Finding your ideal writing environment

Finding your ideal writing environment is hard.

We’ve all seen those made-for-TV movies: the ones depicting authors who suffer from writers-block only until renting a vineyard cottage in the secluded European countryside.  Talk about fiction.

By happenstance, this past fall I spent a few days at The Grove Park Inn, and upon check-in learned that noted author F. Scott Fitzgerald resided at the hotel during the summers of 1935 and 1936 to pursue his health and writing.  According to hotel accounts, even he succumbed to distractions, having produced no notable writing during his two visits at the idyllic setting.

The Grove Park Inn

View from The Grove Park Inn

If you’re like me, family life and financials prevent you from renting villas or rustic woodland cabins for extended writing sessions.  You’re going to have to write locally and deal with distractions like car horns, barking dogs, and family voices.

In recent months I’ve learned my most fruitful writing occurs between 5am and 8am.  A morning person, I find my mind to be clear of distractions and ready to daydream.  I sit at my dining room table in the dark except for the glow of the laptop’s monitor.  How’s that for romanticizing the modern creative author?

I find the neighborhood dogs are quiet at this time of morning.  The television is off.  And if I look away from the laptop screen, I am surrounded by infinite black space.  It’s practically like Katherine Solomon’s daily commute to her laboratory in Dan Brown’s novel, The Lost Symbol.

I’ve found my ideal writing environment, but not without my share of trial and error. I’ve used the same location in early evening, only to find myself half-listening to the television.  I tried the local coffee shop once in a pinch, but was distracted by the bright music and playful baristas.  I even tried writing in a park using a pen and pad, but was instead coerced to participate in tossing a Frisbee.

If you haven’t yet found your ideal writing environment, take a few words of advice from American composer and songwriter Cole Porter:

Experiment.  Make it your motto, day and night.  Experiment.  And it will lead you to the light.

Matt is a fiction writing enthusiast living in New Jersey, USA. He explores the art of writing novels, novellas and plays within the popular genres of action-adventure, detective, inspirational, and mystery. Snippets of his work and humor can be found on his blog, The Writings of Matt Robb.

6 Responses to “Finding your ideal writing environment”

  1. Rob Diaz says:

    I used to do the most writing in the morning. My ideal spot was actually at my desk in my office. I’d get there two hours early most mornings, setup the coffee and then sit down to write before the phones started ringing and the email inbox started filling up. I was very productive in the mornings that way.

    When I lost my job and therefore lost my writing place, the writing mostly stopped. I’m still searching for that ideal writing place now and it has been over two years. I hope I get this figured out soon, but until then I will experiment. And drink lots of coffee.

  2. My perfect spot seems to be on my love seat, with a pair of head phones, and my feet up. Laptops make getting comfy a little bit easier. I’ve tried writing at my family’s cabin, but since my mother is generally there too…

  3. Matt Robb says:

    The Grove Park Inn, while an idealized writing locale, can be just as distracting as anyplace else. Just goes to show it’s up to the writer to get past any distractions.

    @Rob: I hear Panera can be a good place to write at times, too!

    @Storm: Glad you’ve found a place that works for you. If I had headphones on and my feet up, I’d be too comfortable — I’d probably just surf the web instead.

  4. Paul says:

    Like you, I need a quiet place for the actual writing, i.e. putting words onto paper (or computer) etc. But some associated tasks require a different setting. For example, when I am working on different characters for a piece of writing I love going into cafés to observe, or perhaps whilst travelling on a train or bus.

  5. Tony Noland says:

    I set up a standing desk a month or so ago. It’s an old laptop on some plastic cases, raised to standing height. It’s been terrific, not just because the standing part makes for a more active working feeling, but the laptop is JUST for writing. I leave the Internet, twitter, e.mail, and all other work behind on my desktop computer.

    Since these are in the same room, I can’t really call it a different environment. Is there such a term as a “writing microclimate”?

  6. Matt Robb says:

    @Tony: Wow, I’m impressed. It’s truly difficult to write and leave the Internet connection — disconnected.

    Seeing it’s nearly two months later I write this post, is the standing desk still working for you today?