On Atmosphere and the Writing Process
Working as a Content Marketing Specialist full-time and meticulously crafting fiction on the weekends, I often find myself in need of space. Space to breathe. To ponder. To reflect on the project at hand. Those who don’t write in a professional capacity – or even as a hobby – have a hard time making sense of why this is such an integral aspect of the creative writing process. I approach the subject very much like how my mother, a painter in acrylics and oils, has specific needs for a working environment: Your work will flourish best in an environment that’s spacious, inviting, inspiring and free of distractions. Here are four key elements of a writer’s workspace that have the greatest impact on their craft, based on my personal experience.
Let me preface this by noting that there is beneficial noise for any creative individual, including instrumental music as well as the sounds of nature such as birds and water. However, the worst kind of noise possible for any writing environment is that which is distracting, sharp and intrusive. Examples include people in the same room talking to you while you work or speaking loudly to one another to the point where it pulls you out of your focus. Construction noise, high-pitched sounds and traffic can interfere with the creative process very easily as well. It might sound as if writers and other creative individuals are simply oversensitive and should accept what goes on around them and “just get it done”, but that’s not how it works. You don’t just walk up to a painter in the middle of a meadow and scream at them to hurry the brushstrokes along, because the smaller, refined details that make that painting special are destroyed in the process. The very same principle applies to the practice of writing, whether it’s in a professional capacity or not. Even if people have a hard time accepting this, it’s important to create an environment that benefits you as a writer.
Myself, I’m a collector of all sorts of things, namely retro video games and consoles – a passion which will never die. The amount of space I have at home is miniscule on a good day and absolutely ridiculous otherwise, but a trick is to respect your environment to de-clutter and make it feel more spacious. You may think, “Why doesn’t he just get rid of his game collection?”, but how would that be fair? I completely understand where minimalists come from in getting rid of items that don’t give you joy, but some things, like that collection, just might mean something to someone (namely, me). So, if you have items in a limited amount of space that you don’t want or necessarily need to part with, what do you do? For me, organization is the key, and I don’t just mean chucking things in boxes and calling it a day. Respecting your working environment also means respecting every item within it. Take the time to consider everything you have in a room, whether or not you need it or have a reason to keep it and then start de-cluttering. Items that you want to keep or pieces that make you feel good can easily be integrated in a display or storage solution that is refined, elegant and simplified. Drawing back to my example, that game collection is carefully organized according to system, neatly stored away in a streamlined shelving system that doesn’t stick out or shrink the room, and it looks spectacular without taking anything away from the atmosphere of my available space. For me it makes it feel more open and like home because I didn’t have to chuck everything out to feel more comfortable.
Clutter when it comes to desk space, on the other hand, is a huge no-no in my opinion. If you want to constantly be distracted, feeling boxed-in and irritated at your own workstation, then go ahead and build the highest mountain of knick-knacks and randomness possible. This is the kind of desk setup that most writers dread even though we tend to create it without meaning to. An approach that I feel works best is to completely clear away everything from your desk. Hell, even ditch the desk itself if it’s some cumbersome, shelf-filled monstrosity, as that’s an open invitation for crap to collect and make itself at home all around you while you hammer at the keyboard or try to brainstorm over notes. Less is so very much more when it comes to your desk setup.
Light and Colour
You’d be surprised how much of an effect lighting can have on those who stare at screens and make words appear for a living, which isn’t a walk in the park when it comes to professions, rest assured, but is more than worth the hard work. Let me put it bluntly, as there’s no way around the issue otherwise: Ditch fluorescent lighting at all costs. Swap it out for softer, warmer lighting that feels more natural to your eyes. Combined with applying a blue light filter on your computer screen and phone, you’ll become more immersed in the craft of writing and feel less drained by the end of your work session.
That being said, natural light is the very best thing for you as a writer, no holds barred. It has the obvious positive effects on your health of course, but it also can help to make you feel more refreshed, focused and awake. While skylights above your work area – producing glare on your screen – aren’t the best idea, a large window that gets plenty of light and offers an inspiring view will make a tremendous difference in encouraging you to sit and write for hours on end.
This is where the colour pigmentation of your walls, floors, desk area and décor comes into play. Bright, cheerful colours can be a great source of inspiration so long as they aren’t garishly vivid and are contrasted with more open, blank space, and the same goes for subdued pastels and earthy tones. White walls will bring in the maximum amount of natural light possible, but don’t turn your work area into a space that’s too bright as that itself can be distracting. I feel that some minimalists go too far in this regard – a home is meant to feel lived in and comfortable, not to feel like a showroom display for the sake of looks first! In short, there’s a delicate and ever-so-slightly annoying balance to strike when it comes to establishing a layout and design of a room as a writer, but once you’ve nailed it, you’ll feel invigorated and ready to tackle that next blog or chapter draft.
A lot of people struggle to understand why writers are such “picky” and “needy” creatures. In actuality and putting bias aside, creativity is sensitive to the environment surrounding the individual in question. Not all writers have the luxury of working in such an environment at home or otherwise, but these are some tricks you can try to apply to your current living situation that may help. In the end, writing is hard work, but there are ways to make the process more enjoyable and less stressful. Approaching your home office space from a minimalist and simplified perspective is just the beginning.