I’ve got the measuring tape, a few cans of spray paint, an old cabinet door frame and some plans to head to the hardware store this morning. When I snapped a photo of my desk the other day, I did a study of the still life and took note of what it was that was crowding my writing space. Much of the mess came from my son’s school papers, so I knew I needed to find a better system for managing the weekly influx. On my list for tomorrow are a peg board and hanging shelves to lasso the school stuff to the wall behind my office door.

Then there are the papers with binding, the books that I’m using in writing this series along with ones that I’ve agreed to review and others that I’m using in Bible study. I’ve hidden a whole line up of other books in a cabinet nearby, but these few I’d like to keep on hand, maybe in a basket or pretty box.

And the scraps of scribbled notes, numbers and ideas, these need a place to gather where practicality meets pleasing-to-the-eye. I’ve been on the lookout for an old-fashioned green chalkboard since I spotted the one in my friend Christie’s creative suite. I’ve shaken down every local antique store, but still no sign of one. But if we writers learn anything through our craft, it’s the value of being resourceful. I have in mind to take an old cabinet door frame with the glass removed and then to cut a piece of wood to size and spray it down with green chalkboard paint for my own take on the vintage style.

While you have your own natural design instinct, you may also benefit from the guidance of those who create inspiring spaces for a living, those who come with the resolve of the professional organizer and the heart of an artist.

My new friend Courtney, a blogger and interior designer, asks her clients to answer the following list of questions as they work on a space together:

  1. What is a typical day like in this given space? When are you most productive? If you are a morning writer, you may want to think about adding a coffee maker to the resources in your space. You may also want to have your to-do lists hidden so that your focus can be completely on the flow of words. If you write in the afternoon when strong sun glares on your screen, you may want to invest in an opaque window covering to soften the effect. If you write as the day winds down, you may want to think more about the right kind of lighting for your space.
  2. What are three of your favorite things? Courtney keeps blankets, books and flowers nearby to add her own brand of coziness to the space, making her more at ease as she works. I like antiques (anything with history or mystery), books and nature. On my window sill, I have a couple of blue Mason jars, some twig pencils and an old-timey film cartridge that doubles as a mini chalkboard. My office warms with sunlight by day, then even into night, the buttercup walls cheer on with a hint of nature.
  3. What’s your organizing style? If you like to keep things visible, you need to carve out a large work surface. If you concentrate better with supplies hidden, you’ll need to have suitable storage nearby. For me, it’s simple. I like the ugly stuff hidden and the pretty stuff on display. I have a desktop-sized chest of drawers that holds my most-used office supplies while the rest of my desk is clear to host objects that inspire.
  4. Do you prefer silence or sound as you write? If you like having music on in the background, what kind do you enjoy most? The writer who prefers classic rock over smooth jazz will likely have a much different feel to her writing space. This can even give a hint as to what types of color palettes to go for. As for me, if the television is chattering outside my office door, or if I just need a change of mood, I turn the music up, usually the Sufjan Stevens station on Pandora. When I really need to concentrate, I go for music without words or turn it off altogether. If I’m working on my fiction writing, I’ll pick something that goes with the theme, setting or era, like some good stuff from the 1940s.

After you’ve reflected and come up with some ideas, you can follow author and psychologist Karen Peterson’s advice. She suggests choosing one area to beautify first, “one that will entice you to write.” Then you can gather the raw materials you need, decide how to store them and consider what pieces of inspiration you’d like to add to the space. To find even more inspiration when it comes to preparing your space, take a look at some of my favorite desks, offices and bits of beauty collected on my Creative Spaces board on Pinterest.

Put some work into your habitat and soon you’ll have created a habit churning out works of word art.

{What did you learn about your style and how to decorate your space from Courtney’s questions above? What one project can you work on that will get you in the mood to write? Share your ideas below.}

This is Day 20 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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