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How to Set Up Your Office to Write From Home

FEATURED IMAGE New York Book Editors 3 1 21 How to Set Up Your Office to W

Office space. It’s not just a hilarious cult classic from the 90s, it’s also a conundrum for every writer who wants to work from home.

This subject is very near and dear to my heart because I, too, am a writer who wants to work from home. And I, too, need office space. But I don’t have an unlimited budget or a sprawling home. I live in a modest space with others (“others” being a euphemism for toddlers).

But the thing about writing is that you need a quiet place to hear your thoughts. You also need a place that makes it easy to write.

In this post, I’ll share how I’ve set up my home office, along with ideas on what you can do to create your own.

Set a Budget

Don’t pass go before you set up a budget for your home office. Without a budget, it’s easy to get carried away.

Don’t pass go before you set up a budget for your home office. Without a budget, it’s easy to get carried away.

Before you know it, you’ll have blown through all of your extra cash on scented candles and a fancy keyboard.

How much should you set aside? There’s no wrong answer. If you can only afford to spend $50 on a home office, that’s okay! Look to Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Don’t be afraid to shop used items, especially if you know you’re getting a steal.

If you’re starting fresh (with nothing but a laptop) and you can afford it, I suggest budgeting $500 for your home office. Of course, you can budget more or less, but that’s the figure that we’ll shoot for in this guide to setting up your home office.

But What If I Don't Have Enough Space to Create a Dedicated Office?

I'm right there with you. I don’t have one inch to spare in my home, so I’ve claimed a lonely corner and made it my own.

If you don’t have a guest room that can be converted into an office, I recommend you do the same. It costs nothing, but it gives you a dedicated space to create, and that’s priceless.

Other options include:

Getting cozy in the closet - If you have a shallow hall closet, you can turn it into an efficient office.

Buy a shed - Yes, the garden sheds that they sell in big box home improvement stores. You can find sheds that are the same size as a standard bedroom (10ft x 14ft) for less than $1,000.

What's the Ideal Office Setup for a Writer?

Now, let’s discuss what to include in your office to make it functional and inviting.

Electronics…

set up your home office

Buy a computer

I’m assuming that you already have a computer, but if you don’t, I highly recommend going big. Get the best computer that you can afford.

Choose a good monitor

Next up, you need a good monitor. Get a monitor that’s big enough for you to see what you’re writing. That means, at minimum, your monitor should be 24 inches. If you go smaller than that, you’ll increase your chances of developing chronic eye fatigue.

Let’s get technical for a minute. When setting up your monitor, make sure that it's at least 20 inches away from your face. You don’t want to be too close or too far away. Raise it on a platform so that the top of the monitor is aligned with your forehead. Additionally, the top of the monitor should be tilted slightly backward. All of this prevents you from hunching over and hurting your back and shoulders.

If you’re game, consider setting up two monitors instead of just one. When you have two monitors, you have digital space to juggle all of your writing. You can then dedicate one screen to research and the other screen to writing. This makes it easier to see all of your work in one place.

Choose the right keyboard

Tons of great keyboards available are designed specifically for writers. I’m partial to the retro typewriter style, but go with what makes sense for you and your budget. Be sure to check out the reviews first!

Wired keyboards are cheaper. However, if using a laptop, a wired connection can pose a problem. I have a MacBook Pro with USB-C ports and it’s difficult to find compatible keyboards with good reviews.

Wireless keyboards are more expensive but more convenient. Plus, there are no cords to clutter your desk. The problem comes when you need to charge them or replace batteries. That can be a headache (but it’s admittedly a #firstworldproblem).

Other electronics you’ll need for your home office include:

  • A printer - Printers are still useful, especially if you like to print out and mark up your manuscript with a pen. If you don’t plan to use your printer too often, go for a laser printer. This way, you won’t have to worry about ink drying up due to infrequent use.

  • A docking station - If you plan to use your laptop as your main office computer, you need a docking station. A docking station allows you to connect your laptop to the monitor(s), keyboard, mouse, and external hard drive.

  • A surge protector - I've been the victim of a power surge and it's not an urban myth. To maintain a stable power supply, grab a surge protector. You can find a decent one for less than $10, which will protect your $1,000+ investment.

Furniture…

set up your home office

Choose the right desk

When it comes to desks, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all.” I have a mirrored desk because I’m a sucker for smudges and the scent of glass cleaner, but you may like the industrial feel or something more farmhouse.

Whatever your personal style, remember to choose a desk with the right ratio. Ideally, the surface of the desk should be 29” from the floor. But, if you’re taller or shorter than average, adjust accordingly.

I also recommend getting a desk with drawer storage. This allows you to better contain clutter (or at least hide it away).

Another option is to get an adjustable standing desk. This is a motorized desk that can allow you to switch from sitting to standing.

There are pros and cons to adjustable standing desks. The positives are that you can switch up your position so that you’re not sitting at a desk for hours on end. Research shows that standing desks may reduce neck and back pain. But, because of the electronic component, standing desks are definitely more expensive.

Whatever desk you choose, be sure that you have enough workspace for your needs. To maximize your workspace, get a desk that has a keyboard drawer. This will also ensure that your keyboard and mouse are at the ideal height. (Your arms should stay at an open 90 to 110-degree angle.)

Get a supportive chair

If you're like me, you'll spend eight hours or more each day at your desk. That means you need a comfortable chair that will support your posture and your bootie.

That eliminates dining room chairs. And patio chairs. And (I know this is going to offend someone) exercise balls. That’s multi-tasking gone too far. I don’t need to tighten my core while tightening my prose at the same time. And research has proven that exercise balls are only effective for 20 minutes at a time. Eventually, you’ll slump back in bad habits (pun intended). Instead of an exercise ball, consider the adjustable standing desk option. Or simply stand up every 30 minutes to stretch and reinvigorate your body.

But you definitely need a chair. Do your spine a favor and invest in an ergonomic office chair. Look for a chair that:

  • Provides lumbar support

  • Swivels

  • Rolls

  • Has armrests (otherwise, your arms will hate you)

  • Is height-adjustable

  • Has lots of cushion in the seat

When searching for desk chairs, look at the reviews first. The bad reviews are accurate when it comes to chairs. Also test before you buy, if possible. I turned into Goldilocks at my local Staples, but it was worth it in the end.

Also, consider purchasing a footrest. A footrest can reduce the tension of your back and lower legs.

Get another chair

If you have the space, and if you have the budget, add an additional chair to your office. This can be a sofa, love seat, or comfortable armchair. The purpose of this chair is two-fold:

First, it gives you another place to sit. You may not want to sit (or stand) at your desk all the time.

Second, it gives others a place to sit when they inevitably barge into your workspace. Otherwise, they’ll hang around your desk like this guy:

set up your home office

Get a bookcase

Your books need a home. So that’s the first function of a bookcase. But you can also use bookcases to display inspiring items. Choose a mix of goods and memorabilia to balance utility with your unique personality. Your home office should make you feel inspired.

Get lit

Your office lighting can make or break your writing experience. No one wants to write under a harsh overhead spotlight. But no one wants to struggle with dim task lighting that only illuminates a small spot on your desk.

Natural lighting is best. But, you'll also need to include artificial lights in your office (unless you only plan to write during the daylight hours).

So, what’s the solution?

A layered lighting system.

Instead of overhead lights, rely on indirect lights (such as floor lamps) to create an ambient light. Lampshades will diffuse the light and add a soft glow to your office.

You can also add a task light on your desk to help when you need to work on printed documents.

Final Thoughts

Because you’re a writer, you need a space that says, “Come in, sit down, and work.” With the right office, your productivity is sure to rise. It’s the little things, like a comfortable chair and great lighting, that makes a world of difference. Use the above tips to design a space that stokes the flames of your creativity.

Before you go, check out these related posts:

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