GETTING SITUATED: CREATING YOUR IDEAL WORK PATTERN
Hemingway made sure he wrote no less than 500 words a day, every day. Faulkner always drank whiskey when he wrote, while Balzac is known to have sometimes consumed more than ten cups of espresso per day while he was working. Thomas Wolfe allegedly preferred to write while standing up. Getting sloshed while working will not make you the next Faulkner. Still, you may find that you’ll produce better, more effective work under certain circumstances. Here are a few suggestions for creating the best writing conditions for you:
Tune In or Tune Out
Some people need absolute silence in order to work. Go into a quiet room, shut the door, and even turn on a fan or a white noise machine to reduce ambient noise.
Some people prefer to have a little company while they work, perhaps with some inspiring music, or just the soothing murmur of a turned-low TV.
Whether noise is bothersome or helpful, you can easily manipulate your environment to suit your needs. If you are working in public, headphones can offer gentle background noise or mask the hustle of your surroundings.
Easy on the Eyes
Your mother’s admonition that you’ll “strain your eyes” if you try to read or write in dim light is really just an old wives’ tale. In fact, you’ll no more strain your eyes trying to work in dim light than you would strain your ears if you try to listen really hard. However, dim light will make you have to work a little harder to see. So, make sure you have enough light for you to comfortably see what you’re doing. Many modern laptops come with backlit keyboard options. Just check your manual to see if yours has one, and how to turn it on. It comes in handy if you want to work on an overnight airplane flight, or while your spouse is trying to sleep next to you.
Speaking of sleeping, I prefer to write while in bed, propped up against lots of pillows, with my computer on my lap. If my body is comfortable, my mind is able to concentrate on the work at hand. But perhaps other writers might find themselves too comfortable in my preferred position and may wind up drifting off to sleep. So, perhaps try sitting up at a desk or a table, back straight, feet flat on the floor, hands poised above the keyboard at the ready. It may take some trial and error, but you’ll find your most comfortable writing position, probably somewhere in between my cozy-in-bed style and Wolfe’s standing up.
All the great novelists will admit to at least one little habit that binds them to their work, which makes it their own. Joan Didion says that: “when I’m near the end of the book, [I] sleep in the same room with it. . . . Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it.” But before you get to those really personal idiosyncrasies, you have to start the basic creature comforts of writing. And once you satisfy your sensory needs, your thoughts will turn inward and you’ll find yourself doing what you set out to do: write.