I'm John Scalzi and This Is How I WorkI’ve already spilled my secret. I write in a recliner—with a reassuringly clicky keyboard on my lap—and use a large-screen TV as a monitor. Works for me. Same for a large desk.

John Scalzi, the Hugo-winning SF novelist, takes the opposite tack in the desk department.

"My desk is purposely designed to be small to keep it relatively distraction-free," he tells Lifehacker. "It holds my monitor, computer (which is relatively small and hidden behind the monitor), a landline phone—yes I still have one—my Blue Yeti and an Amazon Echo, which I use at this point primarily to play music on. I keep a ukulele around for when I’m thinking about a plot point and need to keep my hands busy, otherwise they will reflexively check email.”

Scalzi’s  28-inch monitor is a fraction of the size of my 55-inch Samsung TV. Why so large? Practicality. I need to be a certain distance from the screen. That keeps neck strain down and also helps me stretch out my legs on a stool for cardio-related reasons.

OK, so what’s your own basic setup for writing? Any tips you can pass on, in terms of your surroundings, your furniture, your keyboard and monitor and other comfort-related items?

I know. Lots of people pride themselves on turning a laptop into an office, and that’s paradise for them, especially if they want to go to Starbucks and socialize as they write.

But when I myself write, I am generally, ugh, anti-social in person. No Real World schmoozing for me at those times, except for breaks with my wife in the next room (yes, I married Carly for better or worse—and for lunch).  I  just want to focus on the task at hand. I’ll check the TeleRead comment section, etc., from time to time, but won’t let it distract me.

What’s more, I try to make it as easy as possible to write, which a laptop doesn’t do for me. I really, really can turn out more copy with a first-rate keyboard and full-sized monitor equivalent. Counts a lot more for me than a fast desktop computer or a small mobile one. I’m running an NUC Kit NUC5i7RYH computer, which is fine but no great shakes in the speed department.

Desk? It’s a wing-style affair and spans more than six feet. Unlike Scalzi,I find it distracting not to have plenty of room for odds and ends, which I can instantly reach for. The desk, which I bought two decades ago from Staples, is easily sturdy enough to hold the Samsung.

Oh, and one more thought. If you are using a TV as a monitor, it’s a good idea to condition yourself not to watch Netflix and the rest with it, or at least not too much. For that, I generally use an old set in front of a recumbent exercise bicycle—also the location for much of my e-reading, on a tablet  or phone.

Note: I’d also intended to cover the issue of, “What’s your setup for reading?” in detail. But I’ll save that for another post.


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