I enjoy seeing how other writers work, and what tools they use. Today, I thought I would share three useful elements from my home office setup. The idea here is not so much to tell you how to set up your office, but to show you how I've put some thought into my setup. I will recommend the things I use, but the real recommendation is this: Think through your setup.
Erasable Pens, Highlighters, and Markers
Eons ago, I tried out erasable pens. They were the worst. Absolute garbage. Recently, I decided to give them a try again. Now, they are outstanding.
The brand I love is called FriXion. They appear to be imported from Japan; the packaging is riddled with kanji I cannot read. I have just been ordering them off Amazon with free shipping, so I don’t know if they are stocked in any stores.
They erase using heat, so basically anything that provides friction will erase for you. I have heard that if you leave your inked-up notes or whatever in the sun too long or near high heat then they will also be erased; I also hear that you can recover your erased text by putting the paper in the freezer. I can’t testify to that, but my sources are reliable.
You sometimes get light smudging with the highlighters (if you erase), but overall every FriXion item I have used is more or less excellent. Here are the three items from my recent order:
These things have changed my life. I cannot recommend them highly enough, especially for messy writers.
I switched from PC to Mac and from desktop to laptop at the same time, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The portability of the laptop is an obvious advantage — whether I’m working in my home office or in my university office or in a coffeeshop, I have the exact same computer setup.
However, I missed multiple screens. I was used to having a two-screen setup: one for my writing and one for my research. I had put my PC screens into a garage sale pile, so I still had them, and one day it occurred to me that I could probably just find some sort of adapter and plug them into my laptop.
I did, and it worked. The only catch is that my laptop has a retina display but these old monitors don’t, so they basically look like garbage, but they are functional and it beats paying crazy money for fancy retina monitors.
All I needed was two of these babies:
Of course, what you need really depends on your ports.
Kneeling Chair and a Standing Desk Rigging
I found some old wooden thingamajig at some garage sale and put it on the desk to raise my laptop. When you sit at your desk to write, your computer monitor should be level with your face so that you don’t have to look down. This is proper ergonomics.
To make this setup work (since my laptop keyboard is now out of reach), I have an external keyboard and trackpad.
I use the Apple brand ones:
They work wonderfully but are expensive. Now, there are a lot of less expensive options. I hear that this is a great set, and it’s very affordable:
However, I cannot vouch for those.
When you raise the laptop up like this, you can actually use it as a standing desk (in which case you’re not ergonomic anymore, but at least you’re not sitting all the time). When I stand, I just use the laptop keyboard. I basically sit to write and stand for non-writing, paperwork-type tasks.
When I sit, I use a kneeling chair. I found mine at a garage sale. It looks similar to this one.
I am no expert in what chair you should use, but I love this kneeling chair. It has really helped my back. It takes some time to get used to it. Don’t take this as medical advice, but for me it more or less forced me to engage my core when sitting and so has been helpful.
No matter what kind of chair you end up using, heed this warning: Put time and money and thought into your chair. Don't be afraid to pay a lot of money for the right chair for you. Your chair is the most important thing in your office. Your chair = your health.
As I say, with this setup, I can also stand when I want to change positions or when I am just sick of sitting.
A lot of other stuff in this office that I will maybe walk through another day, but those are three core elements of my office that might inspire you to plan or re-plan your own office — the key is to be intentional and think about how you want to work.
Whatever you put in the office, and however you want to use the stuff in your office, take some time to consider your setup. An office setup that works for you will encourage you to spend more time in your office, getting things done.