The Writing Environment

Businesses pay a lot of money to figure out the best way to help their employees be productive. What works best? Lots of open space? What kind of lighting? Should we turn on background music, or does that present a safety risk? A better work environment leads to better work, and for a business, that often leads to better profit.

If writing is work, then your writing environment is just as important as your work environment. And if that environment helps you be more productive, then in theory, that can lead to profit if you’re trying to sell your stories.

Now, here’s the thing: my ideal writing environment may not be the same as your writing environment. And what worked for you a year ago may no longer function as well any more. People change, so it could be good for you to change up your environment every once in a while to experiment.

What are some things to think about?

  • While some people will say that you need to get rid of all distractions, I would advise to find the right amount of distractions for you. For isntance, some people flourish writing in a coffee shop setting. I’ve tried that, and I’m too distracted there. But here’s the catch: The ideal isn’t your comfort, but how much writing you do. Elminate distractions and find out what works best for you.
  • No matter your prefered level of distractions, silence your phone and turn of the social media while you’re writing. Those two sources of distraction simply suck up too much mental space. While you may be able to write while those things are on, you’ll get more done with them off.
  • What’s your sound landscape like? Similar to distractions, you need to find the right amount for you. Some people need absolute silence. Others need to have a movie on in the background. For me, I usually find a soundtrack and let that run in the background.
  • Limit the people around you if at all possible. I recognize this one can be harder to manage depending your season of life. For me, that means I either lock myself in the bedroom away from kids, or only write when they’re all asleep or out of the house. That severely limits my writing time!
  • What is your writing space like? Do you need an orderly space to write? Do you need more light? Less?
  • What’s your chair like? You need to be comfortable so your body isn’t a distraction while you write, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep!
  • Don’t write when very hungry or thirsty. These things can distract! I’d also recommend not overeating. If you’re falling into a post-feast coma, you probably aren’t writing all that much.
  • If at all possible, sleep. OK, don’t sleep while you’re writing. That probably won’t help too much. But if you’re falling asleep at the keyboard, you won’t be very productive. That may mean you need to rest more and write less, especially during certain seasons.
  • Just like workers legitimately need breaks, so do writers. How long are you attempting to write at a time? Push yourself to expand your capabilities, but also recognize that at a certain point you just need to take a break. I’ve found that thirty to forty minutes at a time is a sweet spot for me when writing a rough draft. When doing revisions, I can work significantly longer at a time.
  • It can really help to set a goal, too. How many words are you aiming to produce this writing session? 500? 1000? Set something challenging but not impossible, and shoot for it!

These are just some suggestions to get you thinking. And as I mentioned, what worked for you a year ago may have changed. It may shift with your mood, with your season of life, with the seasons of the year, and with what project you’re working on. Experiment so you can find your most productive work environment!

How have you experimented? What works best for you?

Published by Jon

I'm a pastor in Wisconsin. Constantly writing, whether it be fiction or sermons or anything in between. Husband and father. Over all this, Christian, willing and joyful servant to good master Jesus.

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