How comfortable and welcoming is your writing space?
When we have trouble getting to our writing, we often think that internal factors are the cause. We might look into a variety of reasons for our resistance and try multiple strategies to overcome them.
Those strategies are useful if the issue is inside our heads but what about if our resistance stems from our environment?
Thanks to some time spent with people with sensory issues, I have started to notice how my environment affects my ability to write. I have made a few adjustments in my workspace and it has helped enormously. The same may be true for you.
So, if you aren’t experiencing internal resistance but you still can’t start writing, maybe you could ask yourself these questions about your writing space and make some changes.
1) What’s the temperature in your workspace?
If the area around my desk is too warm, it makes me sleepy and I won’t be able to concentrate. If it is too cold, I have trouble diving into my work (or I may just avoid my desk altogether.)
So, when I find myself sleep or distracted, I take a moment to check in with myself about the temperature.
Do I need to open the window or get a fan?
Do I need a sweater or a blanket?
We may not be able to get a perfect temperature all the time but we can probably make things a little better for ourselves.
2) How is the lighting in your workspace?
If your workspace is dim or the lighting is harsh, you are probably not going to want to spend much time there.
The next time you plan to write, take a moment and check out the lighting.
How do you feel about it? What would you like to change?
What can you do with overhead lights, new bulbs, lamps, flashlights, or a strategically-hung mirror to help improve the lighting in your space?
3) What’s the noise level in your workspace?
Most of the time, the clock in my kitchen ticks away unnoticed. However, if I am on deadline and struggling with my words, the sound of the clock is incredibly irritating.
A friend of mine finds the sound of the refrigerator to be stressful. My son can’t stand the sound of the kettle boiling.
Once you pay attention to the noises around you, you may realize that certain sounds have kept you away from your work.
If that’s the case, perhaps you can get some earplugs, play some music, or choose to work somewhere else sometimes.
4) How is your workspace arranged?
As much as we might all prefer a perfect work set-up, a lot of writers end up squeezed into a corner somewhere. Or maybe we work at the kitchen table or on the couch.
If you end up sitting in an uncomfortable position, or if your mouse is too far away, or you have to hold your head at a strange angle to see your screen, that’s going to affect your willingness to start writing. Or, your writing may become intermittent so you can take time to recover from your work session.
Observe yourself during a normal writing session and see what’s going on with your body while you write.
How can you arrange things so you can work with more physical ease?
(For your amusement: I have my monitor propped up on two packages of Play-Doh. They were the nearest things that were the right height and my neck appreciates their service.)
5) How much trouble is it to set up your workspace?
Perhaps you don’t have a dedicated workspace. Maybe you have to set everything up every time.
If that is a fact of your writing life, it may be worth considering how to streamline the process.
If you have to gather files from one place, a computer from another, and a chair from a third spot, that is a lot of effort to get a few words down. You might be reluctant to bother with all of those steps if you only have short time to write, or just a few things to say.
Could you gather all of your work materials in a basket or box? Could you keep the chair nearby?
Or, could you set up your workspace before you need it? For example, if you know you will have writing time right after work, perhaps you could set everything up before you leave for the day? Or, if you will have time after the kids get to bed, perhaps you can set it up before you read them a story so you can just dive into your work as soon as you are free?
While many of these issues may be quite minor, any one of them can be enough to keep you from your work. If you are already stressed in some way, these issues may be compounding the problem without you even realizing it.
It may take a little digging for you to figure out if something is irritating you about your work environment. You may not figure it all out at once but your physical comfort is an important factor in your writing, and it is worthwhile to make things easier on yourself.
Most of us will not be able to create a perfect work environment but that doesn’t mean that we can make it a little more comfortable for ourselves.
Being able to get ourselves to the page is the first step in sharing our work with the world. And the world needs to hear what you have to say.