Jonathan's Blog


WRITING ENVIRONMENT

I am often asked for writing advice.

I have personally found that one of the most important elements of writing is the right environment and preparation. I am going to share some of these elements below. I know that personality plays a factor and perhaps some of this won’t apply to everyone in the same way.

A clean environment: For me, I am easily distracted by clutter. If my desk is messy, I must clean it before I can focus on writing. If  I am in a messy room I am overwhelmed. The quickest solution for me is to find a clean environment to work in, such as a coffee shop or restaurant.

No Internet: It is easy to get sucked into Facebook, Gmail, or other Internet distractions. Yes, there is a time for using the Internet for research, but one must exercise great self-control to simply use Bible.cc rather than watching Maru the cat videos on YouTube.

No phone: Texts and phone calls can suddenly disrupt a good flow of writing. Take your writing seriously and treat it with respect.

No music/TV: I thought for years that music helped me relax and thus helped me to write. I have learned over time that this is simply not true. Leave distractions behind if you are going to value your writing time. (Exception: completely instrumental classical or jazz which actually boosts IQ)

Have needed books on hand: It is minor yet annoying to being out at a café and ready to write, and suddenly realizing that you do not have the reference books that you wanted to quote from. I suggest getting a cloth grocery/tote bag and putting all your needed books within it while you are working on a project. This makes it much easier when you are venturing to write away from home.

Use a BookGem: If you are going to transcribe quotes from a book, I recommend purchasing this little gadget off of Amazon.com. I keep this device in my backpack all the time and it is wonderful to use when transcribing.

Be caffeinated and fed: Sleepy and hungry might have been Snow White’s friends, but they just turn you into Dopey.

Go for a walk: The number #1 brain rule in the book Brain Rules (by John Medina, a Molecular-Biologist), is that nothing gets your brain functioning better than exercise. Oxygenating the blood will feed your brain and get your writing going. I suggest about 30 minutes of walking outside with or without music (music preferred for me). Perhaps carry a notepad so as to jot down thoughts about your writing while walking. Do not text or call during this time, as you are aiming to relax and focus.

Be well dressed: This may sound odd, but every book about working from home will advise keeping a routine where you get up at a set time, shower, have breakfast, get dressed to work then start work. This ensures that you keep a work mindset, even though you are not commuting. I find wisdom in following at least a portion of this advice. I am going to be much more focused for writing if I am dressed for the day than if I am in a Snuggie on the couch.

Open only one document:  Another rule from Brain Rules is that no human brain is actually designed to multi-task. The brain can only focus on one thing at a time, ever. What seems like multi-tasking is simply switching all of the brains laser focus from one task to another and then back to the first in a moment of time. The best way to write is to keep the brain from switching focus at all. Close all windows and documents on your computer and simply work from one document to keep focus.

If you don’t follow these rules here is what it might look like. You sit down at your computer with the Internet open to email, Facebook, to do lists, amazon and calendars. Once you have wasted 30 minutes, you decide to relax by putting on some ITunes, while surveying your cluttered desk, you realize that you have bills to pay and unopened mail to go through. Once you finish the mail, you feel your belly rumble and go to make a sandwich. Upon returning you open a word document to begin writing. After several trips back and forth to the bookshelf you are ready to transcribe some quotes. Ten minutes and a lot of duct-tape later, you create a makeshift bookstand to hold the book while you transcribe. The sandwich and bookstand fiasco has made you a bit tired, so you go make a pot of coffee. After taking care of the multiple texts and calls that you have received during this time, you are finally ready to write, but you want to be comfy, so you settle down on the couch with your Snuggie and now you are ready to go! (It only took 2 hours, but you are about to be a writing machine…. not really though) Yes this is a bit of an exaggeration, but any writer can confirm that they have had days like the one I just described.

No I haven’t given you tips about how to create good writing, yet the environment and preparation will give you major strides in the right direction.