, but it sounds to me as if you do have one place where you do most of your writing. Doesn’t matter where it is as long as you do it!

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