Monday, July 8, 2013

Achieving my optimal writing environment

Lately I’ve been making major headway with the book.  Part of that was nailing down the plot details of the last third of the book—writing it on flashcards, which have been keeping me in line and less likely to go off on silly tangents.  But another part of it has been keeping good writing habits—which, surprisingly, aren’t all writing-related, yet they absolutely contribute to my ability to write well.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve figured out the things I need to be doing to have that optimal writing environment where both my writing and I can thrive.  These are the ten things that I’ve found can make or break my success:

·       Have a neat desk.  This is a must for me.  For me, desk clutter leads to brain clutter.  Clearer thoughts are often the result of having a clearer desk.

·       Have a neat house.  If I know the dishes are dirty, the toilet paper needs to be replenished in the bathroom, or there’s laundry all over the bedroom floor, I just can’t focus.  Basic neatness has to happen before I can comfortably sit down to write.

·       Eat satisfying foods.  Because of my many food allergies, I have to eat a very restricted diet.  Because of this, not everything I eat is satisfying.  I try to eat a mix of things that are both healthy and satisfying, because if I’m not satisfied, I’m cranky and hungry and craving bad foods, which leads to me being distracted while writing.

·       Regularly read a mix of writing-related books and books within my genre.  Both of these types of books are helpful as I continue writing the Emerson series.

·       Make reading in bed the last thing I do before sleeping.  Because it’s always a good idea for a writer to go to bed with words on the brain.

·        Get decent sleep.  In order to get up early on work days to write, I need to be in bed and reading between 10:30 and 11:00 PM, with the book put away and me actively trying to sleep by 11:30 PM.  If I don’t stick to this schedule, it makes mornings difficult and I oversleep, thereby taking away some of that precious writing time I’ve tried to carve out for myself.

·        Wake up early to have the quietest writing time.  I need quiet when I write.  (“Silence” would actually be a more accurate word.)  I greatly prefer to write while alone to minimize distractions.  While yes, I generally do a few small non-writing-related things upon waking (check last night’s fantasy baseball progress, pluck my eyebrows, whatever), I make the priority eating breakfast, guzzling caffeine, and writing as much as I can before getting into the shower.  This way, no matter what happens the rest of the day, I’ve already made some progress on the task that’s most important to me.

·        Leave work at work.  When I’m at work, I focus on work.  But when I’m not at work, I need to focus on all the other aspects of my life, including writing.  I’m happy to stay late some days to get the job done, but once I leave work, except in very rare circumstances, I don’t deal with it again until the next work day.  This helps me focus on the task at hand both at work and at home, and ensures that there’s not a lot of mixing of my two worlds (Professional Nikki and Crazy* Writer Nikki never show up in the same place at the same time).

·        Hold myself accountable for writing goals by posting them somewhere visible.  There’s a Muse posted hanging above my desk at home.  Tacked to the poster’s frame is a piece of neon pink paper.  On that paper, I used a thick black Sharpie to write: Write 5,000 words every week!  I can see and read that paper from across the room.  It’s a constant reminder to meet my goal. 

·        Track my progress.  Every week, I write up a sheet of paper that I fill in as the week goes on.  It lists the days of the week, with a space to fill in how many words I’ve written each day.  It includes places to jot my weekly word total to date as well as my grand total of words to date.  It helps me be proud of what I’ve done so far and focused on what I still need to do that week.

*I’m not actually crazy.  But you’ve gotta be a little twisted to write the kind of stuff I do, and it’s the sort of twisted that I tend to avoid bringing into the workplace.

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