Writing Methods: Environment
This is the second article in the Writing Methods series. You can find the first article, about different outlining or pantsing methods, here.
Creativity can change. Things that worked for a long time might stop working. There are several things you can do to try and prevent this from happening, including controlling the environment you write in. It’s all about training your brain and finding out what works best for you.
Some writers work best with background noise, such as music or ambient noise. Others work best in complete quiet. If you are one of the former, experiment with listening to music while you write. Classical or instrumental might be a good place to start if you have never done this before. If you want to try something a little tougher, put on a playlist of familiar music with lyrics. The key here is it has to be familiar because anything new will draw your attention away from your writing.
If you don’t feel comfortable writing with music, you can go to a coffee shop, library, park, or other public place to work, depending on the level of ambient noise you prefer. Experiment with different places and times to see what level of ambient noise works best for you.
You can also experiment with ambient noise through headphones such as binaural beats (check out Brain.fm), nature sounds, or other ambient noise for creativity or studying from YouTube or websites like coffitivity.com, where they record ambient noise and play it back on an endless loop. You could also put on the radio or TV in the background, but this might be more distracting than helpful.
If you are a writer that likes silence, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs. Writing from home or in a familiar place where you aren’t likely to be interrupted is key for your writing methods.
Some writers feel most comfortable at home, with fewer distractions. Others like being around people in public places so they can people-watch or eavesdrop to get story material.
If you feel most comfortable at home, you have several options. You can write from your bed, from a desk, from the couch, or at the kitchen table, among other places. Make sure you have a designated writing space. This will help train your brain to think, “it’s writing time” whenever you are in this place.
If you feel more comfortable in a public place, the same principle applies. Try to have a designated place you always go for writing.
Time of Day
Writing at the same time of day can help your brain recognize when to be creative. Experiment with different times of day to see what works best for you. Some of us are early morning writers who like to get up before everyone else, even the sun. Others are morning writers when the sun is up and the day is just beginning. Afternoon, evening, night, or late night might work better for you. If you are able to work during hours when you feel most productive, whenever that may be, that would be ideal. I am more of a “daylight” writer myself, meaning if the sun is up it is probably writing time for me.
Writing with Others or Alone
Writing is thought of as a solitary exercise, and it often is. But it doesn’t have to be. If you have some writer friends, either online or in real life, you can always do something called word sprints with them.
A word sprint is where you set a timer and race against the clock to get as many words as you can in that set amount of time. Anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes is normal, but you can choose what amount of time works best for you. It adds a competitive element, but take care not to get too bogged down if someone consistently writes more words than you do. It’s meant to be motivational instead of discouraging. If you find you are too competitive, this might not be the best method for you.
We like to be comfortable. For some of us, that means curled up under a blanket in the middle of summer when someone turns the AC to sixty-five. For others, it means shorts and t-shirts outside while we write in forty-degree weather at the end of a particularly brutal winter. A lot of us fall somewhere in between.
The whole point of writing is to be comfortable and not have to worry about anybody’s needs while we write. Experiment with different temperatures and whether one works better than another. You can use blankets, coats, fans, air conditioning, sitting by an open window, or a variety of other things to figure out what works for you.
Food, Drinks, and Bathroom Access
As I said before, you don’t want to be uncomfortable while you are writing. If you have a large chunk of time with which to write, make sure you have snacks and drinks on hand to recharge your brain when you start feeling drained. You could pay for them in a coffee shop or buy them at the grocery store for your home office.
Granola or protein bars, green tea or coffee, and other things that fill you up fast are good to have on hand. Make sure when you sit down to write everything is set up. It’s good to keep your hot drinks in a thermos so they don’t get cold while you write. If you are eating or drinking while you write, it’s a good idea to have easy access to a bathroom.
Experimenting with different aspects of your environment and finding out what works best for you and your writing can be a rewarding process that allows you to be more creative and comfortable. If something stops working or you feel blocked, chances are changing one of these elements of your environment will help you get through the block.