This writing sample was for an English writing and editing blog, and required more creativity and a less technical style of writing.
Establishing Your Setting:
Preparing Yourself to Write
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 in which you will write optimally. For many writers, it is not simply enough to sit down and write when you are struck with inspiration, it requires routine. This helps to utilize inspiration and navigate through 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.
Writers are used to creating a setting on paper: whether you’re writing fiction and building worlds like Middle-Earth—or you’re writing non-fiction and trying to capture all of the details of where the story took place—you will put some emphasis on the setting. You need the setting to help you tell the story that you’re trying to tell and this applies not only on the page, but off the page; you will want to create a place and atmosphere that will enable you to write your best work.
What is the best setting for a writer?
The first thing that you need to determine is the place. This is a two tier process; the first deals with determining where, in the smaller sense, the furniture should go. Do you write better at a desk or a couch? Determine whether or not it is more productive for you to be comfortable or not. This may seem obvious, but for some comfort will lack the proper motivation, and for others discomfort can prove to be 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. With furniture it isn’t necessarily a binary option, for office workers who presumably work eight hours or more in a day, there are also options that allow your body a less sedentary state, like standing desks and other ergonomic alternatives.
The second tier of determining a place is the larger sense, the actual location. Do you write better in a home office, a living room, kitchen, or at your local library or coffee shop? Consider what benefits each has to offer: a library has resources if your writing style requires those, a coffee shop may allow you the opportunity to observe human interaction and dialogue to represent it more realistically, whereas being at home can potentially afford you quiet and requires no commute.
With both the furniture and the locale, you may want to try out several different options, and figure out what challenges comes with each. Take into consideration the different distractions that each may offer, and the consistency of the atmosphere—can you control the temperature or noise level? If you find a location that is sometimes perfect in regards to noise and temperature, but is inconsistent, is that in fact a good location? Only you can decide.
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 settle your brain from the busyness of your day. On the other hand, commuting can cause financial stress, and make your writing reliant on weather, traffic, and other factors.
When is the Best Time to Write?
Once you’ve established the place, it is important to create a schedule. Some writers are able to focus better in the mornings, some better at night, and others still may not have any 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 can be procrastination. Figuring out when you can sit down and write, both from an availability perspective, and that of concentration, will help to optimize your effectiveness. Once you’ve established a time, try to make it a regular part of your daily or weekly schedule in order to hold yourself accountable.
How Do I Create an Atmosphere Conducive to Writing?
One of the more enjoyable elements of establishing your ideal setting is 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 screenwriters, for example, music often guides the pacing and tone of a work.
With music, perhaps listening while you write is not the right option for you, but if you are commuting to your writing spot, listening to the right type of 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.
What to Write With…
Another piece of your writing routine that can be important to consider, is what writing tool to employ. It’s 2017 and there are a wide variety of writing tools available. Depending on the budget you have, your options may include a cellphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, and—the original method—paper. Which is right for you? E. L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, spoke about how she wrote on her Blackberry. In an interview with Nerdist’s Writer’s Panel Podcast, Joe Hill (author of Horns, Nos4a2, and The Fireman) said that after years of sitting at a laptop typing first drafts, he began writing out his first drafts on a pad of paper, and found that it helped him to feel more in touch with his writing method, which was suggested to him by Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Stardust, and Sandman).
Finding a Ritual
One more note for consideration a writer should contemplate is utilizing rituals. When it comes to famous authors, there are a lot of rituals that seem indulgent or strange (e.g. checking into a hotel to write like Maya Angelou, or chain smoking like Aaron Sorkin), but there are rituals that can be simple and helpful to getting a writer into the required mindset. Writing is a mental exercise. Perhaps physical exercise will allow you to clear your mind of distraction, and release the endorphins that will help you to get the work done? Having a cup of coffee or a snack—either beforehand or at the ready—may help to avoid distraction.
Once you’ve discovered the setting that works for you, and determined which factors are within your control, you have one last issue to settle before you can begin writing: yourself. You need to make sure that you’re setting aside time and actually going into your writing space if you hope to make the most of your newly optimized writing space.