Issue 51 contributor Meghan Dombrink-Green blogs about the importance of a good writing environment.
There’s this great—and somewhat bizarre—feeling I get when I get into my writing. I’ll be sitting at my computer, slogging my way through what needs to be written, when suddenly I pick up speed. I know what’s going to happen next; I know what my characters want to say. My fingers dash across the keyboard, spitting out words. My eyes start to melt because I stare too long at the screen. Then my stomach drops, and I feel as though all that exists is me and the computer. It’s like the writer’s equivalent of a runner’s high. I’m going and going until WHEEEEE I’m so into it and there’s nothing else I want to be doing.
The only problem is that I usually get this feeling at 1pm. At work. And I don’t work at home, and I don’t work for myself.
Good thing I take my lunch at 1pm. But in an effort to keep my day job, I limit my writing to one hour at lunch or post-work time. I’m quite lucky, actually, because if I stay an extra half hour at the office to work on my writing, no one minds.
One thing I’ve learned is the importance of a good (not too hot, not too cold) writing environment. I think it’s quite valuable to figure out where and when you write best. Because when you sit down to write, you want to make it easy for yourself. You want to take away the excuses, and you want to give yourself a space where you feel comfortable. When you have such a space, you’re allowing yourself to focus on your writing. You don’t have to tinker with the playlist, change the channel, or sit up in bed. You have your writing space.
Not that finding a good workspace is a new thing for writers. The Writers Room, which started in 1978, gives writers affordable workspaces in New York City. There are similar programs in Chicago, Boston, and Minneapolis. And just as many famous writers (Hemingway, Capote, Woolf, to name a few) had their special writing spaces and habits as well.
Although I don’t get away from much during my lunch hour, at least I’m not looking for a rug for my apartment or reading the Post. I’m focused on getting things done. I’m also sitting at a desk, Word open, desk light on. When I start writing at lunchtime, my personal writing becomes an extension of my real work, and the obligation of accomplishment carries over. My office is a place for completing tasks, and I like to file my writing under that category, too.
So the next time you stall out while writing, look around. Pay attention to where you are, and if you don’t like it, give yourself permission to be selfish about finding the best writing environment.
After a year of blogging about her experiences living abroad and teaching English, Meghan Dombrink-Green is trying to reclaim her favorite workspace and its accompanying focus.