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WRITING ENVIRONMENT

November 23, 2016

I’ve seen this in multiple threads, “What music do you listen to when you write?”

On the one hand, I take this as a legitimate question. On the other, I take it as an excuse for some authors to plug their favorite bands. Regardless of whether you want to plug your favorite bands, it boils down to environment.

Do you write with music in the background?

Do you need music to write?

Do you find it distractive?

Do you care?

What about other factors?

THE CLASSIC IMAGE

The classic image stereotype is all from my own imagination…my own stereotype. For a guy, he’s got his pipe and slippers on, in his den with a massive bookcase behind him. He’s sitting at a typewriter, sheet of paper in the machine. Maybe a tired old Basset Hound is lying at his feet.

For her, she’s sitting in the parlor, doilies on the table next to her, cup of tea atop it. She has a notebook, pen in hand, where she’s writing furiously, a cat on her shoulder or at her feet.

Okay, so they’re pretty bad TV cliché’s, and far from reality.

The reality is that as individuals, we all have our own way of writing. It’s a very legitimate question for new writers to wonder how the rest of us do it. I fully understand why the question about music comes up. Probably they, as new writers either listen to music while they write, or can’t concentrate when they try, then wonder what others do.

WHERE?

The first question is where do you write? Do you write at home? Or, is it too distracting? For any number of reasons, can you not get anything done at home?

The wyberry? Do you prefer the quiet solitude of the wyberry (my word for library, a little kid thing) over anyplace else? Does that environment give you the concentration you need?

The classic coffee house? Maybe you prefer the new-agey uptown feeling of a Starbucks or Coffee Bean or your local mom & pop coffee house, where you can bang out chapters on a laptop or even in a notebook with a pen or pencil.

Work. Oh yeah, some places provide ample opportunity for free time on a computer to write. If you already work on a computer all day, do you have extra time to add a few chapters to your latest masterpiece?

The park. Given good weather, do you take whatever writing implements you use and find a park bench?

WHEN

The when can be the real muse-killer. If you don’t find a when to do the writing, there’ll be no writing! Do you schedule times, or is that something too rigid? Does scheduling time suck the muse right out of you?

Do you just pick up and start writing whenever the muse strikes? Is that something you’re able to do? Is that something practical?

Circumstances. Do you choose the circumstances when they arise? In other words, though many opportunities arise, do you pick and choose based on your muse? There could be a hundred opportunities, but only ten when you actually feel like writing.

Automatic. This is not the same as scheduling. This is more a compulsion. Do you just write every day, not so much rigidly, but at every opportunity because you’re compelled to, feel like it, or just have to get it down? This is the most productive way. This is not forced. It’s because you want to, not because you have to.

WHY?

Why are you doing this? Do you have a deadline? That right there can be a muse killer, if you let it. It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re a contract writer, you’ll have deadlines because your bosses are expecting product. If you love what you’re doing, you shouldn’t have any issues with that. The muse should flow. If not, you need to re-evaluate why you’re doing it!

If you’re a fiction writer and you have a deadline, it’s more likely for editing something you’ve already written, or it’s for a sequel you’ve been slow-leaking. If that’s the case, you must’ve run out of gas way too early. If you have a series that’s doing well, the publisher’s expecting sequels. If you haven’t mapped out ahead of time, or at least come up with some kind of vague master plan, well…

If you’re giving yourself a self-imposed deadline, which is completely arbitrary, just stop. Getting yourself worked up for nothing is going to kill your muse. You need to let it flow naturally, let the ideas form in a way that isn’t rushed. Part of that is being comfortable in what you’re doing.

Remember, you should be doing this because you love to write. You want to create a story, something everyone else will enjoy. If it’s just to make money, find some other pursuit.

HOW

Okay, do you want to sit in the den, pipe and slippers, or in the parlor with doilies and tea? Do you want to take your laptop to Starbucks?

Do you want to write with music in the background?

Do you need complete silence?

As writers, our working environments are as individual and varied as are the stories we write. There are no right and wrong ways to do it. We could write in a den, a coffeehouse or on a street corner. We can listen to classical music, death metal or silence. We can write with a feather and inkwell, computer or voice-to-text software. The varieties are endless.

Folks, those are all just the methods.

The key is the muse. You have to have and follow the muse.

Now, about that list of bands I like…

Happy writing.

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