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.