5 Ways to Cultivate a Good Writing Environment

I popped into Hastings Entertainment the other day and noticed a young man near the coffee kiosk.  He was sitting at a table, laptop in front of him, his big styrofoam cup of joe steaming, his fingers not on the keyboard, staring at a blank screen.  Five steps away from him a little boy was screaming, his little fists closed on a plush Darth Vader, his mother pulling at the Dark Lord of the Sith with eyes that looked more like Emperor Palpatine’s. “No!” she was telling the boy, “You can’t have that.”  Needless to say, if the young man sitting at the laptop wanted to write anything substantial, he probably needed to discover a better writing environment.  Here are some ways:

1.  Get Away – My ideal circumstance for writing is found when walking out onto the deck outside the back door of our house.  We live in the country, far from the madding crowd.  Some evenings when it cools down I will pop out there with my laptop and hammer away on the novel.  If that isn’t enough, I will find a room in the house that is unoccupied (preferably my bedroom) and plop down to write in peace.  If my four children (or our two small dogs) are still too noisy, I will go to the local university library which is not far away where I can have quiet.  I find a table far off in the recesses of the library and usually can get much accomplished.

2.  Turn Off the Internet – I love that I can switch off my wifi.  Many times we are tempted to surf the net to check our blog stats, see if anyone has commented on our status update or other such time wasting activities.  Budget time for blogging and social networking.  You need uninterrupted time writing or you will never finish that novel.

3.  Music – I listen to Mozart or Braums when writing.  I have long concertos in iTunes and I pop in the earbuds and it usually drowns out any distracting noises.  You may not write to music, but I do.  I have so much going on in my head that if I don’t have something to help me focus, I will usually lose focus.  It is not possible for me to write while listening to anything that has lyrics.  The lyrics push my focus away from my own words.  I prefer music that suits the mood of the passages I am trying to write.

4.  Comfort – I will usually sit in a chair on a couch that is not too comfortable but just enough so that I won’t be tempted to snooze but in the right zone of comfort to pound away on the keys.  The lighting for me is not really that important.  Scrivener (in my opinion the best word processing program around) has a fantastic feature that allows me to change the paper and text color of my on-screen text so that it is most pleasing to my eyes and does not make them tired.  I use this full screen mode to write because all of the desktop icons and other bells and whistles of my Macbook will distract me.  If you have to use a desktop computer, make sure you are sitting in a chair that is comfortable, but one that forces you to write and not fall asleep.  I use a laptop for writing due to its portable nature.  It allows me to sit virtually anywhere to write.

5.  Reward Comes Later – When I am writing, I deprive myself of that awesome latte and the snacks.  I usually keep a small glass of water nearby.  I have a goal of 1000 words a day and usually keep to that.  After churning out the words, I reward myself with the cup of coffee or the snack.  I have put off watching a favorite show as motivation for writing.  If you are a writer, then writing must come first.  There are many things in this life that can waste a writer’s time, precious time that writers need to finish a novel or revise.  Using these things as rewards for writing is one of the best motivators we could use to help us write.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

6 thoughts on “5 Ways to Cultivate a Good Writing Environment

  1. Thanks for this post! I find that I have to get away from home to write productively. Either that or I have to sit at the kitchen table when everyone is asleep. I have a hard time writing when my daughters are awake and wanting to spend time with me. I also have a hard time trying to stay focused when there are dishes to be done and clothes to be washed and rooms needing to be straightened. So I go some place, like a coffee shop, slam in the ear buds, and fall into the wonderland of my writing world.

  2. Music isn’t essential for me, unless I’m feeling a little bogged down or focus-impaired. Then I crank up the tunes, usually on Pandora. I agree with lyrics being an issue, at least if they’re memorable. That’s why I have an 80s synth-pop dance station to get me perky–the combination of forgettable lyrics and familiarity with a beat works wonders. If I’m in the groove already and want to keep it flowing, I go to my cool jazz station: Brubeck and Getz and Vince Guaraldi. I often leave that going while I do my day job too.

    Location-wise I like being in the same spot, not just for ease of logistics but because I’ve got the ergonomics right. Good heavy duty office chair, sufficient lighting to keep eyestrain down, reference books within reach. I can write in other situations when necessary, of course, but none are as well-furnished. I also think there’s something about defining a space as being for Writing that works at me on a subconscious level.

  3. Some great tips hon 🙂

    I went to Starbucks the other day for a writing session, and had to leave after an hour because of kids screaming lol…..went to Costa, which was quiet….for a while 😦

    A lot of people have said to me to try the library, but, what would I do without coffee? Lol


  4. Great and much needed post … for me! There are countless things that hinder me from writing (although it is mostly me), and this really helpful. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Great post, thanks. 1,000 words a day is really impressive.
    I work best at my desk at home. Set short term goals: i.e. finish a blog post, then allow short distraction, usually try to get up from the chair, then back to another task. Snacks and coffee built into the breaks. Wish I could turn off internet- but I have removed some of the sites from home page that caused me to wander– not checking book sales daily seems to help. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. I have really struggled with this for years, allowing anything to distract me. This year I made a deal with myself that this would no longer be the case. I’m far more productive than I used to be, but now I struggle with figuring how to balance the different writing projects ie; blog 1, blog 2, photography, and 3 current WIP. It’s a great idea to set some goal everyday of x number of words to knock it out. Thanks for a great post, as always!

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