Writing is a very personal activity. It’s almost always a solitary endeavor and requires - at the very least - focus. When writing, authors hope to get into the zone and allow themselves to be transported into their story. It’s the place where time and space disappear and creativity takes over. It’s the sweet spot that author’s love to find themselves.
However, getting into that zone is easier said than done. It can even be a source of discouragement or even writer’s block.
So how can an author cultivate deep writing focus?
One way is to create an appropriate environment and atmosphere with which to work. Does it really matter?
“Absolutely, yes it matters,” says author Sierra Kay. “It sets the stage for success.”
Today we’ll take a deep dive into the why, the what and the where.
Environment refers to the external factors in the writer’s surroundings. Such as the room and objects in the room, or nature and the things within awareness like water or a tree.
Atmosphere refers to the mood or emotional tone within the environment. Think of the five senses. Lighting, temperature, scent, sound and taste.
Consider these examples. Which sound more appealing to your writing practice?
A library that is typically hushed and subdued with books and computers. People are milling about, whispers are prevalant.
A train ride with the sound of rails, the squealing of brakes or maybe passengers speaking to one another. Out the window you watch the countryside fly by, each home or town you pass has history and secrets. The scenery captures your imagination.
You're on the couch with a crackling fireplace, a cup of hot tea on the end table, a lap blanket cradling your laptop and a big picture window with snow falling. You have nowhere to be and nothing else to do. What feelings would this atmosphere invoke? Would you be able to get into the zone? Coziness and safety are a couple atmospheric elements that could put you in the zone.
Here’s another scenario: Picture yourself on a solo camping trip in a drafty cabin, with an earthy smell, the wind whipping and random animal footsteps keeping you on edge. This atmosphere is the opposite of cozy and safe, but could inspire a whopper of a thriller novel.
Perhaps you are simply in your home office. It’s the end of the day and all your tasks are put to bed. You have two hours to write. You turn on a small desk lamp, turn up some Dianna Krall jazz, light your favorite candle, close the office door and sink into your favorite chair to write.
These are just a few scenarios that writers might find themselves, which ones sounded ideal? Which ones did you not like at all? What does your current writing atmosphere feel like? If you’re struggling to write or to get into the zone, it might be time to evaluate your environment and make some adjustments.
“Sometimes I prefer the corner of a coffee shop. It feels like a productive space and I feel the drive to be productive as well,” Kay said. “There’s people around, but they aren’t necessarily talking to you.”
Of course the smell of coffee doesn’t hurt either.
“Temperature can play a part where you are too. If I’m in a coffee shop sitting near the door and it’s cold outside, that can get distracting.”
Perhaps you’ll find yourself in an atmosphere that is the catalyst for you to write. While Kay has found herself writing in coffee shops and beachfront getaways, they are certainly not the most unique places she’s written.
“I was recently at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was inspired to write a poem right in the middle of the concert,” Kay said. Now that's taking advantage of inspiration!
Have you ever written anywhere unique like this and captured creativity in the moment, letting atmosphere and environment be your guide? Comment below!
Here are some examples of some more prevalent writing environments:
A home office.
A coffee shop.
A cabin in the woods.
The kitchen table.
At work on a break.
How many of those places sound like creative zones to you?
All that is really required to write is an idea and a way to get that idea out of your head, whether that be pen and paper or computer. However there are many things that can make the writing experience more pleasant, productive and comfortable.
Here are a few features to consider:
A window for “thinking.” Most authors would agree with this one!
A door. Privacy can help so much.
A comfortable chair.
Lighting. Whether it be overhead lighting or lamps, lighting can make a huge difference in your ability to work productively. Being able to see is important as is the mood it sets.
Music. The right melody can put you into focus. Having a playlist for your writing is also super inspiring and motivating.
Headphones. Sometimes you just need to escape into your own world - the world of your book
Pens and pencils.
Climate control. Consider keeping a lap blanket, cardigan, a stocking cap or a fan for comfort. A ceiling fan is also helpful for climate and air circulation.
Drink with a coaster.
Snacks. A snack can ward off hunger pangs and keep you from leaving your work space.
Clock. If you’re blessed, you’ll get in the zone and time will get away from you. A clock can help keep you within your writing boundaries.
Scent. Candles, fresh flowers or essential oils. Scent can inspire, calm or energize.
Nature. Houseplants, a water feature, vase of flowers, or even a rock to hold as you brainstorm your plot, nature provides a wonderful source of grounding.
Books! Many writers find that being surrounded by books is a motivating and comforting environment. Research can be at your fingertips.
If you are struggling with focused writing time, consider taking a look around your workspace. You may need to shake things up a bit. Maybe you need to add something or take something away. Maybe you need an office makeover. Maybe you just need to move to a new location for a day or two or indefinitely.
“If inspiration isn’t striking at home, I can always go somewhere else,” Kay said.
Sierra Kay Takeaways
Analyze. Take a look at your current writing space. What elements are conducive to writing? Which ones distract you from getting in the zone?
Eliminate. If possible eliminate the distractions or the things that are preventing you from solid writing.
Additions. What could you bring into your work space that would cultivate creativity?
Create Atmosphere. What feeling are you trying to evoke? Add elements that move the senses and create mood for the topic of your book.
Experiment. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone in order to get into the zone. Try writing in different locations. Try engaging the senses with different elements.
Did this blog post inspire you to make a change in your writing process? Comment below, we'd love to know!
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