Creating your perfect writing environment doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the simpler you can make it, the better. Often, when you procrastinate over having the right pen or the right notebook or the right chair, you’re dangerously close to becoming Goldilocks – wanting everything to be ‘just right’ before you sit down to write.
But this is often procrastination in disguise. Writing a book is hard work so this is no surprise – but like any new habit, the best time to start writing is now, not when the muse takes you or the wind is blowing in the right direction. Or when that new Moleskine notebook shows up! (I feel seen…)
In this post, you’ll discover how to create your perfect writing environment so you can actually avoid turning into Goldilocks and instead, get some damn words on the page.
The power of habit
One of the ways to help your brain implement new habits is to create a sense of familiarity. Our brains are very good at linking certain behaviours to certain environments. In the world of writing habits, this could look like:
· Sitting in the same place to write each day
· Wearing the same cardigan when you write
· Listening to the same playlist of music each time you write
But why would you want to do this? Surely it can’t make that much difference? Actually, it can. If your brain hears the same piece of music every time you sit down to write, it’ll associate it with the writing process.
So creating the perfect writing environment is actually a pretty sensible thing to do. Let’s look at what you might like to consider.
Your writing environment – the sights
First and foremost, try and sit in the same space to write each day. Once you get into the habit of writing regularly, you can change this up a bit, but for the time being in one place is best. If you can make it a space just reserved for writing, that’s great. But if not, it’s no biggie. Just a place where you feel comfortable, with limited distractions.
Now it’s time to consider what’s around you. What do you see? Well, the clearer your space the better. You don’t want to get sidetracked by yesterday’s to-do list or some notes you made about a business project you’re thinking of. Notes about your book are an obvious necessity, including a one-page overview to refer back to. Try to keep these to the essentials only. A focused mind is a productive mind.
You might also see a mug of coffee and a bottle of water. Keep hydrated and your brain will thank you for it. Why not include some inspirational quotes to keep you motivated? Or a giant piece of paper/whiteboard where you record your daily word count? It’s these little things that make your writing environment an inspiring place to be.
Your writing environment – the sounds
Whether you listen to anything while you write is entirely up to you. You may prefer to write in silence in a quiet corner of the house. Or you may enjoy writing in your local coffee shop, surrounded by background noises such as chatting or the whirr of machines. Stephen King writes while listening to Metallica.
It comes down to personal preference. And if writing in a coffee shop eats into your bank balance, you can play coffee shop noises via YouTube in the comfort of your own home.
Personally, I can only write to music without lyrics – I’m too tempted to sing along otherwise. I actually have a writing playlist on Spotify, full of classical pieces or chilled jazz. Listening to it gets me in the zone and my brain now associates my playlist with settling down to write.
When I interviewed author Jacqueline Kent on ‘Happy Writers Live!’, she agreed with this idea. Not only did she have the same playlist for every writing session, but she also had the same bowl of sweets to accompany each session too – even better!
Finally – turn off notifications and any other likely distractions. When I write, I turn my phone on to aeroplane mode so nothing grabs my attention other than the words on the page. Turn off computer notifications too – nothing like Outlook pinging up with an email to take your mind off your book.
Some writers put a sign on the door of their writing space to keep people out when they’re in creative mode – this could help if family members keep popping their heads round the door.
Your writing environment – the feel
In order to write, you need to feel as comfortable as possible. For me, that’s sitting in a chair that doesn’t hurt my lower back and making sure my desk is at an angle so that I don’t get neck aches.
Some authors wear a particular jumper or other item of clothing when they write – again, it helps to condition your brain to realise you’re about to start writing and it will help to get you in the zone. A bit like a runner getting their running gear ready before they head out the door. If an item of clothing doesn’t float your boat, you might want to try using the same mug for your tea/coffee each time or something else that acts as a signal or prompt for your brain to write.
Consider the temperature of your writing environment as an important factor too. If you’re too cold, you won’t associate writing with a pleasant experience. If you’re too hot, you may suffer from brain fog or lethargy. Having fresh air is important so keep a window open if you can – even if it’s just a crack.
Whatever you can do to make your writing experience simple and familiar for your brain, the better. Before you tackle your word count each day, get into your writing zone, both physically and mentally. It really helps with creativity.
But remember! Don’t get too particular about having everything ‘just right’ when writing. Aspiring to be Goldilocks in any situation is often procrastination in disguise. While your writing environment should be comfortable and give your brain a sense of familiarity, don’t spend too much time getting everything together.
Decide where you feel comfortable writing, create that space, gather your accessories and get started!