Writing Environments

Lately Chebk and I have been taking it easy on the blogging front to work on some of our independent projects. Some of Chebk’s are still under-wraps — though suffice to say she is gearing up for Hawaii’s first sci-fi/fantasy convention, Comiccon Honolulu — alongside her usual writing endeavors. Meanwhile I am basically writing full-time…which is not to say successfully.

I have never been one for ritualized writing. While I am a creature of habit, I don’t need to write at a specific time, in absolute silence, with northern light, and a certain mug with the same brand of tea every day. Thinking about making all those stars align day after day would drive me to defeat.

Probably not an acceptable ritual.
Probably not an acceptable ritual.

And yet, after a slew of rough sessions (feeling stagnant, distracted, unproductive), I began looking for tips to not feeling quite so bad at the end of each writing day. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the knowledge that a lot of authors wrote while lying down in bed (George Orwell, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Winston Churchill, and Marcel Proust ) because I’m 100% sure all I would do is sleep, or that Victor Hugo ate two eggs raw and then stood in a front of a mirror for hours writing. I’m not sure whether the raw eggs or the mirror deters me more.

My girlfriend suggested I try experimenting with different writing environments to see if anything proved more or less helpful. Here’s what happened:

  • Home (Productivity: 7.5/10)
    My usual haunting grounds. I start after I eat breakfast, around 8 or 9 AM, write until lunch (30 min. break) and then continue until anywhere between 4 and 6 PM.
    Where: Dining room table.
    Requirements: Water. Music in background (usually 8tracks; great music site).

    Didn't have a picture of home. Have an MS paint version.
    Didn’t have a picture of home. Have an MS paint version.

    Pros: Maximum comfort (i.e. no anxiety). Easy access to bathroom and food. Free wi-fi.
    Cons: Occasional interruptions to help my father around the house. Easy distractions. Cabin fever because I write here so often.

    Thoughts: Maybe I need to start standing when I write at home. I get too comfortable.

  • Chebk’s house (Productivity: 7/10)

    Not gonna lie, I write here a lot. Time ranges from two to, like, twelve hours.
    Where: Main dining room table.
    Requirements: Water. Chebk’s presence.

    Chebk and co. Don't mind the convention stuff scattered everywhere.
    Chebk and co. Don’t mind the convention stuff scattered everywhere.

    Pros: Chebk keeps me on task. Someone to bounce ideas off of. Easy access to bathroom and sometimes food.
    Cons: Constantly intruding on Chebk’s space.

    Thoughts: I need to keep myself on task instead of using Chebk.

  • Housesitting (Productivity: 6/10)
    For two weeks, I’ve been staying at a relative’s to housesit while they’re on vacation. It’s been a nice change of environment. I keep the same hours (unless I’m at Chebk’s; see below).
    Where: Dining room table or living room coffee table.
    Requirements: Water or tea.

    Is it creepy to post this?
    Is it creepy to post this?

    Pros: Really, really quiet house. Easy access to bathroom, food, wi-fi. I can play my music without headphones, which makes it actual background music.
    Cons: Because I’m alone most of the time, it’s easier for me to slack off.

    Thoughts: Trying not to get to used to this environment since it’s only for a little while. But seriously, the quiet and the ability to not use headphones is a nice difference.

  • Coffee shops (Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Kissaten) (Productivity 9/10)

    Only recently started venturing out to do my writing. My anxiety/health issues and computer battery dying often cut these trips short. Usually get in around 1-4 hours.
    Where: Any available table.
    Requirements: Drink/food from establishment so I don’t get kicked out.

    GF and I at Starbucks.
    GF and I at Starbucks.

    Pros: Being among crowds makes me hyper-focused on the task at hand: Is it the need to look productive? Is it the fact that people can see me and what I’m writing? Writing on a time limit against my battery dying because of lack of outlets. (The same way Bradbury wrote Farenheit 451 on a library typewriter, paying in dimes for every half hour.)

    Cons: Technically easy access to food but I also have to pay. Can’t use the bathroom unless I’m with someone or I take my laptop with me and risk losing my table/seat. No outlets usually. So much anxiety~

    Thoughts: Adult diapers?

  • Outside (Productivity: 2/10)

    Thought it’d be a nice contrast to the rest of the environments, which are all inside. I was wrong.
    Where: Backyard, under tree.
    Requirements: Mat to sit on.

    It was so nice outside. In theory.
    It was so nice outside. In theory.

    Pros: Vitamin D!
    Cons: Bugs. Bugs everywhere. No outlet. Problems seeing my screen because of glare. Have to go back inside for food or bathroom. The world is very hot.

    Thoughts: Don’t do this again. Please.


I may have linked this before, but a while back I read a great article called “Kill Your Rituals” by Harry Connolly. As he says, the real ritual that matters is actually doing the work:

“I was treating my ability to work—what a less self-conscious writer might call a “muse”— as a hothouse flower. I was pretending that it was so delicate that it needed a special kind of pen, and a special kind of music, and a special chair/desk combination, when all it really needed was me and my willingness to focus and write. […]I was taking control of my own creative process rather than outsource that control to talismans around me.”

Thus, the environments don’t matter so much as how comfortable I am slacking off in different environments. The point is, it’s time to knuckle back down and just write. Let’s do this!

What kind of writing rituals do you follow? Any writing environment recommendations? Let us know in the comments!

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