Profile of a 'workplace'

By Tom Watson


I have two offices in my home where I do all of my freelance writing.

When I’m sitting at the desk in my first office, I am “at work.” I am fairly diligent about putting in six to eight hours of writing each day (granted I tend to take long breaks) and have followed the typical bullet-point list of outfitting my office to be an ergomatically positive workplace:

♦ Back-supporting office chair to encourage proper posture.

♦ Adequate lighting for reading and countering the effects of screen glare.

♦ Shelving an arm’s reach away, amply stocked with reference books.

♦ Ample filing cabinets for storage.

♦ Cavernous desk drawers to contain everything that won’t go anywhere else.

All that and good ventilation with a window to the outside world (optional) gives me a very comfortable and professionally appointed office in which to work.

My other office is in a parallel universe. It looks like my working office. It has all the same embellishments as my real office. Yet something is different. When I sit down at that same computer to work on some creative fiction piece, it’s not the same workplace anymore. It’s like identical twins. But one comes to work sporting a polo shirt and casual slacks. The other shows up barefooted wearing a Jimmy Buffet T-shirt, sweat pants and carrying a pitcher full of spiced rum and Coke.

As I get older, I see more and more of an overlap into Margaritaville. When I sit down at my desk, either to take on an assignment or to relax by letting a story flow forth, I  caress the carpet with bare toes. My hair sticks out in more directions than there are compass points, and there is probably a bowl of popcorn perched atop my trash can. When I sit down to write “for fun,” I am not too concerned about style points.

Having a workplace that encourages creativity – whether it’s for serious work or serious pleasure – is a very important aspect for any writer, especially a freelancer. Here’s a bullet list for the perfect inspirational workstation:

♦ A BIG desk with room to stack – not file – all brochures and scraps of notes within arm’s reach.

♦ A chair you wear.

♦ A wardrobe modest enough to be very comfortable but in which you can respectably answer the door.

♦ Several coasters, a roll of paper towels and a protected place to set down a vessel of liquid refreshment. (It should be far enough away from the keyboard and computer in the event you knock it over – again.)

♦ A nearby window that lets in refreshing breezes and allows you to visually escape the computer screen every now and then.

♦ And most importantly, a good sound system. I don’t know how anyone can write in silence or with the constant drone of white noise in the background. I need music filling the air like audible incense. I can’t listen to music with lyrics; I like to harmonize, and words are too distracting. It’s got to be spirited instrumentals. I especially like Latin music that’s just picante enough to keep my fingers dancing along the keyboard. If I want a punch in the arm I’ll go with robust orchestrations such as the soundtrack from “Master and Commander” or selections by Cusco. And when I need to bring it down a bit, there’s nothing like an Ecuadorean pan flute or some Mozart to soothingly guide me along the path.

The most important factor in all this is to create a setting that enables you to put forth your very best effort in the most relaxing way possible. That’s at least part of the lure of freelance writing, the sense of independence. There’s plenty of room for carry-over, too. During my workday, I’ve got classical music or jazz filling the room. There’s usually a stick of incense smoldering, and I am quite often shoeless.

As long as the underlying discipline to write well and write often is at the foundation of our motivation, it’s not so much how we get there but that we want to continue on the journey no matter what. ◊ 




Tom Watson is a freelance writer, columnist, book author and active member of OWAA and the Association of Great Lake Outdoor Writers. He writes from Appleton, Minn. E-mail him at




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