Finding your sweet spot
Where is the best place to write? In some people’s mind, they will find an idyllic location. Quiet. All your resources and materials at your fingertips. Maybe a good view. Or a great one; a mountain view or the ocean. No phones. No email. No meetings or interruptions. No needy kids or pets. This place likely exists, but only in the movies.
Back in the real world, mere mortals must wrestle with the reality of the day-to-day challenges. There are many variables, and the good thing is what works for you and your circumstance, may not work for others.
Some people need quiet; others can write in the midst of a chaotic coffee shop. To decide what realistically works best for you, start by making a brief list.
- Noise level: What decibel level works best for you?
- Space: Do you need an orderly space? Or are you all digital? Do you need physical resources at your fingertips?
- Food and drink: Left to my own devices, I would snack and eat all the time. Do you work better by avoiding temptations or have a reliable place to take a break?
- Internet access: Are you better offline to avoid notifications and interruptions? Or do you need reliable wifi?
- Distraction quotient: Do you work better when no one can knock on your door, or you have to let the dog out? Or do these breaks help keep your mind from wandering?
Related to these points is your schedule. It is a maxim of productive writing that setting a schedule is essential. Try to set a time throughout the week when you will get writing done. For example, “I will write Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM.” Be precise, but also realize that you will have to reschedule or cancel sometimes. Try to avoid this, but don’t beat yourself up if it happens.
With your schedule, set specific tasks that will be accomplished that day and avoid lazy days where you just check your email and the like.
Now take all your answers to your circumstance and overlay them with your options. Possibilities of course are your office (assuming you have one), your home (but which room?), a library, a coffeeshop or restaurant, a meeting room or common area, or outside. Some of these will be automatic non-starters for your life. Take the remaining ones and come up with the top candidate(s). Remember it may vary by day or month and may not be one static place, which is fine.
In reality, the decision is likely a compromise. Few of us have the luxury of a dedicated space and lots of free time. As some consolation, even if you had those things, it doesn’t mean you would be productive.
Designating a writing location is an important part of the productive writing life, as is a strict schedule. But at the end of the day, having something to say and (most importantly) being disciplined and holding yourself accountable is the critical ingredient.
But I do hope for you that idyllic writer’s nook overlooking the ocean. We all deserve it.
John Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He works with individuals on publishing and writing projects. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. He is the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” firstname.lastname@example.org.