Since I am getting ready to start working on some new material, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the things that are important to determine before you begin writing. In order to help you do your best writing, you have to know what it is that helps you focus on the writing. This is the first of three posts focusing on 8 tips for the writing environment.
Location, Essentials, & Time
Location: Where do you do your best writing? Is it in your bedroom, the living room, the local coffeeshop, or somewhere outside? Where do ideas seem to flow for you? Wherever that place is for you, that’s where you should set up your writing space.
I recently met up with a long-time Twitter writing friend, Anna Tan, and we discussed our preferences in writing environment. Some writers seem to focus better while life swirls around them. I have several friends who go to Starbucks for writing time. I get too distracted writing in public because I can’t reach my writing zone because I’m too busy eavesdropping and looking around — even when I use headphones. So, confession time — any time I post that I’m going to Starbucks to write … it really means I’m going to socialize and pretend to write.
While I was writing my first book, my best place was the kitchen table. I thought it would be my bedroom because, after all, it was my sanctum, but for some reason, in my bedroom I kept getting off track and couldn’t focus on writing. Perhaps the bookshelves were calling me too loudly. 🙂 Now I do my best writing in my office. Wherever your best place to write is, make sure it is comfortable and you have everything you need to hand.
Essentials: Make sure you have a comfortable seat — it could be a chair, a bean bag, a nice tree to lean against. And don’t forget to get up and stretch and move around every so often. Unless you’re able to write while walking on a treadmill, writers tend to stay in one position, usually sitting, for far too long of a time, which is not good for your body. When I get in the zone while writing, I completely lose track of time, and my back reminds me later that I didn’t get up enough.
What are your essential writing utensils? If you write using pencils, make sure you have several sharp pencils and erasers available. Or if you use pens, keep more than one on hand so you won’t run out of ink. The last thing you want to happen is for the lead to break in your pencil or your pen to run out of ink right in the middle of a scene where the words are flowing. If you don’t have spares, you may not be able to recapture the moment.
Do you have enough paper? I work on the computer, so I don’t have to worry about pencils, pens, or paper during the creative process, however; what happens if I’m working without an electrical outlet? How long will my battery last? And MOST importantly, if I do cut it down to the wire, will I save my changes in time? For me having a nearby electrical outlet is essential because I will lose track of time and would hate to lose my work because I didn’t plug in. And above all, I need to make sure that where I am working is properly setup and comfortable.
Time: What time of day do you get your best ideas? Is it morning, during the middle of the day, or at night? The middle of the day can be problematic because of school or work.
Are you prepared to capture your ideas no matter what time they come? Some writers keep a mini-recorder with them, or use their phones to capture ideas when they hit. Some use notebooks for jotting ideas down. Once again, the computer is my friend (and I make sure I have copious backups of everything in case of mechanical failure.) While I have a method for notating story ideas for the future, I’m still searching for my best way to capture things like priority, status of the project, etc. What happens if an idea hits me while away from my machine? I keep the files on dropbox, so can use my phone if necessary to jot down the essentials and get it posted. Even that is not always convenient … I once had a story hit me hard while driving, complete with the opening lines. I nearly had to pull over to the side of the road, but kept going and repeating the lines over and over until I reached a point where they could be recorded.
Do the times you get ideas correspond to your best working time? Ideas will hit me at any time during the day or night, but I have always done my best work at night going into the wee hours of the morning. For some reason, the creative juices seem to flow much better for me then and I can concentrate more clearly while my characters become alive for me. It’s almost like I can feel the creative vibrations in the air. Others work best when they first get up … or before the household is awake. And others need that first cup of coffee, and a little time for their brains to wake up before attacking the page.
That’s it for this segment on the writing environment. Check back soon for the next installment of tips. And happy writing.