Writer’s block. Lack of discipline. Loss for the right word. Burnout. Errands. Sick children. Family drama.
What do these issues have in common for virtually every writer who ever wrote anything? They’re major productivity-blockers.
Is it just me, or does it seem like there are dozens of distractions keeping writers from being productive on any given day? While some distractions are out of our control and need immediate attention, we can learn to keep others at bay simply by improving the environment in which we work. The writing space—the atmosphere in which an individual writes—can serve as a powerful tool to influence the success of a writing session. To establish a writing space that’s most effective for you, consider your own tastes and personality.
First, determine whether your writing space should be public or private. First thing’s first: be honest with yourself. Can you work productively at a table surrounded by friends? For most people, the answer is no. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s a good idea to be proactive about setting boundaries on your writing space, whatever they may be. For instance, perhaps working in the privacy of your bedroom or home office causes your mind to wander. For me, working at home is simply out of the question; I’m a bit of a clean freak, and it’s always at the very moment I sit down to write that every single speck of dust in my house makes itself known. On the off-chance you’re as fussy as I am, you might want to consider a public location for your writing space to rid yourself of the potential for such distractions.
An ideal writing space appeals to the five senses.
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a pleasing sensory response. For my writing sessions, I typically alternate between a few local coffee shops and my neighborhood bookstore; each space keeps me focused and helps me relax so that I can make lots of progress. Whether you choose a public or private space, the end result should be the same for every writer: a productivity-enhancing atmosphere.
Sight. I love the “feel” of a small coffee shop. I could live in one and be content for the rest of my life. More whimsical folks, however, might prefer sprawling out on a blanket at their local park or sitting underneath the gigantic oak tree in their backyard. Create an enjoyable experience for yourself by putting your personality into play. Writers who feel comfortable in their environment are less likely to fidget and get off course.
Sound. Can you work among talkers and rambunctious children? Ponder this when you’re picking a writing space. What about music? Some people require dead silence while working, others prefer the songs of nature, and still some find relaxation impossible without having music in their ears. I believe classical music promotes relaxation, but perhaps you prefer smooth jazz (or even eighties’ rock) for background ambiance. If you’re picky about what you hear, fear not. Headphones are a beautiful thing, especially if you’re in a public spot and don’t like the music that’s playing.
Scent. I thank God for the incredible scents emitted from the ovens at my choice writing spaces. Breathing in the sugary air puts me at ease like you wouldn’t believe. Of course, I doubt that writers working at home often find the time to bake during a writing session. If that’s you, I encourage you to invest in a wax warmer or essential oil diffuser. Several brands of wax melts offer tasty scents like sugar cookie and apple pie, and essential oils are known for their aromatic therapy. Whether you prefer the fragrance of baked goods or the calming effect of diffused oils, scent can play a vital role in your ability to relax.
Taste. Snacks can form a fantastic defense against distraction and lethargy. They’re usually accessible at public spots with Wi-Fi, but sometimes the choices aren’t very wholesome. If possible, pack snack baggies of energy-sustaining foods, such as fruits, veggies, proteins, and healthy fats. The same principle goes for when you’re writing at home. Veer away from the chips by keeping fruit or cheese close by.
Touch. Be sure you’re as comfortable as possible. If the park bench makes you sore after fifteen minutes, you might want to shoot for a picnic chair instead. If you’re in love with the town library’s over-sized sofa, opt for that over a hard chair at McDonald's if you plan to work for an extended period. At home, don’t feel the need to sit at a desk; move from the bed to the porch swing to the couch, if you like. Most importantly, be kind to your body so that aches and pains can’t distract you from making headway.
Developing a writing space that works best for you can do wonderful things for your works in progress. The thoughts shared in this post may seem too menial for consideration, but rest assured of this: they can totally flip the dynamic of your writing sessions. After developing my own writing space, work sessions went from bleak and short-lived to thriving and focused. Experimenting with your own writing space, I promise, will not disappoint.