Every writer needs a place to work. In the beginning, it may be the proverbial kitchen table or old student desk in a basement or bedroom corner. As your writing income increases, your office may move into a room of its own, or even out of your house entirely.
Wherever it is, there are some basics you need.
A Writer’s Desk, Chair and Keyboard — It’s in the Ergonomics
Where you write, and how you sit, or even stand when you write are critical. Usually you’ll be using a computer, typing on a keyboard, looking into a monitor. If you are to avoid not only fatigue, but actual injury over time, you need to be set up in an ergonomically correct manner:
- Your seat height should allow you to put your feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest.
- The back of your thighs should make contact with the seat.
- Some ergonomic experts say your thighs should slope slightly downward, others say parallel to the floor, and my chiropractor says my knees should be slightly elevated. Figure out what works best for you.
- The angle between your trunk and thighs should be open past 90 degrees, which gets you close to a natural posture. Tuck your tail bone under when you sit down.
- Your chair needs lumbar support for your lower back.
- Your arms need support so your wrists are in a natural, neutral position on the keyboard. That can be the arms of a chair, or special supports, or even the desk itself as long as your wrists are supported and neutral.
- You should be looking straight ahead, rather than up, down or to the right or left.
- If you’re using a standing desk, you may need a pad of some sort to stand on. Think what bartenders use as a start.
You’ll probably have to fiddle with your chair, keyboard placement, monitor height, etc. Adjustable task chairs cost more, but are more than worth it in the long run. Ergonomic keyboards are almost as cheap as the flat ones and, at least for me, make a huge positive difference, so spend the extra money.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the lighting. If you write during the day, natural light is best. For night-time writing, consider paying for the light bulbs that give you a close approximation of natural light. fLux — https://justgetflux.com — is free software that will allow you to adjust your screen colors for less glare. I’ve found it absolutely mandatory.
The Writer’s Computer and Printer
It goes without saying today you’ll need a computer. The choices are Apple’s IOS or Windows. both come all sorts of ways, from no-name boxes to complete setups from recognizable names. Laptops often replace desktops these days. In addition to your budget, the things to consider are:
- Tech support — things go wrong and you want to be able to get the help you need quickly.
- Memory — the more the better is the rule. Even more than that is even better.
- Monitor — if it doesn’t come packaged, aim for a 19 inch or larger monitor. LCD screens are now the default.
- Printers are cheap these days. The thing to pay attention to is the cost of the ink. Almost all use color as well as blank ink. Consider not only the cost of the ink but if you can buy the colors individually. You’ll waste less that way. Ink jet printers are fine these days and much cheaper than laser; laser does give you unmatched print quality. A multi-function printer that prints, copies, scans makes a great deal of sense.
Software for Writers
Your operating system will depend on your computer — just make sure it’s a recent one. The standard for word processing today is Microsoft Word it’s a decent program and if you want to be compatible with others, this is realistically your only choice. Open Office is close and free. So is Google Docs. There are other programs out there. For example, if you’re a script writer you can get script writing software that will handle the formatting. You can find and may already have software that allows you to dictate rather than type.
Although you can track income and expense with Excel (the current standard in spreadsheets — and Google sheets is almost as good) your life will be easier with QuickBooks or my favorite, YNAB, https://www.youneedabudget.com/
You’ll also need email software — gmail is the current standard.
Can you write and edit on a smart phone?
You can, and many do. I hate it. I’m willing to pay for the larger screen real estate of laptops and desktops. The smart phone screen drives me crazy even for texting, let alone real writing… if it works for you, good on you.
Today’s writer must have an internet connection. Unless you’re way out in the country that generally means some sort of broadband. Setting up wireless in your home won’t cost you much and may be included.
You’ll have files on your computer and you may also have hard copy files. The value of hard copy is debatable, except computers crash. So you will want to save must-have files in paper as well. One way or another you have to keep track of:
- Work in Progress
- Income and expense, including receipts for tax purposes.
- Business documents like insurance policies, contracts, etc.
Of course, I think every writer’s office needs a cat.
Okay, the cat is optional.
Do pay some attention to decorating and making your writing space a joy. Your writing will benefit.
Write well and often,
Originally published at: https://aboutfreelancewriting.com