How to Create a Writing Space on a Budget

by Suzannah Freeman

Home office

All you really need to write is a pen and some paper. Right?

That may be true, but having a dedicated writing space can make writing easier and help you make the most of your time.

Whether or not you have a home office, you can use whatever space you do have to set up something comfortable and functional to work in, all without the need to splash out.

Here are some tips to help you set up your own writing space on a modest budget:

Choose your space

Decide where in your home you’d like to work, and where you’re going to be most productive. Is there a corner in a bedroom, dining room, den, or rec room with space for a few things? Where do you feel most inspired?

If you live in small accommodations where you’re pressed for space, consider setting up a movable office where everything can be stowed away in a large carry container.

Take inventory of what you already have

Spend half an hour looking through all that stuff you have lying around, and I bet you’ll have a head start on the materials you need. Paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, erasers, folders, paper clips, a stapler… Most people have these items (or even a surplus of them) in their homes already.

Don’t feel you need to buy everything new, especially if the old items work just as well.

Decide on must-haves and nice-to-haves

What one must have, and what one would like to have, is different for everyone’s writing journey.

Most writers today feel a reliable computer is a must-have tool for taking your work beyond hobby status. You’ll also need manual writing tools and some basic stationary items. A good desk lamp is necessary if you’ll be working in an area with little natural light and poor overhead lighting, and a comfortable chair will help keep your back in shape.

But what about the nice-to-have items? How about that fancy writing software, the leather-bound writing folio, and the deluxe office chair with massage feature? If you’re on a budget, make a list of the things you’d like to have some day, and add them to your office one at a time, as they become financially possible.

Hunt for bargains

Even a top-name computer can be nabbed for a relatively decent price if you shop around or buy second hand. If you already own a computer that needs a bit of work, consider paying someone to give it a once-over.

How about a desk? A desk from a yard sale, or one that’s handmade (by yourself or someone you can beg to make one for you) will work just as well as a new one.

If you know what you want, try advertising in your local paper asking people to contact you if they’re interested in selling their used items.

Give it your personal touch

Once you have everything you need to get started, don’t forget to make the space your very own. Hang some art on the wall near your desk, or add a vase of flowers to your bookshelf. Paint wooden items with your own unique designs.

If you’re setting up a stow-away office in a carrying box, buy a freestanding picture frame and write an inspirational quotation in it.

Make the space your own, and you won’t even notice you’ve been frugal in setting it up.

What area of your home makes you feel most inspired to write? Which items are your must-haves, and which are your nice-to-haves?

Today’s Challenge: If you don’t have a dedicated writing space, decide on a spot in which you feel most inspired and comfortable for writing. Create a simple plan for how you will make that space your own, and how you will tailor it to your personal needs.

About the Author: Suzannah Windsor Freeman is the founder of Write It Sideways, a blog where writers learn new skills, define their goals, and increase their productivity. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits challenge.

  • When we bought our new house it had a lovely office in it. I claimed it as my own and purchased beautiful furniture and decorated it. Then my husband started paying bills in it and my daughter started doing homework in it. I no longer could be creative in it. Bills laying around, empty glasses left behind, books and notes left on the desk…so I got a new writing space. We had two guest rooms. I gave away all the furniture in one room and bought some cheap office furniture and moved some other bits from around the house into MY writing studio. I decorated it with child like paintings and multiple bulletin boards. The only person who is allowed in it other than me is the cat. It’s really wonderful to have a creative space that is truly my space.

    • That sounds so wonderful! One day (if we end up moving), I’d love to have an office of my own with a bit of space for the children to play, as well. That way they can play while I work. You’re very fortunate to have a room of your own!

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  • Mel

    This might sound weird, but for me, the back of the bus is an amazing place to write. I take the bus to work (don’t make it on my writing alone yet), but I sit down, everyone else is asleep or talking to other people pull out my notepad or my laptop and write for 20 minutes interruption free. For me, that back left corner of the bus perfect. If I get stuck, well I can people watch for a couple minutes and make up my own little universe of fiction around them.

    • Great idea! I would get motion sickness if I tried to do that, though 😉

  • All those years writing with my four children around has made it hard for me to go to my room and write. A little background noise and people around seem to be essential ingredients. Coffee shops are good for that. Interruptions are the hardest for me to cope with and I do see the contradictions in all this.

    • It’s great that you can write with background noise and distractions. That’s the most difficult part for me!

  • Jan

    I think that is a good suggestion. I’ve thought about fixing up an area just for me to write in with my books (references) handy. Now I am recovering from total ankle replacement so have to write in my lazyboy with foot at heart level—not an easy feat. But not too hard. I’m hoping to finish the last part of my first draft.
    Also like to read your blog Write It Sideways. would suggest people check it out.

    • Thanks for the shout-out to Write It Sideways! Sorry to hear you’re a bit laid up at the moment. Hopefully you’ll be able to set up your own writing space soon.

  • Lucky for me I’m already set up so I don’t have to purchase anything new 🙂

    • What a great place to be! I hope we’ll all be in your situation soon 🙂

  • I have a space, the problem is too much personal stuff all around it. I need to make myself take a day and dump out a lot of stuff. I will never sort through it all at this point, there is just too much.

    • Why do we always end up with too much of everything??? I’m like that, too.

  • I am lucky to have a dedicated space to work – as a consultant, all my work is done from the same desk in my office (a fab $60 purchase from craigslist!)

    This post did prod me to re-examine that space, and clean up the dreadful mess I’d made of it. Clutter everywhere, stuff shoved onto shelves to be filed whenever, cutesy desk-stuff that was taking up space and gathering dust. Thanks for the reminder – I feel more productive already.

    • As much as I’m generally a very disorganized person, I do hate clutter in my work area. Having everything tidy and organized means you don’t have any excuses for not getting straight down to work!

  • I do envy those who have a dedicated office of their own! It’s wonderful that you have the space.

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