Carve a Niche: Create a Writing Haven in a Small Space by Tiffany Turpin Johnson

organizedWelcome to guest author, Tiffany Turpin Johnson, who shares with us how to create a writing haven in a small space so you can get your writing done anywhere. Enjoy! And be sure to comment below on how you design your workspace.


It can be difficult to focus on writing when all you have is a laptop in the corner of the couch between the barking dog and your squabbling kids. We writers need a space that’s all our own, that places all our tools within reach and keeps us focused and inspired. Even if you’re living in a small space, you can carve out a niche to create your own writing haven.

Location location location! As a former manager of Orlando apartments, I learned that location always tops the list. The same can be said for writers scouting spaces for their writing niche. Consider the following questions:

  • What space can you sacrifice in your home?
    Do you have an unused wall or window space? An empty garden shed? A place where a nook could be cut from the wall? A cluttered closet that could be donated? (See fabulous examples of closet transformations, including how-to’s, at
  • What “feel” are you going for?
    Do you want an outdoor view, or a blank wall to block distractions? Consider all five senses. Is smell important? Position yourself away from bathrooms and close to the kitchen or outdoors. Do you need absolute silence? Look for a space far away from kids’ rooms or common areas. Do you need natural light, or are lamps okay? If you’re into feng shui, check out these tips geared specifically toward writers.

Tools of the trade. There are a few non-negotiables you’ll need to include in your compact writer’s haven.

  • Desk & chair.
    The size of your space will determine the size of your desk, but you’ll need some sort of flat, level top to work on. A good old-fashioned secretary desk might be the perfect fit. If you’re truly limited on space, a built-in with a foldaway top could be the answer, since you can fold the desktop into the wall when not in use. Best of all, a small foldaway is budget-friendly, as you can likely build it yourself. But be sure to spring for an ergonomic chair that won’t stress your body, preferably one that can be stored when necessary.
  • Computer & printer.
    Invest in a light, sturdy laptop or tablet. Your typewriter, desktop computer, or stack of notebooks just won’t be compact or portable enough for a small writing space. From time to time you’ll need to print as well. Choose a wireless printer (preferably one with faxing/scanning/copying capabilities) so that you can keep it anywhere and still be able to print from your writing space.
  • Storage.
    You’ll need somewhere to keep favorite reference books, note files, and any other objects that help you write. To save space, go digital whenever possible, using online tools for tasks like note-keeping and mind mapping. Many desks, even foldaway ones, come with built-in storage. For particularly creative storage options, check out these suggestions for DIY bookshelves.
  • Flexibility.
    Now for the fun part! Are you a visual person? Do you like to use tactile outlining methods, instead of typing up notes? You’ll need a flexible space behind the desk for scribbling (and erasing, and rescribbling) notes, posting inspirational photos or research articles, arranging and rearranging notecards, and the like. Great options for these sorts of brainstorming sessions include corkboards, chalkboards, magnetic surfaces, and marker boards. All of these materials can be costly and space-consuming, but there are some great DIY options that allow you to incorporate one—or even all four—surfaces into your space in a simple, cost-effective, and compact manner. For example, you could raid a crafts or thrift store to find a old window frame, then cover each pane in a different material yourself and hang the frame above your desk. If you only need a note-taking space, you could make your own chalkboard paint to coat an entire section of the wall behind the desk, as writer Amy Lynch did.

Carving out a writing niche doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. The most important element is that it works for you and provides the environment and inspiration that you need to produce your best work. And if you decide to carve your niche out on the couch, that’s fine too…just invest in a lap desk, a back pillow, and some noise-blocking headphones!

What would you design into your workspace? Have you built an inspiring writer’s haven in a small area? Let us know in the comments below.


Tiffany Turpin Johnson
Tiffany Turpin Johnson is a novelist represented by Annie Bomke Literary Agency, and operates TJ Writeography, a freelance writing and photography service. She regularly contributes to such blogs as AudiobookAddicts and 407Apartments, and serves as Editorial Assistant for Compose Literary Journal. Find her at and on Twitter at @Fictiffous.


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  • Jeff Mere says:

    INCREDIBLE article Tiffany. As a new writer I am realizing that sitting on my couch with my laptop is not going to cut it. Now I am all excited about finding “my space” and getting it set up to inspire me! Thanks for sharing and the great ideas!

  • Thanks Jeff, I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I was guilty of doing more surfing than writing when camped out on the couch, but I found that adding a few personal things (I use one of those giant paper charts and tons of Post-Its!) to a space can make it more inspiring. I hope you find your own writing haven!

  • Hand-me-downs and some Ikea furnishings are Tetris’d into my 9’X10′ room. I even bought rolls of self-adhesive whiteboard material that you can reposition on the walls. Then of course, I realized that I’d be too far from the wall to actually use them properly. I still have them, just in case.

    This is where hindsight hit me on the forehead. My apartment came with mirrored closet doors. My first reaction was bleh. Then whammo. Light bulb. Instant writing surfaces. I have writing space, floor to ceiling, about the size of a queen-sized bed. I don’t write all the way to the top so I have long term quotations and reminders up there, but I mindmap, brainstorm over the majority of the surfaces and channel those characters in Criminal Minds, Person of Interest, Castle, and Fringe, to name a few. It allows me to get all broody as I come up with connections for my masterpieces in progress.

    The most unsightly thing in my room has become my favorite writing accessory. 🙂

    Thanks for the article.


    Tonette dela Luna

  • Hi Tonette, what a fabulous idea with the mirrors! Thanks for sharing your ideas!

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