We all have our ideal writing environments. Maybe it’s a space in the house or in a busy cafe. But what happens when we can’t get to an ideal environment and we need (or want) to write? Often times, one of two things happens. Either we can use our poor environment as an excuse not to write, or we can adapt.
I learned to adapt accidentally and out of necessity fairly early in my writing life. I’d always been able to write in a quiet room, but when I decided I wanted to have an independent study in high school to write my first book, I found myself writing in the back of a busy classroom, which was obviously the opposite of what I was used to. What I learned in that experience helped me to figure out not only how I work best, but also how to adapt to any environment.
Here are five steps to help you write in any environment:
1) Figure out your “ideal” writing environment
Don’t be afraid to try a few different types. Just because one environment is working fine doesn’t mean another won’t work better. Try writing in a cafe, a library, a quiet room at home, an office, and outside in nature. Try writing when you have plenty of time, and try writing when you only have five or ten minutes. Figure out what environment and circumstances make you the most productive. I learned that one place I work best is in a busier environment with a limited time frame, but I only found that out after I got my independent study and had no choice but to work in those conditions. I was working fine in a quiet room, so if it weren’t for that independent study, I never would have tried anything different.
2) Identify the specifics of your environment that help you be productive (and what distracts you)
Now that you have your ideal environment, break down the specifics of exactly what makes you productive. For example, I’ve found that a busier cafe environment is good for me in almost any situation. The ambient noises help keep me focused. However, if I’m in a quieter environment and I can pick up on one or two conversations, then I’m easily distracted. I also know I’m better with a limited time frame; if I give myself all day, I’ll take all day and probably won’t meet my goals. But if I only have a couple hours, I’ll be more focused and probably meet my goals even more quickly than the time I’ve given myself. Your ideal environment will most likely be different. Be as practical and analytical as possible in breaking down what works for you.
3) Figure out ways to mimic the specifics in less-than-ideal environments
Once you have a concrete understanding of what works for you and what distracts you, come up with ways to mimic your ideal situations and minimize distractions in your less-than-ideal environments. For example, since I know I can work well with ambient noise or silence, I need to be prepared to write in quiet-but-not-silent environments. I write on my computer, so I downloaded an ambient noise track and keep headphones in my bag at all times. This way, if I find myself in a quieter set up, I can plug in my headphones and simulate a busy environment so I can still write. If you’re someone who needs quiet to work, consider carrying earplugs around. 🙂
Is this the same as writing in your ideal environment? Rarely. But it makes it so you can write, even if you’re not quite as locked in as you usually are.
I can’t remember where I downloaded my ambient noise track from, but if you’re able to connect to the internet, here’s a fun site with TONS of ambient tracks to chose from.
4) Test and fine-tune
You’re probably going to have to go through some trial and error to figure out how to best mimic your ideal environment. Do some research. The more specific you can be with what you’re trying to mimic, the more options you’ll have to help yourself.
5) Consider your mood and story status as you troubleshoot.
If it seems like nothing is working, consider your mood and your story’s status. If your head’s not in the game or if you’ve been struggling with your story in your ideal environment, it might not be the technique you’re testing that’s the problem. So, don’t write something off completely unless you know for sure it’s the technique that’s the problem.
I hope this helps you write in any environment!
Now it’s your turn: What’s your ideal writing environment? What tips do you have to be productive in a less-than-ideal writing environment? Tell me about it in the comments!
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