That’s where the magic happens. My base station, where I sit for hours to bring you this red-hot stream of content. As you can see, it is untidy. But aren’t “creatives” honourbound to be a disorganised mess? So is this an optimum writing environment, or should I get my shit together and purge my desk with a match?
Sometimes in these blog posts, I leap onto my high horse, but this one will be more tentative, because finding a writing environment in which I can reliably do some damn work has always eluded me.
One possible conclusion: environment is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether I’m huddled in my pit or a nice clean branch of Pret, I will work if I’m in the mood. Because, yes, I enjoy sitting in a coffee shop impersonating a pretentious nob, but I don’t always get a huge amount done.
Still, there are a couple of environmental factors which matter.
Distractions (okay, the internet)
Sometimes, I am on form and can brilliantly forge ahead with work, whilst keeping up an IM conversation, tweeting intermittently and checking my email whenever it pings. But I will admit those days are rare.
More often, the productivity comes when I step away from the internet, either genuinely bored of it or thinking “Look, fuck this, I have to do something today”. So, yes, if I want to sort my environment out, getting rid of the internet is a big step.
And that’s one reason why going to a cafe with my terrible netbook sometimes works. It can’t connect to the internet, as this burns the battery in minutes.
I started going to NaNoWriMo writing groups in 2010. Long before that, myself and my friend Paul used to spur each other on through NaNo with competitive word count battles, complete with embarrassingly geeky trash talk on Messenger.
And I’m forced to admit, more even than turning off the internet, bouncing off other writers does help me get stuff done. Even in smaller groups (right now, I’m in a sandwich shop with five others), it kickstarts my childhood Catholic-rooted guilt brilliantly.
In the future, if the writing ever brings the money in, I might hire an assistant. Aside from the usual boring tasks like accounts and making the tea, their main tasks will be to turn off my internet whenever I need to work, and then stare at me judgmentally until I get on with it. Whether I’ll be happy is debatable, but maybe productive at least.
If anyone wants to do this for free, applications welcome in the comments section. Or, you know, share any tips you’ve picked up about making the writing environment work.