A home office is valuable to many homeowners these days, especially if you're a telecommuter and do much of your work from the comfort of your abode. But a reading and writing room is a little different from a traditional office. This room is for someone who is serious about getting things done, without the distractions that a home office entails -- phones, faxes and anything else that can interrupt your focus. If you're a novelist or an editor, or even just a voracious reader, then you will benefit from creating a place in your home of complete serenity and isolation. Where to start? Fear not, literary genius, here are 10 tips for your very own reading and writing room.
Silence is Golden
Finding a nice, quiet place to do your thing with pen and paper (or keyboard) is a bigger challenge than you might think. Aside from the normal distractions that come with modern life, like TV and telephone, there are all kinds of noises that can interrupt an otherwise productive reading or writing session. Your goal is to minimize these things, so pick a room in your house that's private and far from the street. An attic loft or a room at the rear of the house is a good choice. And if you want to go the extra mile, you can always soundproof the room with professional grade wall insulation or some heavy curtains.
Comfort is King
If you're going to write the next great American novel, then you should be comfortable doing so. Aside from a desk with a nice and comfy chair of your choosing, consider a love seat or "fat" chair that you can spend some time in. A lot of writing is note taking, research and brainstorming, and sometimes it helps to get away from the desk for that kind of thing. And it's our opinion that reading is best done curled up on cushions than sitting straight up at your desk.
8: Light up Your Life
A media room requires a dark space in your home, but if you're looking to read and write, then you want a clean, well-lighted place. Natural light is always best, so if you're a morning person, then go with an east-facing room; head west if you do better work late in the day. If you're a night owl, then you need to pay attention to the room's artificial light. Mood lighting with lamps can be effective, but make sure it's not so moody that you're more inclined to kick back on the couch and get some shut-eye.
Eliminate the Distractions
Having access to phone, TV, radio and Internet is a key to modern life for most people, but they're a distraction if you're trying to get some reading or writing done. Our advice is to not even allow a phone in the room, but if you must, at least silence the ringer while you're working. Television really has no place in a reading and writing room, but Internet is a little trickier. Some writers need the Internet as a research tool, but it can easily lead to e-mail checking and non-essential Web surfing. Consider unplugging or turning off your wireless option when it comes time to actually put pen to paper.
Be a Bookworm
There's no better way to inspire you to get some reading and writing done than to surround yourself with great works of literature. Simply having a well-stocked library nearby can make a writer feel more like writing. And if you're a reader, having a library at your fingertips is a must. Reading a few passages from a favorite book can also serve as inspiration for the writer, so stock the shelves with your favorite classics. And remember that books were around as research tools long before the Internet, so use them to get yourself in the proper literary mindset.
Stock Your Tools
You won't find a chef's kitchen without a cutting board, and you shouldn't find a reading and writing room without the tools necessary to get the job done. Your computer might be your preferred composition implement of choice, but also make sure you have plenty of paper and pens or pencils on hand. Whatever tools you use, be sure to keep plenty in stock. Many writers are superstitious creatures and not being able to find that favorite pen can lead to the dreaded writer's block -- or at least a reason to stop writing and go to the store.
Décor and More
Inspiration comes in many forms, so it's important that your reading and writing room envelops you with as many kinds as possible. If you're inspired by people or family stories, fill your room with plenty of framed photos of your loved ones. Photographs and quotes of famous authors are also food for thought and help inspire you or even just keep you on track when your ideas are running low. If nature gets you in the mood, bring in pictures of some of your most favorite scenes, like a woodland forest or an ocean at sunset.
The sounds that seep into your reading and writing room will have a big influence on what gets done in there. Music can be stimulating to the creative process, but try to stick to music that has no chance of becoming a distraction. Other people are relaxed by the soothing abstract sounds of ocean waves or wind chimes. If you're lucky enough to live near these actual sounds, then open up those windows. If not, get a sound machine that can play all of the tones that inspire you to work, whether it's a babbling brook or a rainforest.
If you have kids and you want to get some work done at home, then you should consider keeping your reading and writing room a kid-free zone. Most freelance journalists and authors say that treating your work day as if you went into an office building is the way to go, so explain to your kids that while Mommy or Daddy may be at home, they're unavailable during work hours -- unless it's a true emergency, of course. You can temper this with breaks during the day so your children get the attention they need. Just think of your reading and writing room as an adult clubhouse -- no kids allowed.
True, your pets don't ask nearly as many questions as kids do, but they can be a distraction nonetheless. If you have a lazy lab that is happy to lay on the floor and be near you, she may be a quiet comfort to have around. But if Fido is a barker or likes to get into the trashcan, you'll spend more time cleaning up after all of his fun. And if your furry feline friend is anything like ours, he may like to sit on your hands while you're typing, or lay across the papers that you need access to. This is amusing if you're in a procrastinating mood, but a major distraction when the work is flowing.
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- "Quotation Marks." Grammarbook.com, 2010. http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/quotes.asp
- "Sound Pressure Levels." Coolmath.com, 2010. http://www.coolmath.com/decibels1.htm
- Whitmire, Richard. "Think twice about taking your children to work." Usatoday.com, April 26, 2011. http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-04-26-Whitmire-on-kids-and-work_n.htm