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Why your writing environment matters

Why your writing environment matters header

The dream is out there. It gets reinforced whenever you see people on TV and films writing stories that flow through them. They sit at a desk and laugh, love and chat with locals. This is usually overlooking a fabulous lake or mountain range or something equally inspiring. The location and the locals always seem to be the inspiration for the end of the story. The ending actually comes from the writing environment.

The worst example of this is in the movie Love Actually. I mean, come on Colin, really?

Colin Firth in a ludicrous writing environment

A ludicrous place to write

The reality

The first feeling I get when I see an unpublished writer writing in such a stunning location is jealousy. Although I’m not sure how they afford it. I’d love to be able to write in a location like that. Instead, I if I’m at home I have a laptop and a monitor and a white wall. If I look of my window, I can see a car park and one or two trees that are probably approaching the stage where they need to be chopped down. If I’m writing on my commute (like now), I have either the back of the train seat in front of me or a group of people chatting far too loudly about the state of their workplace.

And I’m all too aware that, as far as a writing environment goes, I’m lucky! Of those of you reading this blog, some will have to write on the bed, in front of the TV while their partner watches Friends for the 135th time, or squeezed under the stairs Harry Potter style.

While all of this self-sacrifice is endearing you should really ask yourself: is my writing environment stopping me writing?

Why it’s important to think about your writing environment.

There are a number of ways that where you work can impact on how you work. I’ve blogged before about how important setting a routine can be to help your writing, but that won’t matter much if your writing time just becomes a waste of time because of what’s going on around you.

Of course, this all boils down to productivity. If you spend a little time thinking about your writing environment you’ll reap the benefits down the road. It’s another way of removing distractions and keep you focused on the thing that you want to do – write!

Four things to avoid

  1. TV (extend this to YouTube/Netflix): The number of people I talk to who say that they have to have the TV on to write confounds me. If you’re one of those people, please do send me an email and write me a guest post on how you do it – because I have no idea! If there is anything moving the room apart from my screen cursor my eye is immediately drawn to it. YouTube is probably the worst for this. A lot of YouTube content is cleverly made to have short, informative videos that quickly grab your attention and hold it. Even if it’s a video about writing, like Jenna Moreci, YouTube begs your attention. If you want to watch these videos, make sure you make separate time for it.
  2. Loud music: It doesn’t matter what you like listening to, if it’s too loud it’s going to be taking your attention away from the screen in front of you. You might start singing along, or spontaneously dancing. Either way, it’s difficult to concentrate with Selena Gomez singing her heart out at you.
  3. Conversation: This sounds horrible, doesn’t it? My poor wife. If you’re not giving your attention to your work, you won’t be as productive. So, whether you write in a coffee shop or a train station, or a independent bookstore, you should try and avoid talking to other people. My wife knows this, and when I’m writing I make sure to announce it so she gives me time to concentrate on the work. Hopefully, you’ll live with someone as understanding as I do.
  4. My motivational posterClutter: I’m really bad at this one, I’ll admit. Staring at a pile of clutter and mess on you workplace won’t help you focus your attention. Either move things out of your line of sight, or accept that they live there. That was something I did when I put together my workplace. In case I do get distracted, I also have put a reassuring message on my chipboard, so that I feel more motivated to get back to my work.

Why it matters

Most people find that the points above are best avoided in a writing environment. Of course, everyone is different. If you do it right, you’ll be able to increase your productivity and comfort by making an area that’s reassuring and conductive to your work. If you do it wrong, you will find getting to a writing mindset difficult. Of course, I haven’t by a long way covered everything out there. Have a look at the Creative Penn for a good article on maintaining a healthy workplace, or the Writelife’s list of alternative writing venues.

Want more?

If this is your first taste of Write with Phil, welcome! You’ll find more information about the site on my imaginatively titled start here page, and you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.

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