Does The Perfect ‘Writer’s Space’ Exist?

Writing-Space

Image credit: Green Chameleon

Have you ever wondered if the perfect writing environment exists? Ever thought about whether or not our writing environment affects the quality of our work? Are there common components that define the perfect place to write?

In this feature, I ask four writers about where they conduct their business of writing: author, journalist and editor of Verandah Magazine Candida Baker; author of 15 books Robert Drewe; freelance writer and author Allison Tait; and television producer, writer and journalist Pascal Adolphe.

How important is where you write?

Candida Baker says that after writing for so many years, where she writes is not as important as when she writes…

I can pretty much write anywhere, but when I like to write is very early in the morning, as early as 4am, when the world is quiet, and the universe is fresh and new again.”

Candida uses meditation to guide her before and during these productive hours of her day. A cup of Lady Grey tea is never far away and her sofa is her office in the wee hours.

Robert Drewe admits that ‘the worst place on earth to write is next to a house with a constantly barking dog’.

His prerequisites are a place that is quiet and has natural light, with a desk and a chair and a power outlet for his computer. He sometimes writes in longhand first when the environment dictates it.

Allison Tait’s perspective has changed from a few years ago, now that her two small boys have grown. She admits to ‘wedging in words where I could’ and writing anywhere back then. She fantasises about being a writer who sits in cafes but says, ‘the truth is I get distracted. I need the quiet and the reminder that writing is work’.

She adds that the purpose of sitting at a desk also means work for her.

Pascal Adolphe believes that:

The physical environment and surroundings are largely immaterial to me as a writer. More important is the internal environment: that is, how I’m feeling. If I’m having a good day, I’m totally focused on the story and oblivious to my surroundings. In fact, I find that if you are in a place that’s romantically considered as the ideal place to write – such as a cottage by the sea or one with a view over some wondrous scene – it can be a distraction rather than an inspiration.”

Robert concurs: ‘You’re there to work. It’s not a holiday.’

What do you feel are the necessary components for a happy writing environment?

All four writers have had their share of chaotic newsrooms early on in their careers. Allison recalls ‘a fair bit of shrieking’ during her 14 years working in open-plan magazine offices.

It taught me great focus and how to work ‘inside my head’, which is to say that the entire outside environment fades away when I write. This has been particularly helpful as a freelance writer working around my children whilst trying to write fiction in any spare time available.”

These days Robert needs to have minimal interruptions and distractions. He also adds: ‘it’s a great help to have a partner who is sympathetic to these conditions and doesn’t feel threatened by your absorption in your writing, especially towards the end of a book’.

Pascal and Candida find that when there is a deadline they are happy writing anywhere. Pascal adds that writing under pressure in a busy, noisy environment is the most creatively fertile place for him. When Candida is not under pressure to deliver she can ‘get a bit prima donna-ish and decide I need absolute quiet’.

Allison tends to write quite late into the night. ‘As long as the lights are on, the room is quiet and I have my computer in front of me, I’m good to go.’ She has a messy desk and her walls are covered with her sons’ drawings.

Where have you written your best work?

‘I haven’t yet written my best work’ claims Candida. She continues, 

At least I hope I haven’t! But I hope that the novel I’m working on will be my best work, and that is my early-morning-on-the-sofa novel. Every now and then I experience complete aloneness and quietude, and the work that comes from that is some of my best, I believe.”

Pascal also thinks his best work is ahead of him in the shape of the novel he is writing. To date his best work as a paid professional are his television scripts, particularly for The New Inventors, created in a busy office environment and ‘on the road’ – in hotel rooms or on planes.

I have written in so many assorted places I can barely recall them,” says Robert. “In the city, when I began writing, I wrote The Savage Crows on an Olivetti portable on the kitchen table at night. And now, in the country, I write on a MacBook Air in a converted garage.”

Allison has a ‘Pavlovian response to putting my fingers on my keyboard when I am at my desk, and that’s where I do my best work. I don’t need a view because all I am looking at is the screen. When I wrote The Mapmaker Chronicles, I spent hours and hours looking at the wall in my study – but in my head there was a full-colour movie playing out.’

Did the writing environment influence the creation of your best work and why?

Candida now lives far away from the chaos of capital cities and their newsrooms. ‘I’m surrounded by massive fig trees, and the emerald grass is luminescent underneath the dark olive green of the macadamia trees. The green soothes my soul. Living in the country definitely informs my writing in the way that I see landscape and how I can meditate myself into the universe around me.’

Robert doesn’t think the environment affects the writing per se, as long as the conditions suit the individual. ‘You don’t need a sea view, for example, to write about the ocean. I think the imagination even works better when the writing environment is far from your fictional backdrop.’

Allison spent six weeks drafting each of the three books in The Mapmaker Chronicles. She thinks that because she has an established routine and just ‘got down to work’, the environment she created informed the speed and productivity of her writing.

She adds,

There’s no perfect place, except in front of your computer or notebook or whatever your writing tool of choice may be. I think people place too much emphasis on looking for the perfect place to write their novel. I often hear them saying things like ‘when I move to the country, I’ll write my novel, or as soon as I get a study of my own, I’ll write my novel‘.”

Pascal’s ‘light bulb’ moments can happen anytime. ‘Ideas for my writing sometimes are formed in that moment when I’m emerging from a deep sleep, thinking about a story.’ Such as when he got the idea for his latest challenge: writing his first novel, a political farce based on his experience growing up in Mauritius.

Conclusion

So it would seem, as the panel has indicated, the perfect writing environment is actually in our heads.

We carry it around with us. To get to that place of creativity we just need to focus on the task at hand, and get down to the job of writing.

Admitting that it is a job, that it is a ‘hard slog’ and that there is no way around this fact is the most pragmatic approach to productivity. As is establishing a routine. There is nothing romantic about the job of writing!

Deep within us writers there is an insatiable need to tell our story, to get the words down. Perhaps that novel, article or poem would never be written if we thought about the effort too much.

It’s the deep satisfaction of the creative process – of building something and then letting it go, starting anew – which drives us.

***

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/perfect-writers-space-exist/

11 Tips For Finding Your Writing Zone 

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As the great Dorothy Parker once said, “writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat”. If only it were so simple. Every writer knows the struggle of setting aside the time to write, sitting down at the computer, opening a new document in your word processor of choice… and then realising that four hours have gone by and you’ve done nothing but watch unboxing videos on YouTube and stalk your ex’s hot cousin on Instagram. Writing is hard. Getting into the right frame of mind for writing is hard. Staying on task and not being distracted by your own crippling fear of failure is hard. So, here are a few tips for getting into the writing zone, because you can’t just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike (trust me, I’ve tried).

Of course, the “writing zone” looks different for everyone. Some writers work best in the dead of night, churning out page after page in a writing frenzy as they chug energy drinks and cookie dough. Other writers like to wake up at the crack of dawn to take a contemplative walk, or write every afternoon come rain or shine, or spend hours mumbling to themselves in their characters’ voices. There’s no wrong way to write. But here are some tips for finding a way into your own, personal writing zone:

1. Create a ritual

You don’t have to sacrifice a lamb to the writing gods every time you sit down to write, but sometimes it helps to have a small ritual transition between normal-you and writer-you. Maybe you light a candle, or make yourself a cup of coffee. Maybe you start by writing out a description of your week so far, or you put on your favourite shade of lipstick, or you straighten up your desk. Try out a couple of different rituals if you need to, and find what gets you psyched up/chilled out enough to write.

2. Find your ideal time of day

Are you an early riser or a night owl? Try setting aside writing time first thing in the morning, in the mid-afternoon, and right before bed to see which works best for you. Then stick with that time as much as you can. Sometimes finding your writing zone is as simple as finding the right hour of the day to start writing.

3. Find your ideal writing environment

If you know that you write best in a coffee shop, find a local coffee shop and become a regular. If you write best at your own desk, make sure that it stays relatively neat. If you like to write from bed, then… just do that, I guess. And if you can’t force yourself to start writing alone, find a writer buddy so the two of you can sit there and suffer together.

4. Find your music

Some people can only write in dead silence, others like to write while blasting out Celtic rock. Whatever your musical tastes, find a reliable writing playlist for yourself. You could try listening to the radio, movie soundtracks, or even classical music if lyrics are going to be too much of a distraction. Even if you don’t like to write with music, having a pump up or chill out song to get you into the zone can help focus your energy on your manuscript instead of work/stress/the guy who’s currently ghosting you.

5. Go off the grid

Put your phone on airplane mode. Turn off your computer’s Wi-Fi. Tell your friends you’ll be out of reach for the afternoon. If you need to, download a self-control app that’ll shut you out of distracting websites. I promise that you’ll survive life off the grid, and you’ll find it much harder to procrastinate without the world wide web at your fingertips.

6. Get out of the house

Remember outside? The air moves out there. It’s pretty great. If you’ve been spending the whole day in bed, or staring at a screen, or lying motionless on the floor, you might want to try going for an old fashioned walk. Grab a notebook and walk to the park/beach, or even around the block. Go for a run if that’s your thing. Go buy yourself a new flavor of ice cream. If you’re really feeling ambitious, leave your phone at home. Just getting out of the house and moving your body might help you refocus and start thinking about how to start that next chapter.

7. Give yourself incentives

Unfortunately, we don’t always have unlimited time to stroll through the park or try out different writing spots. Many of us have to work at “jobs” to earn “money” for “rent.” So if you need a shortcut to get yourself writing, you can always bribe yourself with some kind of treat: if you write 500 words today, you get to take a bubble bath, or watch the next episode of your favourite show; 1,000 words, you treat yourself to lunch; 5,000 words, you buy that cute item of clothing/new bag/pair of shoes you saw. (Use this method sparingly, though, because it gets expensive fast!)

8. Get rid of excess energy

I am forever making other people nervous with my pacing, foot jiggling, and hand wringing. If you tend to have a lot of excess energy, try jumping jacks or yoga before you dive back into writing. Stretch. Breathe. Invest in a standing desk, or a fidget spinner, or silly putty, so that you’re not just sitting motionless as you try to come up with ideas. You’ll be surprised just how much easier it is to stay in that zone when you’re not bursting with restless energy.

9. Read

If you just aren’t in the mood to write, try reading. Get another author’s voice inside your head, and you’ll find it a lot easier to start putting words on paper yourself. Every writer needs books to fuel their weird writer brains. And while it can be hard to go from watching TV or talking with friends to writing the next Great Novel, going from reading to writing is the most natural transition in the world.

10. Be consistent

Stick with it. If you train yourself to write at the same time every day, or every other day, or even every week, chances are it’s going to get easier and easier to get into the zone. Make your writing time sacred. It’s not just free time that you’re using to write, it’s your daily allotment of writing time, and it must be respected. Write something during every session, even if it’s just a list of ideas.

11. Write your way into the zone

Don’t underestimate the power of a good free-write. Not in the right creative mood to revise your poetry chapbook? Too bad. Just start writing whichever words come to your brain, until some of those words start to take shape as ideas. Free yourself from the need to write “well,” and just write. Write like nobody’s reading. Don’t beat yourself up if you write for a solid hour and none of it is usable. Count it as a success, because you were able to start writing and keep writing, and that’s no mean feat.

Happy writing!

***

Via: https://www.bustle.com/p/11-tips-for-finding-your-writing-zone

Why Taking Writing Breaks Is Important

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Often when we work continuously on the same piece of writing (especially a long piece) we can lose our objectivity. Sometimes we get so caught up in our writing, we forget that simply powering through can affect the quality of our work. Taking a break allows us to come back to our work with a clear mind and a new perspective. This is important because it also allows us to critique our own writing by bringing a fresh view to our work.

Sometimes when reviewing work after a break we might even change our focus and bring new ideas to our writing. This is very useful when your writing just isn’t working. If you are at the point where you are forcing a story, take this as a sign to take a break from it.  Give yourself time to understand why it isn’t working and allow your creative juices to flow and bring you a new view, a new path to take in your writing, or even the courage to scrap what you were doing and start something completely new.

As writers, we overwork our brains and we don’t realise it. We are constantly thinking, constantly brainstorming, and constantly flooding our heads with superfluous information from blogs to books” – Paul Jun (Problogger)

Remember why you write

There are many reasons why writers write. Some of these are:

  • We enjoy it
  • We have something we want to say
  • Writing gives our imagination freedom to run wild
  • To inspire others
  • It’s our creative outlet

Whatever the reason, we shouldn’t lose sight of why we are writing something and we certainly shouldn’t lose the enjoyment. If you find that this is happening to you then take a break. The last thing you want to do is lose sight of the reason why you are writing. Especially if it’s important to you. Sometimes taking a break to remind yourself of these reasons can be very useful. Take the time to give your mind some breathing space, relax and enjoy life.

Taking a writing break doesn’t mean you can’t think about writing or think about new ideas. As writers, simply seeing or hearing something can spark our creativity and cause our imaginations to run wild. This doesn’t need to stop. Taking a writing break can simply be a break from your current writing project to allow your mind to have a rest and let you re-energise. In the meantime, if you get an idea for another piece of writing, or even for your current project, jot down the idea so you don’t forget it and come back to it later. This will also allow you to assess your new idea objectively.

Time Out and Observation

There are some things you can do whilst taking a break that can help your writing and help you to view what you have written objectively. When you are out, whether it be in a shopping centre, in a park, or when you’re simply around other people, listen to the way people talk to each other. This is one way to check whether the conversations between your characters sound realistic or forced. When you listen to the way people talk naturally, you may realise that some of the conversations between your characters sound robotic or too formal. This is a good way to remind yourself how a conversation between people flows naturally.

“We writers tend to live in our heads and its necessary for us to step outside and enjoy the sunshine more than every once in a while. Shaking up your routine can sometimes, inadvertently, lead to you generating some of your best material” – Mitchell Martin Jnr. (Paper Hangover).

Simply observing people can help you with your character development. Observation can often spark the creation of a new character, add realistic descriptions to your characters and their actions, or even give you a new story idea. For example, you may see a couple who are arguing, even if you can’t hear what they are saying, you might want to use your creativity and make up something that they might be arguing about, something that can be applied to your characters.

Observe (discreetly) the body language of the couple as this can help when you describe interactions with your characters. You want your readers to be able to visualise what is happening and the more realistic it sounds, the easier it will be for your readers. Or perhaps you notice an interesting looking person, someone who is oblivious to what is going on around him or her, perhaps he or she doesn’t seem to notice other people because they don’t seem to care what other people think. Do you have a character like this in your story? If so, some simple observation can give you wealth of inspiration.

Keep reading

Enjoy other people’s writing. Choose a book that you like and read (or re-read) it. Take the time to think about why you enjoy this book so much. Think about things such as:

  • How does the author capture your attention?
  • What methods does the author use to keep your attention?
  • Do you care about the characters in the story? Why or why not?
  • How does the author move the story along?

You can learn a lot by reading books and understanding techniques used by other authors. This can add great value to your own work when you are stuck on how to progress your story or when you need a reminder on how to keep the reader interested.

How long should the break be?

Only you can decide how long of a break you should take. Don’t feel guilty if you end up taking a long break. Take all the time you feel you need. Your writing will be there when you are ready to come back to it and it will benefit from the break. So, if you feel that your writing is getting stale or if you feel that you simply are not making progress, then do yourself a favour and have a break from your writing. Allow yourself time to refresh, get reacquainted with your creativity and revamp your writing.

Via: http://writersedit.com/taking-writing-breaks-important/

Not today, thank you!

Why is it that no matter how hard you try ‘life’ always seems to want to get in the way? I am a writer, I’ve told everyone that is what I am doing all day, every day. Yet somehow that never seems to mean anything to anyone but me. I don’t have a proper job so I must be doing nothing or sitting on my ass watching TV all day!

Admittedly, there are times when I watch TV to give my brain a little break whilst I’m eating lunch, but the majority of the time I am actually busy. I might be writing or editing, reading, researching something for my book or working on the plot or characterisation. I might even be interacting on social media or updating my blog. But I am certainly not ‘free’ or busy doing nothing!

So why is it that when I say ‘I’m busy’ people think that is code for ‘I’m not really busy, I’m just saying I am because I’m otherwise unemployed!’ and feel the need to invite themselves around for coffee or suggest doing lunch to give me something to do, because let’s face it – you’re just saying you’re busy aren’t you?!

I find life so frustrating sometimes. All I want is to be left in peace with my computer and my imagination, and perhaps a bottomless cup of hot coffee, so that I can allow my creativity to flow from my fingertips uninterrupted. Yet that always seems to be too much to ask. There are endless people (usually the same ones on a loop) vying for my attention. I don’t mean to be selfish, I do want to see you, honestly I do, but I just need some time to myself right now. Just for today. Please. So if it’s not too much trouble, and it won’t put you out, then no, not today, thank you!

 

© Abigayle Blood