Often, famous writers will talk about their favorite places to write. If only we all had a house at Walden, like Henry David Thoreau, right? And then, Rimbaud did his best writing in his tiny apartment in the wee hours of the morning as he recounted all the ideas he had through the night's adventures in Paris. It's normal for creative writers to have well-planned writing conditions, and we are encouraged to think about them in creative writing classes, but what about business owners trying to crank out a blog or write a newsletter between meetings?
I did some thinking about what is standing in my way when I need to write for my clients or my business, and I realized that the obstacles are: noise, interruptions (pets, notifications, phone calls, and husband), and clutter or generally feeling uncomfortably hot or cold.
You don't have to be cranking out a novel to notice a difference in how you write when you're in different environments, or how different environmental factors can set you up for success or procrastination. To determine your ideal writing environment and writing rituals, consider these questions:
1. Noise: Some people write better with noise, like music or being in a busy office or cafe, and for others, that's the very death knell of putting words on the page.
Try writing in both chaotic and tranquil environments, and see which one you're more productive in. The answer may surprise you! I find that I can't work in total silence, and I can't work in a place where the noises vary a lot. It also drives me crazy to overhear a conversation because I keep thinking of what I would say to them instead of what I need to say to my readers.
2. Interruptions: Interruptions can be good or bad. If you're in the middle of a thought and someone in the next cubicle asks for a pen, or you get a FB notification that your sister-in-law posted a video of your niece walking for the first time, it takes an average of 15 minutes for you to re-focus, so those interruptions are not good for progress. On the other hand, scheduling breaks to walk the dog or telling your husband to come back in ten minutes when you take a break can be invigorating. The most important thing about interruptions is that you need to be able to control them and chose the ones that allow you to still be productive and keep your relationships.
Keep a list of all the interruptions that happen while you are trying to write, and assign them to categories according to: things I can control and things I can't control. I can control when I walk my blind cocker spaniel, Duchess Kate, but not when she barks at the UPS delivery people. So, if the latter is crucial to finishing my project, I need to take Duchess Kate to daycare or not work from home. She's so cute that I usually let her stay at home, and I go to a cafe. I can turn off my notifications for social media, put my phone on silent, and tell my husband I love him, but I can't talk right now. No more excuses, right?
3. The last thing I want you to think about is the environment. There are some professionals who function very well with a very messy desk, and for others, a messy desk paralyzes them. Some people need to be near nature to be creative, and others need to see familiar pictures and souvenirs that comfort them. Some work better in cooler or warmer rooms, with or without sunlight. The more you know what works for you, the more writing you will finish.
Notice the difference between when you work on your desk when it's messy, and then when you have it perfectly cleared away. When are you more productive? If your window looks at a garden, is that distracting, or does it help you focus on writing? Does having knicknacks or art around you give you inspiration or take your mind off the task? Do you focus better in a warmer or cooler room? Does the sun energize you or make you sleepy?
I write my best in a cool, quiet room with some background noise, like quiet music or the distant clinking of a kitchen. I need a clean desk, beautiful art and objects I can look at, and no unplanned distractions. But that's just me!
Answer all these questions for yourself, and you will be on your way to creating the best circumstances for you to sit down and write what you need to write in the amount of time that you schedule for it.
Please comment and tell me what your ideal writing environment is! What other questions do you answer for yourself to know what you need and what you can control to do your best work? What are your struggles with finding a writing environment that's right for you?