Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We hope you’re all enjoying the yummy food—but while you’re chowing down, don’t forget about your NaNoWriMo novels! It’s the 28th, but there are still two full days and the rest of today to reach that 50k! And with all the family surely buzzing around your houses, it can be hard to find some peace and quiet to sit down and write. So without further ado, I’d like to talk about designated writing spaces and why they can be extremely productive.
With all the talk about sprinting since launching Sprint Shack, I’ve noticed a common trend: it can be hard while writing, especially in a high-pressure situation like sprinting and NaNoWriMo, to get “in the zone.” As Megan Whitmer put it in her guest post, the moment we sit down to write is the very moment all the items on our to-do lists suddenly present themselves with stunning appeal, despite the fact that we didn’t want to bother with them before. Suddenly, vacuuming the house and reorganizing the pantry sound like fun, and after all, the dog hasn’t been walked in a whole twenty minutes, the poor beast!
There never seems to have been a better time to take care of everything other than writing—and, at the tail-end of NaNoWriMo where every second counts, this can be a huge problem. We could talk about why that is, from fear of the finished product to procrastination to simple laziness, but instead, let’s get down to business: getting out of our bad habits and into “the zone,” so you can achieve your daily goal and mine your way along to that shiny 50k!
There are a couple of ways you can do this, but what seems to work for me—and, according to the many writing guides, memoirs, and advice articles I’ve read over the years, for many others as well—is designating a “writing spot.” Bonus points if you can find a spot outside your house! When we’re at home, in our bedrooms or living rooms, there are countless distractions: the television, our chores, and especially on Thanksgiving, our family in the other room who we should spend more time with than we do. Even home offices can be distracting with their shelves of books and tempting internet connectivity. But when you get yourself out of that disruptive environment and into an isolated one, with just you and your notebook or laptop, you free your mind up and open its doors to new ideas.
However, having a writing spot goes much further than simply avoiding distractions. Have you ever felt that, whether camping or sleeping over someone else’s house, you never sleep as well out of your own bed as you do in it? Of course everyone’s experiences differ, but in my case and in those of many others I know, there’s nothing like sleeping in your own room. That’s because you’re used to it: when you retire for the night, your brain recognizes your bed as the place where sleep takes place. The routine of shutting off the light, slipping under the covers, and settling in are all triggers that your body recognizes as the preliminary acts to dozing off. So, too, will your brain recognize your creative place and routine once you set them and make them habit. So if you spend most of the time you’re in your room sleeping or watching TV, your brain is going to be disengaged when you’re in it. Likewise, if you go to the corner coffee shop or your local library when you’re ready to write, the creative juices should start pumping.
To use my experience as an example: I’ve noticed over the past few months that, when I get to work in the morning, I’m often most alert and creative and excited to write. Unfortunately, I’m at work, so I can’t work on personal projects. But after lamenting about that a few times over Twitter, I started to realize what was happening: as a Copy Editor, there is quite a bit of writing involved in my position, and my mind was being conditioned to recognize my desk as a place of productivity. The routine of pumping out blog posts and newsletter content at my desk, at the same time every day, created a recognizable pattern that’s been telling my brain it’s time to write.
Of course, it’s not realistic to think that you can sprint (ha!) to the nearest coffee shop for every word sprint you partake in, especially since many are likely announced minutes before they commence. That’s where you’ll have to develop separate routines for planned sprints vs. spontaneous sprints—something Taylor Eaton has you covered on, here!
Do you find you work best in certain settings? Are you the rare bird who’s actually more productive at home? Let us know in the comments below!