Category : Writing Tools

Writing Tools: The Journal

Author Ron Klug says, a  journal is also a tool for self-discovery, an aid to concentration, a mirror for the soul, a place to generate and capture ideas, a safety valve for the emotions, a training ground for the writer, and a good friend and confidant. (op. cit.)

Everyone can benefit from having a journal, but writers above anyone else, gain much from keeping one. Writing, like any other skill, becomes better with practice, and journals provide writers with an opportunity to develop their skills.

More than writing practice, however, journals have other uses:

1. Journals can help a writer discover and develop his own unique voice.

Each author has a special writing style or voice that has gained them publishing success. Voice and writing style develop over time and practice, and beginning writers can gain discover their own unique way of expressing their thoughts by using a journal.


2. Journals can help generate story ideas.

Ideas come in all forms and at the oddest moments. If you’re lucky, you have a journal handy to write them all down. You may see/smell/taste/feel something that fascinates you and try to describe it in your journal. These descriptions can be the seeds of an idea for a novel or article you may someday write.


3. Journals can provide raw materials for a writer’s work.

Life is what inspires a writer’s work. You write anecdotes, memories, feelings, and even amusing overheard conversations in your journals. All of these can be used as fodder for your screenplays, novels and short stories.


4. Journals can be a great sounding board for a writer’s daily frustrations and concerns.

The path to publication is a long and difficult one, and often writers are overcome with doubt. Journals can provide you with a way to vent our frustrations and fears so you can let go of them, and keep on writing.


journals, image from

Types of Journals

Journal Writing is an art on its own, and as such, it comes in different formats. There are different types of journals that you can use to express your creativity, not only as writers, but as individuals.

You can have one journal for all of your creative projects, or for record-keeping, or you could have several journals, each for a specific topic or project.


1. Personal Journal/ Diary

The most popular use for a journal is to write your thoughts and feelings about anything and everything. In this type of journal you simply record your life experiences. You can write about specific events, or life highlights like getting married, or moving to a new place. This is a good way of remembering the milestones of your life, and also a good source of materials for your creative writing.


2. Idea Journal

This is where you would write ideas for stories, novels and articles you might write about in the future. It’s always best to keep your Idea Journals nearby where you can easily access them. After all, how many ideas have been lost because you didn’t have a small notebook while you were in the shower, or while you were out for a jog?


3. Creative Writing Journal

A Creative Writing Journal is where you would collect all of your short stories, flash fiction, and poems.


4. Freewriting Journal

Freewriting or stream of consciousness writing helps you clear your mind of cluttered thoughts and helps you tap into your creative intuition. You can set a time for ourselves, say 5 or 10 minutes, and simply write down whatever comes into your mind. You can also focus on a particular image, word, or topic  and write about that during your timed freewriting session.

You can find clever turns of phrases, profound insights and even discover your writing voice through your Freewriting Journals.


5. Reader’s Journal

Most writers are voracious readers. In your Reader’s Journal, you can write a review of a book you’ve read, jot down a particular line or dialogue that called to you,  and even make notes on a writing technique or trick that you’ve observed the author use in the book.


Painted leather journal from journey

6. Novel Journal

You can designate a journal for every novel you’re working on. There, you can write your thoughts and feelings on the story as it is developing, along with plot ideas, and possible scene resolutions.


7. Inspirational Writing Journal

This is where you collect snippets of inspiration so you can look back on them when you need encouragement. Lines from movies, quotes from books, song lyrics, poems, photos, newspaper clippings, magazine articles –anything and everything that can inspire you when your creative spark is sputtering should be posted in your Inspirational Writing Journal.


8. Dream Journal

Dream Journals give you access to your subconscious mind, where your creative aspect resides. Your dreams can provide you with a good supply of images and plots for your stories—especially if you write them down.


9. Art Journal/ Sketchbook

An Art Journal is where you could keep your sketches, drawings, and doodles. You can sketch your characters, draw the setting for your stories, and even create intricate maps for your fantasy novels here.


10. Travel Journal

Travel Journals are where you would record all the details of your travels—whether memorable or mundane. You can paste your itineraries, plane and bus tickets, receipts and pictures in your travel journals.


Map journal, image from

11. Project Journal

Project Journals are useful for keeping track of your thoughts, feelings and progress on a certain project you might be working on. If you’re working on a novel, art piece or even training for a marathon, you could write about it in your project journal.


12. Goal Journal

Similar to a project journal, a Goal Journal is where you would record your thoughts and feelings about a particular goal you wish to achieve. If you’re trying to lose weight or quit smoking, a Goal Journal is something that might help you track your progress. Once you achieve your goal, re-read all your entries and see just how far you’ve come.


13. Hobby Journal

If you have a hobby like gardening a Hobby Journal would be where you would record your hours in the garden. List down the progress of your plants, write down daily observations about the wildlife, and even descriptions of each flower/plants’ stage of growth. These descriptions might come in handy when writing a scene or poem in the future.


14. Food/Recipe Journal

If you’re a Foodie, you probably like to go out to eat at restaurants, and take pictures of all the food you eat. You can write about your new food discoveries in your Food Journal, and even paste recipes of dishes you’ve tried and loved.


15. Memory Book

This type of journal usually comes in a structured, guided format.  A Memory Book allows you to record thoughts, feelings, and details about a particular stage/ event in your life. Baby books and wedding books are an example of this type of journal.


16. Gratitude Journal

Reflecting on the good things in your life is a good exercise in positivity. In your Gratitude Journal, you can write down all the things you’re grateful for everyday.


17. Friendship Journal

This journal is typically shared with a friend. You can write letters to each other here, or share stories which you think your friend might enjoy. Friendship journals are a great way to keep in touch with long distance friends—or lovers.


18. Family Journal

Your family can use this to share thoughts about family issues, problems, or goals. Besides the usual family dinners or talks, a Family Journal is a wonderful way to keep the bond strong with each other, and to grow closer to one another.  It’s also a great way to discover things which your significant other or child is going through, which he/she might find hard to share in person.


19. Prayer Journal

When you pray, you speak to a Higher Power about problems, dreams and aspirations. You even ask questions which you know might never be answered. You can write all these down in your prayer journal. You can also write your thoughts and feelings about a particular scripture or sermon here.


20. Scrapbook

You can show your creative side and have fun recording life events in a scrapbook. Aside from writing short passages about your experience, you can also add photos, and artwork and drawings  in a scrapbook.


Moleskin journal, image from 

Traditionally, journal writing is a pen and paper activity. But you can just as easily keep an electronic journal using your computer.

There are computer programs that allow you to generate scrapbooks or memory books, if you wish—but this isn’t necessary. You can simply open up a word document for whatever type of journal you wish. You can even have a file for each type of journal you wish to have.

So do you keep a journal? If so, what kind of journal/journals do you keep?




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You’ve found a spare room in your house to use as an office.

You’ve bought a desk and chair suitable for your space.

You’ve set up your computer and printer, and other office equipment you might need.

You’ve even found a nice lamp for your desk.

Your Writing Sanctuary is ALMOST complete.

Almost? Well, yes. You’re missing one more element that’ll make your writing space truly feel YOURS: Desk accessories and Decorations.



I’ve already listed some of these items in my previous post on Office Supplies, but I’m mentioning them again, because these are supplies you’ll probably want on your desk or in your desk drawers.

A. Writing Instruments

1. Pens

2. Pencils

3. Markers

4. Highlighters

5. Colored pencils/pens

Writing instruments

B. Binding Materials

1. Paper clips

2. Stapler

3. Staple wires

4. Binder clips

5. Scotch tape

6. Glue/ Gluestick

7. Rubber bands


Binding supplies

C. Miscellaneous

1. Staple removers

2. Two-Hole punch

3. Three-hole punch

4. Scissors

5. Ruler

6. Pencil erasers

7. Correction tape

8. Mechanical Pencil lead refills

9. Sharpener

Miscellaneous office supplies



You can organize these accessories in your drawers using drawer organizers.

If your desk doesn’t have drawers, you can use desktop stations like the one below to organize your supplies.

Desk organizer, image from

Accessory trays are also useful for smaller items like paper clips, staple wires and binding clips. Cup holders are likewise available for taller items such as your writing instruments, rulers and staplers.

The wonderful thing about these accessory organizers is that you can either buy them pre-made or you can use pre-existing items around the house.

Use egg cartons and muffin pans as trays or drawer organizers. Decorate old jars, paint old cans, find a vase, mug or cup you haven’t used in ages and use these as cup holders for your pens and pencils.

Egg carton organizer from


Putting your own personal touch and flourishes in and around your work area is an important part of claiming your writing space and making it truly your own.

The more you invest in something, the more motivated you’ll be to use it. Take time to decorate your newly created writing space so that it reflects your style and personality as a writer.

If you have the time and inclination to do so, you can have fun creating your very own writing kingdom.

Decorating your writing space doesn’t have to cost money. Instead, let your creative side out and find materials around your house which you can repurpose as accessories, organizers and even furniture. 

desk organizers from old boxes/cartons, image from



Writing is a creative task, which means you’ll always be in need of inspiration. You need to surround your new writing space with things that spark your imagination or inspire you to keep on writing.

A simple way to decorate would be to simply place favorite things such as toys, trinkets or photographs around your desk or on bookshelves.

Since I love writing fantasy, I keep a lot of fantasy-based items around me as I work, such as this cute toy dragon:


Pick a theme for your writing space. Choose your décor based on your favorite writing genre. If you’re a Fantasy writer, for instance, you might spruce up your space by adding a toy wizard or knight on your desk. How about a stuffed toy dragon? Or maybe a wand you found at the flea market.

Love Steampunk? Pick out a vintage brass telescopes or compass to place on your desk or bookshelf.

Bruce Rosenbaum ModVic steampunk designs

You can also choose your theme based on a favorite book or movie.  If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll have no trouble looking for toys or decorations to put in your new writing space.

Don’t know what theme to pick? Look through the decorations you have around your house and you might begin to see a pattern. Maybe you have a lot of modern pieces or artwork  just lying around, contemporary might be your style. If you find a lot of antique pieces all over your apartment, you might begin to realize that vintage is your style.

Vintage style office, image from


You can borrow decorations you already have around the house and move it to your new writing space. You can also go to your local flea market to find some decorating inspiration—maybe a piece will call out to you.


If you can, paint your new writing space.  Use a color that will enhance your writing mood.

If you’re the type of writer who likes to listen to loud music or a TV blaring in the background, you probably need a lot of sensory input to trigger ideas and keep your mind rolling.

Brighter and warmer wall colors like yellow or light orange will help keep your mind fully awake as you write.

If you need calm and serenity when you write, go with blues or greens for your wall colors.

You can also add color to your sanctuary in other ways.  Replace that faded white curtain with a new blue one, or choose colorful decorations to spice up your work area.

Modern blue home office, image from


Hang inspiring posters, favorite artworks or photographs.  You don’t need a whole lot of frames to make your writing space more homey.  Just find the perfect one to get you in the “write” mood, and you’re set.

Use the walls to hang a cork board or white board. These are useful tools for writers. You can use them to write reminders, notes, and schedules, put up a calendar and even as a storyboard for plotting your next novel.

Chalkboard Paint may be a good alternative to a white board/bulletin board. Paint one on your office wall and put it to all sorts of creative uses.


Every writer’s work area must have at least one bookshelf.  Bookcases help keep your reference books handy.

You also need a space for your favorite books. When you’re running low on inspiration, all you need to do is pick one from your shelf and start reading.


My bookcase–full of books and small trinkets


As long as you have a sturdy desk and a comfy chair, you’re really set to go. But you’ll want some furniture to store those office supplies and other writing knick-knacks in.

You don’t have to spend money to furnish your new writing space.  You can borrow unused/underused items from around the house. There might be an extra cabinet in your living room or family room which might be better used as office storage.

You can repurpose old furniture and fix it up to match whatever décor you’ve decided to use for your writing space.  That bedroom dresser you were going to replace might just need a little face lift. You can repaint it to match your office color scheme and use it to hold paper supplies and old manuscripts.

Go through all the things in your garage or storage space, and you’re sure to find things to decorate your office with.  For example, that old hard-shell suitcase or trunk you inherited from your grandma can be used as a small table/storage for your vintage-themed office.


Vintage style office, image from


Writers are magnets for all sorts of papers and office supplies. We find paperclips on our hair, post-its on our elbows, and that missing manuscript page stuck to our shoes.

We all know how hard it is to steal time to write, and sometimes we spend precious minutes just looking for one item. To avoid these time-wasters, we should know where everything is.

How do we do that? Well, by providing a place for everything, and putting everything in its place. Organizers do exactly what their name suggests—they organize our lives.  They can also add an element of design to our writing space.

Some organizers you might consider using:

  1. Desk caddy
  2. Drawer organizer
  3. Hooks
  4. Labeled cups/jars
  5. Labeled boxes

desk caddy, image from

Again, you don’t have to spend much just to get organized. You can always go hunting in your house for items to repurpose.

Repurposed glass jars, image from

Now that you have everything you’ll ever need to begin your career as a writer, you won’t have any excuses to delay that great novel you’ve been planning to write for years.

So go on and write!



Home Office Decorating Tips


Creative Office Accessories–Desk-Accessories-for-Creative-Types

Home Office Organization Ideas


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Your writing space has taken shape. You’ve carved out a spot in your house/ apartment reserved only for writing, found the perfect desk and chair, chosen the best computer for your writing needs, and even replaced that grubby old desk lamp you used to have.

But your writing nook isn’t quite complete yet. You’ll need a few more things before you start writing your next bestseller.

Below you’ll find a list of common office equipment and supplies you might need.

Of course, you don’t have to check everything off this list before you actually start writing.

Choose the ones that are most important and focus on getting those first. (Hint: as long as you have a computer, printer, and some paper, you’re set) You can add the other ones as your career grows, or as the need arises.




This is your most important writing tool. Writing longhand and on a typewriter is fine to start with, but if getting published nowadays requires the use of a computer.

If you don’t know which one to pick, check out my article on A Writer’s Computer.

Dell Desktop, Image from


You’ll need this for printing out those drafts for revision, as well as manuscripts to submit.

There are several types of printers to choose from:

Writers like yourself would probably end up choosing between an injket/laserjet printer.

PROS *Cheaper units initially-Ink cartridges are cheaper*You can have both colored and black and white prints*Better when it comes to printing colored photos or documents- Generally smaller in size, so inkjets are perfect if you don’t have much space on your desk or in your office * In the long run, printing with toners is cheaper at 6 cents per page*Printing is fast-Better text print quality. Ink on the paper won’t run or smudge*If you print a lot of black and white documents all the time (such as manuscript drafts), laserjet printers will save you time and money
CONS * In the long run, inkjet cartridges are more expensive—running about 20 cents per page*Printing speed can be slow*Text print quality isn’t as good as  laserjet *Laserjets might be more expensive to purchase*Toners are pricier than ink cartridges, but last longer-Limited to only black & white Or colored prints (for colored laserjet printers)*Colored printing of photos isn’t as good as inkjet*Bigger than inkjet, so will take up more space


Scan pictures or articles from borrowed books/magazines for story idea inspiration, or as research materials for your book.


Because sometimes you just need copies of things. :)


For shredding copies of important documents, papers with personal information and old manuscript copies.

6. FAX

Your agent/publisher might want to send you documents or contracts via fax machine.

My Personal Experience:

I have an HP Officejet 8500 A Multi-Function printer at home. It prints, copies, scans and even faxes. Though it was pricier than the common inkjet printer (and bulkier), it still saves me time, money and office space in the long run.

HP  Officejet 8500 A Multi-Function printer, image from



1. Toner/ Ink cartridges

Best to keep a stock handy for your late night printing needs.

2. Blank CD’s/ DVD’s

Store digital copies of your research materials. Photos, documents, videos and music files for each book you’re writing can fit in one CD. You can keep these instead of actual hard copies, to reduce the clutter in your office.

3. Compressed air canisters for cleaning your keyboards/desk

 Handy for keeping dust off your desk. Specially useful for cleaning your monitor, CPU and keyboard.

Dust Off compressed air, image from



1. Copy paper

Usually cheaper than laser papers, copy paper is good for printing out those first few drafts for editing.

Hammermill Copy paper, image from

2. Laserjet printer paper

Laser papers are usually thicker and brighter than regular copy printer. Useful for printing submission copies of manuscripts to agents/editors–and better suited to your laserjet printers.

3. Legal pads/ notebooks

Writers should never be without some form of paper for note-taking or writing down ideas.

Pad papers, image from

4. Post it notes

Incredibly helpful for reminders, notes, random story ideas and even plotting.

Image from

5. Letterhead/ Stationery

I created my own personal letterhead using Microsoft Word, and printed it on linen paper–which is available in reams at any office supply store.  When I send off books for giveaways, I use my letterhead stationery to write a short note to the winner.

Linen paper, image from



As a writer, you’re bound (pun intended :) ) to have tons of papers. To keep them organized, you’ll need the following binding supplies:

1. Stapler & staples

2. Binding clips

3. Fasteners for filing folders

4. Puncher 

5. Glue sticks

6. Scotch tape

7. Paper Clips

8.  Comb Binding Machine & plastic binding spines **

**My Personal Experience:

Before I begin revising, I  read my manuscript from beginning to end and make notes. I like to bind the pages so they never get out of order.  In order to make my story better, I need to view it with a reader’s discerning eyes.  Having bound pages helps me replicate the experience of reading an actual book and allows me to settle into the mindset of a reader.

The Fellowes Comb Binding Machine was a great investment. I use it to bind every manuscript draft I finish.

Fellowes Comb Binding Machine



1. Manila folders

Useful not only for filing your bills and statements, but also for filing those critique notes and research materials for your book.

2. Hanging file folders with plastic tabs

To keep your file folders tidy inside your filing cabinet/drawer.

3. Labeling Machine

If you’re obsessive about being organized (like I am), you’ll find so many uses for a labeler.


Brother PT Touch Label Maker, image from

4. Ring Binders

If you like to keep old manuscripts drafts around for future reference, or simply because you can’t seem to part with them, you can use ring binders to keep them organized on your shelves.

You can also use ring binders to organize all your research for each book you’re working on.

3 Ring binders from

5. Index Dividers

Index dividers aid you in organizing files within your ring binders. You can buy them pre-made if you’re organizing by month, alphabet, or number. You can also buy blank ones and customize them to suit your needs.

If you write lots of short stories or picture books,  for example, you can use index dividers to file them either by month, genre, or topic in your ring binders.

 Avery Insertable Index Tabs, image from


Envelopes, labels and postage come in handy for bloggers who have book giveaways and authors who send out copies of their books to bloggers for reviewers.

1. Legal envelopes

Some agents still require snail mail for queries.

2. Padded envelopes

For sending those books/book giveaways.

3. Manila envelopes

These also come in handy not just for mailing, but for filing away story ideas.

4. Shipping labels

Shipping labels usually come in a standard 2 x 4 size. I use these not only for shipping, but also for labeling the cover of my file folders.

5. Mailing labels

Mailing labels are smaller versions of shipping labels (1 x 2 5/8 inches) and can be used not just for printing out addresses, but also for labeling your files.

I use these nifty things to label the tabs of my file folders.



1. Desk calendar/Planners

You can always use google calendar or to keep track of your writing schedule, but a desk calendar can be useful if you just want to check your schedule without having to switch on your computer.

2. White board/ Cork Board

For brainstorming story ideas, writing reminders and notes

Along with post it notes, you can also use these boards to plot your storylines, as shown in Rachel Vincent’s Plotting 101 guest post on Christy L. Parks’ blog.

Whiteboard+Post it = Plotting heaven, image from 

3. Rolodex or business card holders

For keeping track of your writing/business contacts.



Here are some items to keep your office neat and organized:

*All images from

 1. Magazine Racks/ Wall pockets 

I subscribe to three different writing magazines. I sort them into magazine racks like the one below. It’s certainly better than stacking them up in piles on the floor and tripping over them eventually.


2.  Storage boxes

The Container Store, Ikea, Target and other department stores sell storage boxes that come in all shapes and sizes. I use these to organize my pens, markers, and other desk accessories.

Sometimes I use them for gathering story ideas. When I find an interesting picture/article in a magazine or newspaper, I drop it into my storage box of story ideas.

3. Drawer organizers

Rummaging around in your drawers for a paperclip or a pen can be time-consuming at best, frustrating at worst. Drawer organizers like the one below can help save your time and sanity.

4. Paper tray

I use a stackable paper tray like the one below to organize all the different kinds of papers I use for printing: copy paper, colored paper, photo paper, etc.

5. Waste basket/ Recycling basket

I actually have two baskets in my home office: one for waste, and one for recyclables.  

6. Cable organizers to keep those desktop wires in check

If you have a desktop in your writing space, you probably also have tons of snake-like cables slithering all over your desks.

Cable drops, cable clips or cable ties all help keep your cord problems down.

Cable drop

Cable ties


What other office equipment or supplies can you think to add to this list?


Check out the previous posts in this Setting up Shop Series:

1. Part 1 –  A Writer’s Space

2. Part 2 – A Writer’s Desk

3. Part 3 – A Writer’s Chair

4. Part 4 – A Writer’s Computer

5. Part 5 – A Writer’s Office Lighting


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Check out the previous posts in this Setting up Shop Series:

1. Part 1 –  A Writer’s Space

2. Part 2 – A Writer’s Desk

3. Part 3 – A Writer’s Chair

4. Part 4 – A Writer’s Computer


Now that you’ve chosen your desk, chair and computer, it’s time to consider another important element of your writing space: lighting.

Here are some things to consider when choosing the perfect lighting for your writing space.

Three Basic Types of Lighting

According to the American Lighting Association, there are three basic types of lighting that work together in your home:

1. Ambient or General Lighting provides overall illumination, allowing you to move about your room safely. You can achieve ambient lighting through ceiling or wall-mounted light fixtures, recessed lighting or even track lights.

2. Task Lighting is lighting for specific tasks like reading, writing, working on hobbies and so on.

This is probably the type of lighting we writers use the most often. Portable floor lamps, desk lamps pendant lighting, recessed and track lighting all provide task lighting.

3. Accent Lighting creates visual interest and adds drama to the room. We can use wall-mounted picture lights, recessed and track lighting to highlight a favorite sculpture, painting, or display.

If we have a favorite photograph, trophy, or trinket that we like to look at while we’re writing, or that inspires us, we can use accent lighting to make them the focal point of our writing space.

Steampunk lamp by Frank Buchwald, image from

Types of Lighting

1. Incandescent – Incandescent light bulbs are the most common type of lighting in homes, probably because they’re the cheapest. They light up instantly and with their yellow glow, can instantly warm up a room. However, this type of lighting is the least energy-efficient.

2. Fluorescent – Fluorescent lights are the second most commonly used home lighting. They are more energy efficient compared, and their low brightness and bluish tone creates less direct glare than standard incandescent bulbs.

3. Outdoor Solar – Used for backyards and gardens, outdoor solar lights use solar cells that convert sunlight to electricity. We can’t really use this for the office, but we can use it for outdoor writing areas.

4. Light-emitting diode (LED)

LED’s are apparently the size of a fleck of pepper, and emit very little heat compared to incandescent bulbs or CFL’s. A mix of red, green and blue LED’s is used to make white light. LED’s are primarily used for recessed downlights and task lighting, because they emit light in a specific direction, and reduces the need for reflectors and diffusers that can trap light.

Toby Fraley’s Robot Sculpture Lamp, image from

Tips for a Balanced Office Lighting

Lux Lighting Design Consultant Doreen LeMay Madden says that working in a space with one type of lighting will cause us eye fatigue and strain. Our eyes are naturally attracted to the brightest area in the room, so if everything is lit uniformly, it’ll spend much time constantly shifting and looking for the brightest spot.

So whether your writing space is small or large, it should contain a mix of ambient, task and accent lighting to achieve balance.

1. Use Natural Light

Ideally, our writing space would have large windows, or at least some windows that let in some natural light. Natural light is easiest on our eyes and can easily be controlled using blinds or curtains.

2. Layer Your Lighting

We can use incandescent lights to create ambient or general lighting, and to cast our writing space in a warm, relaxing glow. For task lighting, we could use a fluorescent/ halogen/LED desk lamp.

The brightest light should be focused on whatever task you’re doing. When writing, your desk lamps should be aimed at your hands.

3. Choose the proper location for your desk.

Contrary to popular belief, placing your desk directly in front of a window or with a  window behind your back might not be the best location. It would be more optimal to place your desk, so that the windows are beside it.

But if you’re like me, and looking outside eases your sanity when you’re writing, you can still place your desk in front of a window—as long as you have shutters, blinds or shades to control the amount of light coming in.

Also, avoid direct overhead lighting.

4. Your computer screen has to be well lit.

As a writer, you’re bound to spend an awful lot of time staring at your computer. Staring in your monitors, while sitting in the dark is particularly damaging to your eyes. Use a desk lamp or add a light fixture behind the monitor to avoid eye strain.

 Steampunk lamp by Frank Buchwald, image from

Choosing a Desk Lamp

The most important element of our writing space is our desk, as this is where we do most of our reading, writing, and editing.

Lighting expert Doreen LeMay Madden says, “if you don’t feel good in a space, you won’t work as productively.” When choosing a desk lamp, function and style are the key elements. Your desk lamp must not only provide you with ample lighting, it must also work aesthetically with the space around you.


What size of lamp will provide you with the best lighting for your desk? Stand up lamps work well in a corner of the room to produce ambient lighting, but won’t give you the appropriate amount of light for your tasks. Desk lamps are still the best for task lighting.  Consider the amount of desk space you have when choosing the size of a desk lamp.


The style of your desk lamp must go well with the style of your writing space. Look around your office and figure out what your style is based on your furniture and décor. Are you going for a more contemporary/modern feel? Is your writing space more whimsical or colorful?


Flying saucer lamp, image from


Lava lamps may look fun, but they’re not bright enough to provide you with all the light you’ll need for writing. Find a desk lamp that won’t strain your eyes.


An adjustable light source is a big bonus. Find one that will allow you to adjust the intensity and angle of light for your activities. Madden says, “A fixture that reflects off of the ceiling back down into the space is the least glaring and the most comforting angle to the eyes. You want to create layers of light — different intensities of light at different angles.”


Banker Desk Lamp, image from

Types of Desk Lamp has a useful desk lamp guide that lists down the different types of desk lamps and the pros and cons for each.

Here’s a handy table I made based on their desk lamp guide:


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Setting Up Shop Part 4: A Writer’s Computer

Every craftsman needs his tools in order to create his masterpiece.

Writing is a craft and as such, every writer needs his own set of instruments to begin the arduous task of putting to paper what only exists in his mind.

I started out thinking that the only thing I would ever need to begin my career as a novelist is some paper, a few pens and my own creative imagination (and yes, my writing muse).

It wasn’t too long before I realized that being an obsessive-compulsive, way too organized freak was going to get in the way of actually writing. I needed to have the tools of my trade before I could even get my ideas down on paper.  More than that, once I actually started writing, I got distracted with other things–like looking for supplies and various objects which would help me write better.

So I attempted to list down all the tools/instruments/gadgets which may make my life as a writer more comfortable. 

I began my Setting Up Shop Series about two years ago. Somewhere along the way, I got busy with other topics and completely forgot about it. 

I’ve decided that before this year ends, I will finally complete the series. So I’ve designated this November as my Setting Up Shop, where I’ll feature tools important to writers, and other gadgets which might be completely unnecessary, but which I think are cool.

 Check out the previous posts in this Setting up Shop Series:

1. Part 1 –  A Writer’s Space

2. Part 2 – A Writer’s Desk

3. Part 3 – A Writer’s Chair

 And now, I present Part 4 of my Setting Up Shop Series: A Writer’s Computer

We live an age where technology advances at such a fast rate. As soon as we buy the latest version of any gadget, a newer version pops up five seconds later. (Okay, maybe not, five seconds. More like five months.)

Whether or not we like them, computers have become the most important tool in our writing arsenal. Computers are valuable in all stages of our writing – from writing the first draft to editing it to querying to submitting our manuscripts.

The first thing any writer needs to figure out is what kind of computer to buy. 



Dell Desktop, Image from

Desktops are powerful computers with the capacity for easy upgrades. You can any writing software on your desktop, and you’ll have no trouble connecting to the Internet (especially if your computer is hooked up directly via the Ethernet cable, or near the wifi connection).

And if you’re running out of memory space, thanks to all the research materials (music, images, videos, documents) for your upcoming novel; it’s a simple matter to add on a memory card to your CPU (central processing unit).

You can also choose the size, shape and specs of the monitor you wish to go with your CPU. A big screen is comfortable to use and easy on the eyes (Especially when the words start blurring after 8 hours of straight writing).

But desktops also require a lot of desk space. Your CPU, monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers might eat up so much of your desk, you’ll very little space to spread your notes, research materials and reference books.

And if you feel like writing in a nearby café, you can’t exactly carry your desktop with you. 



Macbook Air, Image from

Speaking of portability…If you want to be able to write/edit/email anywhere, at any time, laptops are for you. They take up very little space. You don’t even need a desk or chair to use your laptop. All you need is a flat surface like—maybe, your lap?

Laptops nowadays have the computing capacity that most desktops have. You can run writing software, go online, print and attach your laptop to whatever other office peripherals you might need. 

You can easily spend a whole day in your favorite coffee shop or writing nook, typing away on your laptop. As long as you’re plugged into a nearby electrical outlet, of course.

And even when you’re not near an electrical socket, you can still use your laptop. Laptops have batteries that will last anywhere from 8-14 hours. Perfect for a writing on the train, during your daily commute or in a library. You can also bring your laptops with you to writing conferences, retreats and seminars—allowing you to work on your manuscripts during breaks, or free time.

The lack of upgrading capacity/ memory space might be an issue for laptops, however. But you can easily remedy this by using external/portable hard drives to store all your data/media in. 

Another issue is with laptops is the lack of customizability.  Sure you can customize your laptop’s skins or its cosmetic look, but you’re stuck with your original screen size and keyboard.  No matter what you do, you can’t stretch your 17”screen to match your sister’s new 27” desktop.



ASUS Eee PC, Image from

Netbooks are smaller versions of laptops, with screens ranging from 7 – 10 inches.

Extremely portable, these netbooks make it easy for you to write anywhere. Sometimes carrying a laptop can be a hassle, too. Netbooks are about the size of a hardcover and can fit in almost any bag. If you work a dayjob that requires you to travel a lot, or wait long hours, a netbook might be the perfect solution to your writing problems. I have a laywer friend who writes on her netbook while waiting for her court cases to start.

These mini-computers are able to run whatever software programs your laptops can run. The drawback is if your software program happens to be on a CD/DVD. Since they’re so small, netbooks don’t have CD/DVD drives. One way around this is to get a USB connected external CD drive.

The memory capacity of netbooks is much lower than laptops (only 2 GB), so you can’t really store as much data in it, as you’d like. An external portable hard drive would be a good solution for this problem.

Another issue with netbooks, is that the keyboards aren’t as comfortable as regular sized or even laptop-sized ones. If you have big, clumsy fingers, you might get frustrated when you mistype a word every other line. 



Steve Job holding up the iPad, image from

Tablets are great media devices. You can watch a whole variety of shows and movies, listen to music, play games, email and access the internet.

Tablets are even more portable than netbooks and many users have no problem carrying them everywhere. 

When you’re doing research for a novel, you can access the internet quickly, and some apps allow you to make notes, and save files, images or links.

You’ll be able to type up your manuscript using a simple document application, too. But you won’t be able to use any other writing software like ywriter or scrivener.

Large files and documents, plus a lot of apps can also slow down your tablet. If you’re the type of writer who uses online sites such as google, or while writing, you’ll have a hard time switching back and forth from the internet to your manuscript.

Editing your manuscript can also be a headache for tablet-users.  All that highlighting, cutting, copying and pasting will make you  miss your computer mouse.

Typing on a flat glass surface can be very uncomfortable,too, unless you buy a keyboard for your tablet. The ipad and some android tablets have compatible keyboard add-ons, but other tablets might not have this capacity, so be sure to check before you buy one.



Dell Axim PDA, image from Boston Lifestyle blog

PDA’s (Personal Digital Assistant) such as the Motorola ES400 1 GB , Palm T|X or the Sony CLIÉ PEG-SJ22 can also be great writing tools.

The main purpose of a PDA is to act as an electronic organizer for personal information such as your contacts, appointments, calendars, and  to do lists. PDA’s also allow you access to the internet, with some even running GPS systems and other multimedia software. 

In the beginning, PDA’s were pen-based, and used a stylus for input. These days, you can find either keyboard-based PDA’s or touchscreen PDA’s.

PDA’s are even more portable than tablets, as they can easily fit into your shirt/jeans’ pocket.  As such, they can be valuable tools for note-taking, or for recordring those story ideas or poems that always seem to show up when you have no access to pen and paper whatsoever.

The iPhone 4, image from Apple’N’

SMARTPHONES in today’s world seem to have replaced PDA’s as the top electronic organizer, however. Smartphones (like the iPhone or other Android cellphones) combine all the abilities of a PDA with the capacity to run various applications/apps just like a tablet. On top of this, of course, smartphones have the awesome ability to connect you with people—just like a regular  phone!

The lack of memory space and a proper keyboard to type on is the biggest drawback of these devices. While PDA’s and Smartphones allow you to quickly record sudden story inspirations, they won’t allow you to write them. Your thumb and/or forefinger will cramp up before you even finish a quarter of your two-page chapter. The difficulty of switching from document to the internet is also a big issue with these smaller devices—looking up one word on might take forever, depending on how strong your wifi signals are.

If writing a novel one these devices is difficult, editing is downright impossible. PDA’s and Smartphones don’t have available writing software, and trying to edit without a mouse or a keyboard is mental suicide.









PROS * powerful hardware, capacity for easy upgrades* ability to choose  screen/monitor size for comfort and ease of reading/working * very portable * has the computing capacity of desktops
* capable of running various writing software and attaching  to other external peripherals such as printers, scanners, etc.
* extremely portable* can run writing programs, internet, etc* capable of running various writing software and attaching  to other external peripherals such as printers, scanners, etc. * extremely portable*has access to the internet/apps that can help you with research * extremely portable* Useful for on the spot note-taking/ for jotting down sudden story ideas while on the go
CONS * eats up a lot of desk space* lack of portability *lack of upgrading capacities, and memory space add-onlack of customizability in terms of screen size, and keyboard *lack of upgrading capacities, and memory space add-on* keyboard may be too small for some people*has no cd/dvd drives*low memory capacity compared to laptops & desktops * large files/docs can slow your tablet down*Switching from document to app can be frustrating*Editing can be difficult on a tablet*Writing can be difficult on a tablet, especially without a keyboard * Writing a novel, is difficult without a keyboard or a big memory space*Editing is impossible without a mouse or a keyboard, and other helpful writing software 



After figuring out the kind of computer you want, you’ll have to decide on the kind of specs you want it to have.

Here are some things to consider when choosing your computer software:


CPU with Memory Card Chips, image from

While researching for our stories, we might need to save a lot of images, links, music, videos and other documents for reference. While a 300 page manuscript doesn’t require an enormous amount of memory space, all the research needed to write it, might.



Microsoft Word processor screenshot

Many writers are happy with using Microsoft Word or Linux as their word processors. But if you want to use writing software like yWriter or Scrivener, you’ll have to make sure your computer is compatible with them. For example, PC’s can run yWriter and Scrivener, but Macs can’t run yWriter just yet.

Other helpful  software useful for brainstorming/plotting/writing editing like, yEdit and Anthemion Cafe Writers Storylines might only be compatible with certain platforms like PC’s.



Internet modem, image from

In the old days, writers had to go to libraries to do some valuable research for their novels or articles. Today, information is ready at the touch of our fingertips.

Access to the Internet is a must for every writer nowadays. And it’s not just because we need Google for our research, or to look up words. Other important parts of the writing process such as querying agents, submitting manuscripts, interacting with blog followers, and other fans of your book will all require the use of the Internet.

Choose a computer that allows you to access the web with speed.



Your computer has to have the capacity to play any type of media. Whether it’s so you can listen to music while you write, or so you can download pictures of actors who resemble the characters you have in mind, or so you can play games when you need a break from writing.

Research is made easy by videos, too. Say your character is supposed to know martial arts, but you don’t practice it yourself. The simplest solution is to go on and look for martial arts demonstration videos so you can write the fight sequence more easily. Your computer has to have a decent videocard and soundcard so you can play videos.



WD Home Book, External Hard drive, image from

 Everything about your novel will be stored in your computer, so you need to have a good hard drive for backing up your work. It might actually be a good idea to have a backup for your backup.

Desktops have the capacity to store as many as 5 hard drives, so you can have 6 backups in case one of your hard drives croaks. If you’ve chosen a laptop for your writing needs, it would be ideal to have external hard drives as backups.

You can also consider saving your work and other research materials on a cloud drive. Cloud Storage systems like Amazon, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive and Microsoft Skydrive allow you to store from 5- 7GB worth of data for free. With paid memberships, you can store even more.

I actually save all my important documents and media on my WD Passport portable hard drive. It’s just slightly smaller than an actual passport, but it can store 1 TB worth of data. I bring this with me everywhere, and as long as I have access to a computer, I can also have access to all my novels, research material and even writing software.


WD Passport Portable Hard Drive, image from



 Other things to consider when choosing a computer include:


Price is of course a big consideration when buying a computer for your writing needs. Make sure you’re able to buy a computer that has all you need and is within your budget.

Shop around for online and store deals and compare models and prices before you buy anything.


Sometimes it’s best to buy a newer model. If your computer ever gets into an accident, spare parts will be easier to find if your computer is newer.


Buying the latest computer model with all the awesome new add-ons might sound like a dream, but if you’re not savvy with all the new tech, it might just end up being a burden to your writing career.  You’ll spend more time trying to figure out each new program/ computer function than writing. Or if you are tech savvy, you might have too much fun playing around with all your computer’s cool features, that you’ll end up forgetting about  that novel you’ve been meaning to write.


Your computer is your most important writing tool. Before you spend money on one, be sure that you’ve done your research. 

Make a separate list for the things you want in a computer, and the things you really need. This might come in handy when you need to consider price and make that final decision.


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