Hey all! I’m like most of y’all; you can often find me writing on my bed, or a coffeeshop (pre-pandemic), or wherever. In fact, I’m a total weirdo who often drafts on my phone via Google Docs while doing dishes. Hey, you do what you gotta.
(I liked Scrivner when I had a Windows computer, but alas, on Chromebook..and using a phone..I’m stuck with Google.)
But recently, I’ve been converted to the idea of a dedicated space and efficient work products. Mayyybe it’s because I don’t feel like writing or revising, so I needed an excuse to troll Amazon and Etsy and Pinterest…but whatever. It might be procrastination, but at least it’s leading to something helpful?
So here’s what I’ve got that works for me. Your mileage may vary!
Before I begin, side note that’s kinda relevant: I have ADHD, so it’s important for me to create efficiencies that minimize the amount of executive functioning I would need to get to a headspace to write. When I’m on full-on hyperfocus mode, I’ll do that “writing on the phone while doing dishes” thing, but what do I need to do when I just need to get butt-in-chair, and how do I streamline the process? And in the ADHD-vein, I do want to pimp the Timer Cap, because it’s literally the only way I remember to take my medication. Look, a checklist doesn’t help. Those little day-by-day pill holders don’t help. At some point, you need to lead into the way your brain works and create a system for you, not what works for other people!
On to writing. Obviously a good step is a workspace…free of distractions. Hah. I don’t have one of those. I’m blessed to have a room that counts as an “office” but it’s kinda like an open plan format (despite some really pretty french doors in one end of the room); I’m in the middle of everything. Spouse, working from home, had to shut himself off in our bedroom because he couldn’t work in the ostensible “office” because children abound. But I do count as assets: one roll-top desk (yay roll-top; I can hide away the mess and/or close things away so the toddler can’t grab my computer/glasses/what have you) and a comfy ergonomic desk chair(with a cheap-ass chair cover to help it look pretty), in a room that also has a window bench so I can sit there by the daylight if I want to curl up. And I have Google Home mini for music for additional calm.
Now, that desk has long been a clutter haven/landing strip, so the first step is to tidy it up! I made sure I redecorated the area to create a feeling of personal calm for me; things that highlight my career and my hobbies (including a serious focus on photography). Of course, that includes my gimmicky coffee lens mug. I love bookshelves near a desk; although we have shelves in our office, they are holders of many things, not just books, so it doesn’t quite have the same feel. To combat that, I stacked up some of my favorite photography coffee-table books on the top section of the desk. (My faves: Norman Rockwell Behind the Camera; The President’s Photographer, Sally Mann Immediate Family, and Capture the Moment by the team behind Clickin’ Moms). I also have the latest trade-paperback versions of my manuscripts, from lulu.com, that I use for both revising and ego purposes.
Although we’re near a window, the room is still too dark, so I also have a few lamps–one bigger one on the top of the desk and one small one that serves as a desk light that can fit under the roll-top. I also added fairy lights to add to the soft light and counteract the overheads.
Of course, a computer; mine is the Acer R11 Chromebook that can go into tent mode and tablet mode, which is key for many reasons. (speaking of “key”, I also grabbed a keyboard skin not only because it looks pretty but also in case I spill something). The reason tent mode is helpful is I can pair it with a wireless bluetooth keyboard and bluetooth mouse. This ensures I’m not hunched over my laptop hurting my back if I’m working for a long time, but because it’s wireless it’s easy to tuck away or take to a different writing space–all very key for my need for efficiency. I tried to do a few DIY things so I could rest the keyboard on top of the center drawer since this desk isn’t made as a computer desk. As of now I just threw an old tray table under my desk that I pull out with the keyboard on it.
So, tent mode on the Chromebook is super helpful because it saves space, where I can use the laptop as just a monitor when I’m using the bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
For dual-screening, I ordered a portable monitor so I can look at two documents at once; portable/small is key because it can fold under the roll-top desk and so I can tuck it away (or take it with me if I want to set up somewhere else.) See a theme? NB: I just ordered this from eBay; I cannot vouch that it actually works with a Chromebook. We shall see.
Update: it didn’t work. Here’s what I do: I have an old Astrotab tablet. I use a combo of the apps Chromecast Z and CastReceiver to mirror my phone, and then I can scroll one document on my phone and have it pop up there and then make the edits on the computer. Probably cumbersome for most but it works for me!
Tablet mode is also a total game changer because I can hand-edit my manuscripts without printing things out. You need anything that can edit pdfs (I use the app Squid, but I’m sure there are better options) and a stylus. Now, I’m sure if you use an active stylus (similar to an Apple pen), that’s a real game changer. I use something much less expensive, and therefore my edits look more like scribbles. That’s all I need, though. I tried the super-cheap Digiroot first, but was not happy. This is the one I use and I’m really happy with it.
(If you really want to print out, I recommend Lulu.com)
(Speaking of game changers, have you all heard of the Remarkable 2 tablet? Holy Moly. I covet. I covet a lot).
Moving on from the workspace, we have notebooks. I had two issues. One: I like to scribble my brainstorms, or write entire passages, but that means my notebooks fill up really quickly. Solution? A Rocketbook. It’s an erasable notebook, as long as you use a Pilot Frixon erasable pen. It also scans, via the app, to the location of your choice (you just have to put an X over the icon that represents the destination, easy as pie). Technically it has OCR, but it can’t…um..read my handwriting.
On Etsy, you can get index dividers for the Rocketbook; they slide onto the rings so there aren’t stickies that mess with the erasable system. You can also get folios that fit Rocketbook, but I didn’t get one of those (more on that later). You can also buy a pen holder for the notebook so you always have a Frixion pen on you; I didn’t feel the need to get a Rocketbook-branded one and just used one of these, which I have a set of (that I also use to hold the stylus on my laptop, and pens on other notebooks.)
You can also add adhesive pockets, I used one to hold the microfiber cloth that comes with Rocketbook so I always have it on hand.
Because I’m extra, I added a few stickers to make the rocketbook pretty, including this one from Etsy.
ADHD note: that tiny rocketbook has been a godsend. we’ll see how it holds up, but the idea of having basically a dry erase board I carry around with me has been revolutionary. And what I do for my house cleaning / to do list is that instead of making specifics, or having to clean one room each day ( which means if I miss a day I flip out,) I have the list you see above. Which did not start out as long. As I got more confident, I added more things on the list, which also means some days I don’t get through the whole thing. But, because I have this desire to check things off, I usually take the 5 minutes to do whatever is on that list. Wipe down just one cabinet. Do one outstanding task. put away the dishes once. All those little things that people seem to do automatically and that I need an external force telling me to do.
Second notebook issue: organization! I need to be able to move things around, or remove pages (although with Rocketbook I can just erase). Solution: The Rekonect notebook. I tricked it up a bit, adding one of those pen holders, as well as tab dividers for all of my projects. (not Etsy, this time, just Post-It brand). I also made this notebook pretty, including this sticker from Etsy. I used to use it for brainstorming until I got the rocketbook, now it’ll be for long term notes I want to keep and for keeping track of queries, etc, in more of a bullet journal model.
I also added a ribbon marker by attaching via magnet (in fact, because it’s magnet, you can use a magnetic pen to attach to the spine instead of my pen holder idea). The Rekonect has a document pocket in the inner back cover but I also added an adhesive pocket on the outer back cover.
Finally, because of my efficiency/portability desires, I wanted something to hold both notebooks at the same time. I found this amazing portfolio. It’s similar to a well-known one by Mochi Things but way cheaper. Bonus: it holds more than just the two notebooks. I could throw in the computer (or the portable display, probably not both), extra pens/stylus, my Kindle (I got a super cheap 2011 model for no lie, $25) etc. I also wanted this because with the Rekonect being magnetic, I’m wary of letting it sit on top of my computer. Yeah, if you google, magnets don’t affect computers but…I can tell you from experience the Rekonect absolutely does. So having it in a holder means I can carry it around along with my computer without worrying about what I’m doing to it.
And, because I’m extra, I added this gorgeous enamel pin from Etsy to decorate the portfolio.
I grabbed this cheap desk pad to aid in organization.
Finally, because it’s winter, I’m getting a SAD lamp to replace my tiny pink one. This one might be too tall for the desk. We’ll see. But it does have a wireless phone charger and usb ports.
This is how it all looks so far:
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