On writing and nerding: my Nookery

Being a Londoner I’ve got about 5 inches of ‘space’ to use as my writing nook. This is more often than not the corner of my living room.

I’ll be honest this is a massive uptick from 10 years of writing in hotel rooms. Officially the second decent thing hotels are useful for, after jumping on the beds.

Finding the right place and space to work has always been difficult for me. I have been a mobile worker most of my adult life, and where transience wasn’t on the cards home was more open-plan sleep and entertainment space than “shed”, like I had once imagined.

Writing in the presence of housemates and close friends has led to a tendency to ‘nest’.

[To be read in David Attenborough voice] “Here we find the rare Kettle-bird, a nesting writer capable of burying herself in blankets, pillows, hats and hoodies so that all that is visible is a pair of intense eyes, rapidly typing hands and a glowing keyboard. Best to avoid if it looks like it might cry or kill you.”

It also means I’m forever taking things up and down from walls. And you wouldn’t believe the places I’ve found post-it notes! Like most modern writers I have an 'electronic office’ which consists of various cloud based apps like pinterestand g-docs. But I’m building a little 'portable’ office that allows me to physicalise the most important parts and that makes use of my addiction to gadgets, multipurpose tooling and App-linking with digital media for access on the move.

So here follows a few blogs on Nookery essentials for writers needing to build a guerrilla writing space, which can be deconstructed and reconstructed at a moment’s notice.

This is an evolution of Fort-Building of my youth, but for the discerning, space-saving, writer. (Turning it up to 11 for the nerdy ones)

1) Multi-purpose room divider / human-avoider

Blocking out children, demanding friends, television and that ever-so-pesky daylight that makes us shrink back into our coffins is sometimes necessary to allow the imagination to fly. Great for people who like to ‘write in the dark, edit in the light’.

Where possible I think multipurpose is best, and I found a great Etsy supplier that makes custom boards with chalk boards/cork boards included. Chalk boards are great for planning etc. Cork for making sure those pictures and notes and post-its stay in view and don’t get lost down the back of the sofa.

To accompany this I also recommend :

  1. Chalkboard pens in many colours because lump chalk is made of evil
  2. Hook Gear Thumb tacks which enable dangling other stuff on top of the pins - genius (also useful for throwing out of the window a loud people disrupting my creativity)

2) Who needs walls anyway?

Being a writer is a symptom of an addition to stationary. FACT. Even with an electronic office I’ve probably consumed an entire rainforest in my lifetime with all the printing, doodling and sticking I’ve done. Combining Whiteboard Paper with Dropbox and Evernote as a tool that transposes notes from Scrawl (OCR = optical character recognition) to electronic notes [I’ll write a separate blog on how to set this up and update a link here] allows me to scribble freely on my walls like a child with ADHD after three boxes of Nerds and a bottle of Sunny D, which means I can follow up when I come down from the sugar high.

3) Electronic Scribblings

In 2015 if it ain’t digital it won’t do. But dammit I spent literally ages when I was a teen making sure I had the most expressive handwriting for my romantic soul - to the point it was borderline illegible - but it’s mine gaddamit and the computer will recognise it eventually.

So imagine my shiny glee when I discovered LiveScribe.

I use aLiveScribe 3 - It’s particularly good for writing workshops as well as sitting in coffee shops. My only issue is that I hate biro and prefer fineliner or ink - but I sacrifice a smooth writing experience for portable productivity. (See it in action with a review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asj0qOY1dkI)

Other options include the Sky penwhich uploads straight to Evernote. NeoandEquilalso do smart pens. But LiveScribe is top for me especially given their new project withMoleskin(Which should be rebranded WriterCrack IJS).

When in doubt, also, there’s my trusty Lamy. It doesn’t do electronic, but it does fuel my soul. 

4) Teasmaid / Regular Writer-Fuel Dispenser

Beverages, particularly Tea, are essential for writing; and making a cup of tea ‘in character’ is a great way to get into writing mode. So there are definite advantages to getting up and making a pot, also to make sure gangrene doesn’t set in during a particular epic writing sesh. Therefore I would like to thank the Universe for inventing a teasmade!

1) Sit down to write: Put on timer for Teasmade / Coffeemade(My preference is aSage kettle.)

2) *Bing*: Break + Tea. 

3) Result: Profit!

If only I could get an App to provide freshly made warm biscuits to dunk too. 

Sort of a combined Pomodoro technique with a cuppa ready for you at the end. What’s not to love?

* To Nerd it to 11 you can combine tea/coffeemades with aWeMo plug, IFTTTCode and your Do! Appto hit a button on your phone and get tea. (I’ll post the code here at a later date)

5) Folding desk of Awesome

When I was a kid my dad made me an open sided wooden box to use as a portable desk so that even if I was sitting 3 ft away from the television (common) I was at a good angle for my back and could get my homework done. It was my favorite Christmas present ever.

[ Let’s take a moment to recognise how awesome my parents were again - and how I totally didn’t appreciate it at the time.]

Writing stories and drawing while curled cross-legged on the floor like a super-productive yogi is now my most comfortable operating position. So over the years I have never liked permanent desks.

Here are my recommended portable and fold-able desks available for purchase for those of your without woodworking skills or handy parents.

  1. Wall mounted desks take up little room and if you’re savvy can be disguised by the room divider!  
  2. For those of you not renting a cupboard in London (where nailing anything to the wall is a big no-no unless you want to lose the deposit you sold a kidney to round up in the first place) I’d suggest something that has the air of a Mattel Transformer, but for nerds. I give you my personal favourite folding desk.
  3. If you have a black AMEX maybe you can commission this beauty. (Ultimate Advance Spend Plan: Louis VuittonBespoke Desk Case

6) Lighting the scene

I like to adapt my lighting to the scene I’m writing. For example I set a warm light for a scene that is full of love or sunlight, or cold light for something indoors or utilitarian. 

Phillips’ Hue system is pretty damn ingenious and allows for adjusting the multiple lights to illuminate a space with every colour in the spectrum - including flickering candle light if you combine with the hue party app. They also have several products that don’t require wires. Which makes for excellent nooking. The Apps are user-friendly to even the most technophobic user, and for those who need a physical button you can add these switches to the system with minimum effort. 

The portable table lampis my favorite for mood setting and is easily set up in a nook.

Talking about flickering candle light, if you’re writing a scene where this is required I can’t recommend electronic candles enough. All the light, none of the waxy mess.

7) Silence

In a busy space it can be hard to find the right level of white noise to cancel out the world and sink into the one in your imagination. Personally I work best with music on that takes me into my story (the playlists are endless, thank you Spotify), or some form of nature sounds (rains and storms are the best for me, particularly if i want to shut out tube/bus distractions). Chris Jones’ (Esquire Writer) has a great list

But for those of you who need true silence then short of throwing everyone out of the house or sticking sheets in your ears I would recommend various Noise-Cancelling device orheadphones

* By the way I know I haven’t covered seating. Apart from the fact that I want to create a space that is seating independent, I’m saving my dream chairto celebrate something special ;) 

Okay so that’s it. Quite an involved blog i’ll admit, but hopefully useful-slash-interesting.

Thanks for the help from my circle of writery types to provide inspiration. I hope you’ve found this useful. I created apinterest board with links to the above, and might at some point create a YouTube tour of the Nook to cover the points in this blog. Welcome comments. What do you have in your nook? How to you use technology to enable your writing physically and digitally? Have you used the tools above, and what did you think?