Not all writing sessions are made equal.
In my last article I discussed how to combat writers block. What could possibly go wrong once you’re full of ideas and sit down to write? Our writing environment comes to mind. Creating the perfect writing space makes room for a more productive writing session. Lately I’ve been thinking about what I call writing variables and how they affect our output. The variables I’m going to discuss are those of the physical variety and since we are sensory beings, this affects more of us writerly types than you might think. If I received a pound coin for each writer I’ve heard complaining about not being able to sit down to a session, I would have had a five-course meal at Nobu already. This is why we need to consider creating an ideal writing environment before we even sit down.
Here are some of the variables you may want to consider and adjust before you take up your next writing session.
Room Temperature and air quality
If there’s one thing that puts me off writing, it’s a hot and dusty room with the sun spilling into it. I might be bringing back memories of your double Geography lesson and I really don’t mean to, however could air quality be making you retreat away from your next chapter or article? I’m a hay fever sufferer and now that the summer is here, I am definitely finding it physically harder to sit through writing sessions with the same zest that I usually have. It’s like I can’t win at the moment: if I keep a window shut, I’m boiling hot and can’t focus but if I leave it open, I’m inviting the pollen in. If I leave the window shut and the fan on then I’m dehydrating myself from the inside out. Sigh. Get it? It’s up to me to find the right balance so that I can focus on my best writing rather than the forces of nature.
How I usually avoid this is to leave a window slightly ajar for fresh air but to cover it with a sheer curtain to act as a barrier for the excessive bright light as well as pollen. An air ioniser or purifier acts to get rid of dust, pollen and cigarette smoke fumes. Likewise, a humidifier works wonders to alleviate dry skin and alleviate coughs and stuffy noses. If you’re a writer who is serious about your craft, it may well be worth investing in creating the perfect writing environment for yourself.
Are you hungry or thirsty? Too full even?
I’m ever evolving when it comes to my writing and eating co-schedule. Being a night writer who works into the wee morning hours, what works for me has dramatically changed. It’s very rare that I can withstand writing on an empty rumbling stomach. However, while I used to find it mandatory to have a chocolate bar nearby, I now find it somewhat distracting to eat sugary foods during the process. This has taught me that writing ritual preferences can definitely shift with time and that you must respond accordingly.
Writing on an empty stomach only keeps your mind wondering off to that tasty treat in the cupboard. Yet being belly-poppingly full can make you lethargic and unproductive as well. Being proactive here would be to find your sweet spot beforehand to ensure you are not high on sugar and low on energy.
Are you alert? Can you hear me?
The con to being a night writer is the fact that sometimes I do get very tired. I have found myself jolting my head up at the screen after having nodded off for a few moments. I hate that feeling because the disorientation is a far cry from the focus needed to complete a writing session. The bottom line is if you’re tired, the last thing you are going to want to do is write. I’m absolutely exhausted, it’s time to get writing– said no writer ever.
Are you physically comfortable?
I admit to being a slight hypocrite on this one because when I get into the swing of one of my projects, nothing can stop or interrupt me. In fact, one writing session was spent working on my novel on a full bladder. Primarily, the ideas were flowing so freely that I didn’t want to miss out on anything. I stayed like that for probably an hour or more- but I would never recommend that. Authors can be the biggest procrastinators and that goes for a lot of writers in general so having a comfortable writing environment to keep you writing is very important.
Feeling physically uncomfortable can be used as yet another excuse to put down the pen or laptop so why make space for that outcome? I would advise that you prep meticulously before writing to avoid this- take that loo break, itch that scratch, cut that pesky hangnail, tidy your writing space- any silly thing that could take away from your full, devoted attention on your project.
I find that manipulating my writing space definitely makes for a better experience which fosters enjoyment in my craft. It allows me to seamlessly zoom into my projects in comfort. As a writer you need to learn what variables do and don’t work for you so that you can increase productivity and get the best out of your writing sessions.
How are you going to adjust your writing environment next time? Let me know in the comments below.
These are such great tips, having a great writing/working environment is so crucial for me. Clean desk, silence and being comfortable is on my topmost list xx
Isn’t silence during a writing session utter bliss? And comfort is definitely conducive to being productive writer.
Totally agree with this! Partially comfortable is a great way of putting it, I can’t be too relaxed and comfortable but I still need to feel comfortable enough to sit and work for a while. Having some drinks around me is an absolute must too x
I agree about the drinks for I’m guilty of not always implementing this!
Nice posts & all the points you shared are nice. For me, I need peaceful, clean environment with pleasant, mild fragrance. I avoid very high sugar content eatables. I don’t know why but I couldn’t eat anything after my dinner. I love fresh air but avoid distractions too! You’re totally right – balance is needed. Whether you’re a writer or not, clean tidy environment free from dust keeps your mood fantastic & healthy. Liked your post. Thank you for sharing!
I love that you avoid foods with high sugar levels. That rush and subsequent crash is not good at all for a writer wanting to stay focused. I definitely need to keep that in mind, as fruit juices are my weakness! Fresh air is great two as it allows more oxygen to the brain, which us writers need for our ideas!
These are all good points. I like what you said about getting tired when you write at night. I feel like I’m a night owl, but the older I get, the harder it is to focus on my writing at night after a long day with an early wake up call. So, my writing time has shifted over the years, and like you said, you need to write when you’re most alert and focused.
I definitely feel my eyelids getting heavy at night sometimes and when that happens there’s not much you can do. However on those nights when I am alert ad focused, I definitely make the most of my writing sessions!
Having a good chair to sit in is crucial. I love a nice, cool room, but I am also good in a hot room, since that reminds me to actually drink the water I keep in a quart jar with me! Finding the environment that works for you is crucial to letting those words flow, and sometimes it can take a little experimentation!
It just goes to show how different we all are as humans, I love the fact that you are also fine in a hot room! It definitely does take some tweaking to get the environment right for you personally.
Oooh, I love these tips about creating the right writing environment. It is not just getting your mindset to write, it is what’s around you too. I know an empty stomach does me no good and I want to go to sleep with a completely full stomach. Thanks for sharing all of these useful tips!
Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me
I’m glad you liked the tips! And it’s definitely about the balance with the food you can go overboard or overindulge!
Really great post and some great tips – I never really thought about room temperature and airquality before. For me when I’m working on fiction pieces and personal projects my writing conditions have to be alone. But if I’m just working on blog or anything else then I can quite happily write nearly anywhere.
Thanks! It’s funny you mentioned that because I ALWAYS have to write alone for fiction and it’s such a natural requirement that I forgot to add it as something to consider- you make a great point yourself!
Great post! Although I don’t write fiction but when I’m blogging, my environment really plays a huge part. I can’t function at ALL if I’m hungry!
I have a desk/ slash office space that I absolutely love. I knew it would be important for me to get work done. I’m a night owl as well so sometimes o write at night on the weekends. It is also important though to take breaks when you are writing at to not cause burn out, something I had to learn. And breaks are great for recharging and thinking of new things to write.
This is a huge problem for me lately that I’m trying to work on. I also never thought about being too full having an effect on me.
LOVED this post! People don’t realize how much their environment can affect them. This is why I always keep my surroundings clean and inviting – I feel like my brain doesn’t function any other way!
Great tips, thanks for sharing. Good environment is so important for clear mind – feeling comfortable is the key when it comes to expression. Thoughts won’t flow well if we are uncomfortable after all!
Laura / https://www.laustworld.com/
I find that having a hot + stuff space is incredibly distracting. In high school, I used to always have to eat while I worked. But then it felt like more of a distraction than a benefit—especially when I chose to eat candy. Thank you for sharing this post. It was informative and helpful!
You’re welcome! I’m glad you found the post beneficial.
Such great advice! It’s so easy to procrastinate when your writing environment isn’t right, but I’ve never really thought of it in so much detail. Really thought provoking, I think in my next writing session I’ll try to make sure that my environment is perfect (well, as perfect as possible) so that I can achieve more!
Thanks for reading! I’m glad to hear that you’ll start to adjust your writing environment- it really does help! Trust me, when mine isn’t right, my writing session never goes to plan.
Ah I really like these tips! I’ve never actually thought about all the different factors at play for making the best writing environment. I feel like I’m still trying to find the best environment for me x
Hey, I’m glad you liked the tips! There really are so many factors but the fun part is making it work for you, like you’ve said- trial and error works well too.
I definitely needed this post. I’m currently trying to write a post that has a deadline, and can’t help but finding myself distracted by many little things.
Thank you for the great advice! I am big on building healthy habits, and big help for that is environmental design, so this post makes a lot of sense for me.
I am definitely an allergy sufferer as well. I’m going to look into getting an air purifier.
One thing I always have to do before I am able to write is walk my dog, or else she won’t give me any peace!