The Ideal Writing Environment

What is considered an ideal environment for writers to perform at their optimum? Peace and quiet at home? Solitude in the countryside? Or at the very least, a neat, uncluttered working area?

With hectic schedules, never-ending commitments and crazy deadlines to meet, we know the above are often only attainable in the realms of fantasy. Even the uncluttered working area.

I used to emphasise on setting up a "good" environment to get into a writing mood. My desk had to be tidied up, some light music turned on, and a cuppa by my side. And then I'd begin. The problem was, I seldom began. While clearing my desk, I would get distracted. A magazine lying there? I'd start browsing. A stack of notes? I'd start rearranging. So this would go on, and by the time I was finally satisfied that my desk had the semblance of a proper working space, I would have been tired out, and lost all momentum to write. Another day gone, another day wasted.

Then a few years back I had the fortune of attending a talk given by Cory Doctorow, science fiction author and one of the editors of the wildly-popular blog Boing Boing. One of the things he shared about was exactly what I struggled with—a proper writing environment. His secret?

Work with mess.

Write at all times, in all circumstances
Writers are messy people (generally speaking), thus writers have to thrive in mess. Doctorow described how his own cluttered desk only allowed him the tiniest of space to work with, and that was all he needed. He could write anytime, anywhere, even on a plane. Pen or pencil, laptop or desktop, it didn't matter. The world could collapse around him and he'd still be able to write.

As he went on about how horrendously messy he was, it was rather strange that I felt inspired by him. For too long I'd been a disorganised person trying to appear organised, and it just couldn't work out. It was time to let go! I decided I'd never let my environment irk me as I did my writing, and it was such a liberating experience. I can't say I'm too proud of my dusty, cluttered desk now, but hey, I'm a writer, what do you expect?

So no more excuses. No more escaping (or cleaning!). The ideal writing environment is all in your mind. Conquer the environment, and never let it affect your writing.


Susan May said...

Well put and it is bizarre that we wrote about the exact same thing. My husband actually cleaned up my office on the weekend. It was disgusting-and I'm not just talking clutter, I'm talking dust.

My problem is that the more you get involved in things which are part of the publishing industry, like blogs, twitter, reviewing, the more cluttered your work life.

I like to have all my admin out of the way before I get to the pleasure of writing (which I don't avoid on purpose-I love it.) However, I am spending so much time replying to emails, blogs, twitter followers that I'm not getting anywhere.

Probably gets a lot worse once when you are an established author, and I think you need to be prepared for that, so my next goal is to sort my work life out.

Great post and, of course, I wholeheartedly agree.

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