By Stewart Matzek
Now that we’ve covered which spaces have an adverse effect on your writing process, let’s talk about what you can do to improve your writing environment. Note that none of these tips are surefire fixes—instead, they’re meant as suggestions, guiding you towards creating an individualized writing space. Just like differences in writing process, every writer is different, and this naturally means that there’s no one best place to write. These tips are aimed at giving you the tools to create a space unique to you and to help minimize the types of pitfalls that I detailed in my last blog post.
Find a quiet place.
I know that I said above that these tips aren’t for every single writer, but this is one piece of advice that I would apply across the board. While it’s possible to write in environments that are loud or even just buzzing with various conversations, having a quiet place to write means that all of your attention can be focused towards your writing as opposed to what people are saying one table over.
Choose a space where you can take breaks.
When I lived with roommates, they would randomly encounter me late at night while I roamed the living room, stood on the front lawn outside, or paced up and down the stairs. I promised them I wasn’t insane—just writing. Taking breaks is great for your writing; stepping away can help refresh your mind and give you a new perspective on your paper. However, sometimes the place you write doesn’t allow this. It’s tougher to just get up and walk around if you’re in the crowded library during finals or in a populated coffee shop. Allowing yourself the ability to take a short mental hiatus from your writing is important for both your paper and your sanity.
Designate your space for writing and schoolwork alone.
I covered the temptation of social media in the previous blog entry, and this is an extension of that concept. Oftentimes people do schoolwork in places they normally don’t associate with schoolwork—the couch in front of the TV, the desk where they play video games, etc. Creating a space for only writing means that the place’s sole function is for work, which can help you sharpen your focus and keep it intact. Doing this also helps eliminate any distractions you may encounter by doing work elsewhere.
Try writing alongside friends or classmates.
While this advice sort of contradicts the first tip, there is some credence to writing in a space where other people are writing. In fact, in some cases, writing with other people can make you produce more writing. Be careful, though—while the concept of writing with your friends sounds great, if you aren’t all focused it’s easy to get off the rails. Asking your professor whether or not this would be possible is also a good idea.
Go to the library when it’s not busy.
This goes hand in hand with writing alongside friends or classmates, but if the school library (or other academic space) isn’t too busy, it can be a great place to get work done. Sometimes I write papers in the library because being in the academic space motivates me; it feels as though I can’t slack off because I feel a strange obligation to the library itself. Sometimes all it takes to get yourself in an academic mindset is to be in an academic space.
Prepare the space.
Last, try surrounding yourself with the tools of the trade—your books, research, articles, resources, and so on. Being in a space with any necessary materials at your disposal is important for staying on task and has the added benefit of expediting your work. If your phone is on the desk, or a video game console, or even a novel you’re really engrossed in, that is a potential distraction. Creating a space where your academic tools are within reach can help you hone in on your writing.