There is no one “correct” way of writing: what worked best for Ernest Hemingway or Stephen King may not work best for you. As a writer, it is important to establish the conditions under which you will write optimally. For many writers, it is not simply enough to sit down and write when you are struck with ideas. It requires routine, which helps to utilize inspiration and navigate through times when there doesn’t seem to be any. By establishing rules, boundaries, and habits, you will form a discipline conducive to accomplishing your writing goals.
Setting is an foundational aspect of any story, whether writing fiction and building worlds like Middle-Earth, or writing non-fiction and trying to capture all of the details about where the story took place. The importance of setting applies not only on the page, but off the page as well. As a writer, you want to create a place and atmosphere that enable you to do your best work.
The first thing that you should consider is the place for writing. First, you need to determine where the furniture should go. Do you write better at a desk or a couch? Is it more productive for you to be comfortable or not? This may seem obvious, but for some comfort will blunt motivation, while for others discomfort may prove too distracting. If you are the type of writer who works in short bursts, that may lead you in one direction. If you’re the type of person who will toil for hours, that may lead you in another. Also worth considering are options that create a less sedentary state for your body, with options like standing desks and other ergonomic alternatives.
The second part of determining a place to write is broader, since it is about the actual location. Do you write better in a home office, a living room, kitchen, or at your local library or coffee shop? Consider the benefits each offers:
With both the furniture and the locale, you may want to try out several different options, and figure out what challenges come with each. Take into consideration the different distractions that each may offer, and the consistency of the atmosphere. For example, can you control the temperature or noise levels? If you find a location that is sometimes perfect and sometimes not in regards to noise and temperature, you’ll need to decide if in fact it is a good location.
Another factor in choosing a location that you should take into consideration is distance. Will traveling further encourage you to focus or discourage you from going? Driving, or walking or taking public transportation to a writing destination may give you some time to collect your thoughts, and distance your mind from a busy day. On the other hand, commuting can cause financial stress, and make your writing reliant on weather, traffic, and other factors.
Once you’ve established the place, it is important to create a schedule. Some writers are able to focus better in the mornings, some at night, and others may not have a preference. Finding time to write can be one of the most difficult tasks in the process of preparing to launch your career, and in many cases, if a schedule isn’t upheld, the outcome is procrastination. Figuring out when you can sit down and write from an availability perspective and that of concentration will help you to optimize your effectiveness. Once you’ve established a time, try to make it a regular part of your daily or weekly schedule to hold yourself accountable.
Some of the more enjoyable elements of establishing your ideal setting are mood and sound. You need to consider whether or not sounds will distract you or on the contrary, whether or not music will inspire you. Perhaps you like to listen to music while you write—should you choose instrumental music in order to avoid singing along? Something that many writers do is listen to music which they think will direct the mood of a specific work. This is often dependent upon the genre, but with screenwriters, for example, music often guides the pacing and tone of a work.
Perhaps listening to music while you write is not the best option for you, but if you are commuting to your writing spot, listening to music en route may place you in the frame of mind that you think works best either for the specific material, or your particular writer’s voice.
Another part of your writing routine that is important to consider is the writing tool you will use. It’s 2017, and there are many writing tools available. Depending on your budget, your options may include a cellphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, and—the original method—paper. Which is right for you? In an interview with Nerdist’s Writer’s Panel Podcast, Joe Hill (author of Horns, Nos4a2, and The Fireman) said he spent years sitting at a laptop typing first drafts. Then Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Stardust, and Sandman) suggested Hill write out his first drafts on a pad of paper, and Hill found it helped him to feel more in touch with his writing method.
The above aspects of setting are common considerations for most writers. Beyond these considerations, you may find you develop your own style. When it comes to famous authors, there are many who have their own unique traditions that may seem indulgent or strange (e.g. checking into a hotel to write, as did Maya Angelou, or chain-smoking like Aaron Sorkin). At the same time, there are rituals that can be simple and helpful to getting a writer into the required mindset. Writing is a mental exercise. Sometimes physical exercise will allow you to clear your mind of distractions, and release endorphins that will help you to get the work done. Other times, having coffee or a snack—either beforehand or at the ready—may help to avoid distractions. As you write consistently, you will discover what habits make writing easier, and more pleasant, for you.
Once you’ve discovered the setting that works for you, and determined which factors are within your control, you still have one more issue to consider before you can begin writing: yourself. You need to make sure that you are setting aside time and actually working in your writing space if you hope to make the most of your time and effort
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