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The Writer's Office - What You Really Need

A Writer's Office is Special

Every writer needs a place to work. In the beginning, it may be the proverbial kitchen table or old student desk in a basement 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 essentials. However you do it, there are some essentials.

A Writer's Desk, Chair and Keyboard - It's in the Ergonomics

Where you write, and how you sit, 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:

  1. Your seat height should allow you to put your feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest.
  2. The back of your thighs should make contact with the seat.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. Your chair needs lumbar support for your lower back.
  6. Your arms need support so your wrists are in a natural, neutral position on the keyboard.
  7. You should be looking straight ahead, rather than up, down or to the right or left.

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, 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.

The Writer's Computer and Printer

It goes without saying today you'll need a computer. The choices are Mac and PC. Mac's are delightful and more expensive. PCs come all sorts of ways, from no-name boxes to complete setups from recognizable names. In addition to your budget, the things to consider are:

  • 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.
  • Monitor - if it doesn't come packaged, aim for a 17 inch or larger monitor. The LCD screens are still pricy, but coming down, and not only do they take up way less space, the weigh much less than the CRT type.
  • Printers are cheap these days. I love Hewlett Packard's printers, but there are other good brands. Ink jet printers are fine these days and much cheaper than laser. You won't need fancy photo printing for most writing, but a good color printer can do a great job and is worth considering. A multifunction printer that prints, copies, scans and faxes 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.

Although you can track income and expense with Excel (the current standard in spreadsheets) your life will be easier with QuickBooks or Microsoft Money.

You'll also need email software - again, Microsoft Outlook is typical and has calendar functions. It will do.

Internet Connection

Today's writer must have an internet connection and frankly, you need the speed and convenience of broadband. With both cable and DSL, you not only have a fast connection, you also can use your phone while you're on the 'net. In metropolitan areas, wireless is worth exploring.

Writer's Files

You'll have files on your computer and you'll have hard copy files. One way or another you have to keep track of:

  • Ideas
  • Queries
  • Work in Progress
  • Income and expense, including receipts for tax purposes.
  • Business documents like insurance policies, contracts, etc.

Computer files are great, until you have a crash, so make sure you back up regularly. Paper files get cumbersome so do your best to keep them weeded.

Of course, I think every writer's office needs a cat; if you're not a cat or pet lover, do pay some attention to decorating and making your writing space a joy.

 

 

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