by Michael Bedford
Published at 2022-08-10
There are no secrets tips that make writing easy but there are things one can do to get things off to a good start. So, here are a few pointers on setting up a comfortable writing environment to help get your project started. Whether in an office or working from home, these three tips should serve any writer who’s looking for a kickstart.
Writers of the past were limited in a variety of ways by the editorial tools of the day. Typewriters demanded a desk or a table, and the classic pen-and-paper method inevitably cramped up the hand. Contemporary writers working on laptops technically don’t even need a table anymore, just a spot on the floor and their laps. That said, a table and chair or, better yet, a desk are still recommended.
Writers working in offices will probably have a desk on hand but working from home doesn’t provide such guarantees. When I started writing at home, I used to do it from the comfort of my favourite spot on the couch, but the quick onset of neck, shoulder, wrist, and hip pain broke me of the habit quickly.
Since I’m currently between desks—figuratively—I now do most of my writing at the dining-room table, but the height and location of the surface aren’t the only concerns here.
Nothing kills a great idea like a distraction, and, although some distractions are unavoidable, there are others we can safeguard against. For instance, I only work in my dining room when no one is using the TV in the adjacent family room. The siren song of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and unanswered text messages is hard enough to ignore without also having to compete with a TV program. Although I have made exceptions for playoff sports on occasion, I find I’m much more efficient when the TV is off.
Whether you’re at home or in the office, adding a little bit of individuality to your workplace will go a long way when you’re chipping away at that writer’s block, so keep a couple of family photos or a favourite coffee mug on hand to help get yourself motivated.
Keeping pictures of friends and family in your workplace is a good start, but motivation, especially when doing something intellectually taxing like writing, doesn’t always come easy. It’s important to think about the reasons that you want to tell your story, whether it’s a piece of historical fiction or a singing cookbook, otherwise the tide of distractions I mentioned earlier is likely to wash your writing plans away.
Personally, I’m motivated to write because of the uniqueness of the stories I want to tell. Whatever your motivation or motivations, though, try to think of them when you get down to work and when you stop for the day. If you had a productive day, this check-in helps keep you motivated for the next: if you had an unproductive day, it allows you to think about how to improve tomorrow.
It may seem strange after all my talk of motivation to stump for procrastination, but after a while everyone needs a break. A little break can lead to a big break, though, so diligence is key. Give yourself whatever time you need, but make sure that you don’t go over the limit you set. I set alarms on my phone to try to keep myself on schedule.
Periodic mental breaks serve to keep you motivated over the long term and can, depending on your writing project, serve as supplementary research time: try out one of your singing recipes or watch a show about the period you’ve set your historical fiction in. Only do these activities, though, if they serve to relax you. Otherwise, it’ll just feel like more work. The whole point is to give yourself a break since coming back to something with fresh eyes is sometimes all it takes to figure out that seemingly all-important next line.
Writing anything well is difficult work, taking time and patience. When pictured in television and film, the writing process is sometimes romanticized as a system of “aha” moments. I would hazard to say, though, that more often than not writing is instead a slow system of trial and error, each textual iteration working with its previous cohorts to eventually distil the final product. So, take heart if you’re having trouble: you’re just working through your first rough drafts and laying the groundwork for your final manuscript.
Michael Bedford is a freelance editor, copywriter, and performer living in Stoney Creek, Ontario. He can be reached at https://mgb-editor.com/.
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