6 things to consider when creating your writing environment

This is a post by Novel Publicity President, Emlyn Chand/ Some writers can make magic happen anywhere and under almost any condition. Others must meticulously set the perfect scene before they can produce even a single line of prose. With time, you will learn exactly what works for you and what doesn’t. Just remember, everyone is different, and your tastes and preferences are likely to change depending on what you’re writing, how you’re feeling, or even what the weather is like outside.

Here are some environmental elements that, when accounted for, may help you maximize your writing productivity:

Location: You will need to find a place that allows for maximum focus. This may be locked away in your home office, at work after hours, on your front porch — basically anywhere that works for you. Perhaps you will prefer to write at one location during the day and another during the night. I, personally, like to hole up in Borders for hours at a time. While the come-and-go of other patrons and grinding of blended coffees might be distracting in a smaller shop, I find that it all combines nicely into a sort of motivational white noise.

Time of day: Some of us are morning people, others not so much. For writing, it’s important to find a time of day when you have enough energy to sit and get some work done, but not so much energy that your mind is racing and you can’t stay on task. You may have to adjust your schedule to accommodate your energy levels. If you find yourself the most vital in the wee hours of the morning, wake up an hour earlier. If this simply isn’t possible, consider waking up early on the weekends and getting some longer sessions in before the rest of your household awakens. My preference is for writing in the afternoon, but I’ve found I can write any time as long as I have the rest of my environmental factors in line.

Duration: We’re all busy — some of us more so than others. Other life demands may push writing into the “like to” rather than the “need to” category. The truth is even a few minutes per day, if industrious, can suffice. Once you get into a comfortable routine, you may relegate other tasks to “like to” status in order to squeeze in slightly longer writing sessions. Duration should be determined by how much time you have and how much time you can realistically focus before mental exhaustion starts to interfere with the quality of your output. When I first started novel writing, I found it difficult to write more than three pages at a stretch. After having built up my stamina for a few months, it became possible for me to write thirty reasonably well-crafted pages at a stretch.

Company: Are you easily distracted by the company of others, or does a fellow writer sitting next to you manically clacking away at the keyboard serve to motivate you? Writing can be done in complete solitude or while keeping company with others — whatever helps to get it done. I have a hard time keeping quiet if I’m with a friend, even if we’re supposed to be working. Since this interrupts both parties’ productivity, I prefer to write alone. If you are able to control your urge to chat, a companion can assist in ensuring that you meet a time or output goal before ending your writing session. You will also have a readily available proofreader—another plus.

Comforts: Talismans, fuel and creature comforts cannot be ignored. Do you have a lucky sweater or a favored fountain pen? Do you find that your prose is more polished if you secure the leather club chair in the far Northwest corner of the coffeehouse? I, personally, cannot write without a caffeine source of some sort. For longer sessions, sugary baked goods help give me a quick energy boost (writing is not diet-friendly for me, I’m afraid). I also tend to be far more productive if I work on my laptop rather than my PC— this is still true even when I decide to write at home. If you don’t have quirky writing traditions yet, just give it some time.

 


Emlyn Chand, President of Novel Publicity

Emlyn Chand was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Novel Publicity's mascot is a Sun Conure, thanks to her obsession with birds–and she gets to decide anyway since she is the company's founder and president. Although her first novel Farsighted won the prestigious Writer's Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category, she now writes most of her fiction under her “real” name, Melissa Storm. Learn more or connect with her (or her Sun Conure, Ducky!) on either of her author websites:  www.emlynchand.com or www.melstorm.com. You can also friend her on Facebook, tweet with her @novelpublicity, or send her an email via [email protected].

Tsuchigari

We are in the process of finishing our basement and part of it is a dedicated office. Currently our office is also the playroom for the kiddos, which in someways is nice because I can keep tabs on them, but not so great because they jump on me whenever they see me working. I’m hoping that with my own space I can carve out more meaningful writing time.

    Emlyn

    That will be great, a whole new office. My husband and I actually have four offices set-up around our house. Even then, I prefer to leave the house to do my writing or to do it at the kitchen table. It’s horrible, I know. But the other offices are more for my day job, so it doesn’t feel right to conduct my writing there.

    PS. I can’t believe I’ve never asked this before, but what is that adorable, little avatar you have there?

Lavinia

My writing quirks are strange. My writing time is best in the of hours of night. 3 a.m? You can almost guarantee that if I don’t have an early morning class to dread I’ll probably be up plugging away with a pot of coffee on (I too always need caffeine and junk food) and my dog by my side. I have written my best scenes in the dark of night. I always have to have music on. Like many other writers I’ve noticed, I have a play list for each separate novel.

If it’s not in the middle of the night, I also work best in the college newspaper newsroom where I spend 90 per cent of my life as it is. I have a favourite computer in the corner of the room I like to sit at. Perhaps because I associate the room itself with writing. I work best when the rest of the world is drowned out but if you open my bedroom door in the middle of a scene I’ll jump and start yelling at people…(poor Mom…) Not to mention she has to listen when I walk around talking ideas out with myself. We writers are a strange breed to be sure.

    Emlyn

    Yes, we’re definitely odd people, writers. I love how specialized your process/ environment is. I also don’t do well with people walking in on my writing time. Non-writers don’t always understand that there is a writing zone. Each interruption causes you to fall out of this precious zone, and then you have to work to get back in (sometimes you can’t). It’s best just to leave us alone, and let us do the thing!

Jace McCoy

I find I write best when I first wake up and then about 9 o’clock at night I just seem to have my second wind. As far as company I can not be around my family or friends… unless they are completely engrossed in whatever they are doing. While occasionally I write in cafes; most of the time I cant wait to get home to the comfort of my own office chair. Television is also a no no. Honestly I dont see how anyone could write quality content with the boob tube on. It’s such a distraction.
My Greatest weakness:
THE INTERNET
I’m of the firm belief it was created for the sole purpose of distracting us.

Great post as always.
Much Love
Jace

    Emlyn

    The internet is our greatest weakness AND our greatest strength as writers. It’s how we do our research and tap into our fan base. It’s awesome, but yes, extremely distracting.

billie hinton

Really love these discussions here and on Facebook about the writing life!

As a mother to two young children, I couldn’t write at home for a number of years. I wrote my first complete novel in a coffee house, every Thursday night from 6-10 p.m. It took about a year. There was one homey little booth that had its own desk lamp and some throw pillows. I always grabbed that booth and claimed it. By 10 p.m. the place was buzzing with folks, but it never bothered me. When it came time to edit, that buzz started to annoy, so I decided I had to get over my inability to use my psychotherapy office for fiction writing and make that space work for me in BOTH my jobs.

I edited the first novel in my office space and wrote most of the second novel there as well, always in the evenings and on one weekend afternoon. I almost always opened all the windows and lit lots of candles, which transformed it some from therapy office to writing space.

When we moved to a small horse farm in the country, my routine completely changed. I used a small garret in the upstairs of our house to write the third novel. Lately I can write almost anywhere. I tend to seek a specific atmosphere depending on what I’m writing. I love writing “on location” – usually take several “field trips” during the first drafts of books, making lots of notes and also writing as much as I can, as fast as I can, while in the geographical locations of the books.

I have also discovered over the past few years that being able to write and then go do outside things (ride my horses, hike, explore new places if on location) works incredibly well in terms of getting lots of writing done.

Although I do recall one particularly intense and important edit of claire-obscure, where I went to a tiny inn in the mountains and sat on the bed cross-legged for nearly four days/nights straight. There was a huge picture window in front of me looking right off the side of a mountain. The sun shone, it stormed with lightning striking what appeared to be a few feet away from the window, a double rainbow came and went, fog rolled in and out, and the innkeepers put food outside the door twice a day. I’m not sure how I survived that, but the edit was probably the best one I’ve ever done, in one big swoop.

Isn’t it fascinating how we work?

    Emlyn

    That’s dedication! Sounds like you’ve found some great writing places. I also take field trips from time to time. My first novel had a scene at the Detroit Zoo (an entire chapter there, actually), so I took a trip and studied all of the sensory details very carefully–I even mapped out the route my characters took around the zoo!

      Emlyn

      Oh, and also, you can take that comment and post it as an entry on your blog too, I think 😉

        billie hinton

        I know – sorry so long!

Sara

I’m lucky to have a spare bedroom at my house that is my dedicated office for writing. It even has dark red walls, which was a childhood fantasy of mine. 🙂 Yes, red walls, and yes, I’m a dork.

I’m very sensitive to my environment when I’m writing, so having such a place is very important to me. Glad to know I’m not the only one!

Sara
https://smreine.com/

    Emlyn

    Sara, it sounds like you have a Jane Eyre room going on there. I hope no ghosts are floating about!

Book Phantom

My writing space used to be in my bedroom, and it was horrible. I recently renovated my writing/reading space and posted the process on my blog. Check out how it all got started and what the finished result is:
https://bookphantom.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-reading-list-defining-your-space.html
https://bookphantom.blogspot.com/2011/03/room-of-my-own.html

Ozlem

Yet again another very good article Emyln! Your writing environment is very very important. My fave spot is my kitchen table as it gets in plenty of light my second fave place is sitting on my bed (albeit not the wisest of sitting positions but it’s something that has stayed with me since childhood).

As for writing times -usually at night but I am following a structured timetable and midday is becoming a very good writing period for me (which is good as I can sleep earlier!), I hope to change that to early morning too -but that’s not until a few weeks… They say variety is the spice of life… 🙂

It is surprising that once you can put aside the mindset of what will I write; when you actually do sit down and write something magical just takes place -I am begining to think our fear tends to override all confidence when it comes to creativity so really and trully we should just get on with it without any worry… The fear and anticipation is always worse than the actual outcome..

Once again great piece -you made me write more than I was planning!!! 🙂

    Emlyn

    Hooray. I’ve inspired another writer to write 🙂

    The environment shifts and changes. I spent several weeks away from my favorite coffee shop, and upon returning am having a hard time adjusting to getting work done there. Now I prefer my work desk, which I never thought in a million years could happen!

Ozlem

Oh I forgot to add… The park is another great spot where I prefer to take pen and paper too -away from all the technology!!! Sometimes a girl just needs fresh air!! 🙂

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