I came to this course as a writer of scientifically inspired non-fiction. After a few years of leisure-time blogging, I seized the opportunity to go on a one-year sabbatical (I know, lucky me!). During that time, I started working on a book. Since this was my first book project, I looked around for advise on how to do this. What appealed to me about this course was that it focuses on the "how-to" and that, besides its rather short length, it addresses many details that I had not been aware of.
Albeit being a non-fiction writer, I found all of the course modules VERY helpful and I really enjoyed Mr. Van Booy's enthusiasm and his focus on writing as a value in itself.
What I was not good at though was finishing the course (blush). It took me over one year to finally write this assignment. But hey, here we go!
In this assignment I address Step 1: Make Your Own Space and Step 2: Find Your Medium
Step 1: Make Your Own Space
Creating a space where I write has meant several things for me. For one, I need my own writing desk and also a room where I can write on my own (I am easily distracted). Second, the desk needs to be a place with a fixed arrangement of two monitors and my laptop (I'll talk more about the reasons for this arrangement below).
In the beginning of my book project, I thought that I needed to sit at a window. However, due to a curfew in response to COVID-19, I had to rearrange the furniture in my apartment, and for a while I have been working in a corner of the bedroom instead of sitting at a large window in the living room. I still have some window space, but I realised belatedly that I am hardly looking outside (the curtain is closed most of the time). I might eventually move the desk away from the window ...
One important aspect that I was not aware of in the past is that I need an uncluttered desk for writing. The backstory for this is that---due to more stringent rules at work---I had to clean my desk at the end of every working day, and I realised only then what a tremendous burden my cluttered desk had been. This course made me realise that I needed to enforce the same policy at home. Besides two monitors, a keyboard, a mouse, a docking station, and a laptop, the only other "fixtures" on my desk are a speaker box (for when I listen to music and for when I partake in online writing sessions), the remote control for the light, and my computer glasses. The remote control points to something that is not shown in the picture, but which turned out to be decisive: I need a well lit room for writing, and I got bright light fixtures installed a couple of months ago. Having a well lit desk has made a huge difference.
Step 2: Find Your Medium
Let me get back to the two monitors. I learned the hard way that when I have only one monitor, I waste a lot of time and concentration on switching between applications. There are many steps during the writing process where I need to have more than one application open. Here an example: For my blog posts and my book I am drawing heavily on primary research literature. For my book alone, I have read almost 200 documents (research papers, reports, and books), and I need to have ready access to my notes and excerpts when I write. If I use only one monitor, this entails a lot (!) of switching between the notes and the editor. With the multi-monitor set up in the picture, I usually display the notes on the left monitor, and the editor is displayed on the central monitor. I use the laptop monitor for auxiliary applications such as online dictionaries.
This arrangement has worked out very well for me and I am actually contemplating getting a third monitor.
What the course has changed for me
I had (subconsciously) been aware of most of the above before embarking on my book project, but I had not paid due attention to their importance. This course connected the dots and nudged me to create an environment that not only boosts my writing, but that also has turned writing into the pleasure I imagined it could be.