The Importance of Your Surroundings When Writing

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

When I hear the words “writer’s block”, most often I imagine a rather typical picture of a tousled guy or gal sitting at a computer late at night, drinking gallons of coffee, and periodically throwing things. And it actually does not matter whether you are working on a novel, or on an academic essay–writer’s block can affect any writer, bringing them to the above described condition. cafe writing

One of the important questions you need to ask yourself is, “How do I usually write?” I believe surroundings play an important role in the process of writing. Of course, there lived literary geniuses who could write in all kinds of distracting places (like Guy de Maupassant), but I am a kind of person who needs specific conditions to work productively. So, if I put myself in conditions described in the first paragraph, most likely I would get stuck in the middle of writing, and would have to break some vases to push my writing forward.

I keep the place where I write clean–this is the first condition which is crucial for me. No litter, cell phones, printers, photos of my beloved, teddy bears, cacti, or other garbage. Just a desk with a laptop and a lamp on it. Before starting to write, I turn off the Internet to avoid notifications about new messages, Google Calendar reminders, Windows updates, and so on. It also keeps me away from procrastinating on the Web :) When I write, I listen to music with no lyrics–post-rock, ambient, or downtempo. I also warn people about how I am going to be busy for the next 4-5 hours, so they leave me alone with my thoughts. Along with some other measures, this surrounding helps me create a specific environment for myself; in it, I feel comfortable and focused, and it boosts my productivity significantly.

What I suggest you to do is to keep an eye on your way of writing. The measures I described are suitable for myself, but you may feel most creative when you are in the middle of a gypsy wedding, for example. The trick is to create an environment which works perfectly for you. In my personal experience, a comfortable atmosphere both boosts inspiration and helps overcome writer’s block. It’s almost the same principle as when you get all those genius ideas in the shower (by the way, why not try writing while taking a shower, haha).

Along with the environment, there are some other minor factors which can give you a boost. For instance:

- Your writing tools. For me, it’s my laptop that has nothing except MS Office and music on it. For you, it might be some fancy ink pen, a typewriter, an old IBM, or anything else you enjoy working with.

- A notebook. Recently, I try to carry one with me anytime I go somewhere. I found an old handmade notebook at my grandpa’s garage: just a stack of A6 sheets in a simple cover made of worn leather. Man, I love it! Anytime I have an idea which seems useful, I write it down in this notebook; if I forget it at home, I use my smartphone to make a record, and transfer it to the notebook as soon as I return home.

When I feel like I am out of ideas, I just thumb through it, and it brings me into the writing mood. Of course, you can use anything you want: wallpapers, matchboxes, or handkerchiefs; the main trick is to keep a record of all your interesting thoughts. Trust me, you will forget them quickly if you don’t write them down.

- A break. Sometimes you just have to give up writing, creative work, studying, or whatever else, and take a break. Set a time limit for yourself, and do not do anything connected to writing during this period of time. Leave behind writer’s block, deadlines, and grades.

I believe there is no specific algorithm for dealing with writing problems. Instead, there is a complexity of factors and circumstances which influence a writer one way or another; dealing with these factors and sorting them out can help a lot.


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