What Is Your Optimal Writing Environment?

Every writer is different. Each of us has different needs or expectations about what it takes to be in a good place to have a productive, successful writing session.  And for at least some of us, these needs change over time.

For me, when I was younger I could write anywhere, any time. It didn’t matter if there was noise or television or anything – as long as I had a pencil and paper, I was good to go.  As I’ve gotten older more experienced, I found that writing in complete silence was difficult for me.  My mind would wander and thoughts about upcoming tests or baseball games or marching band competitions would filter in and distract me from the story or essay I was writing.  I found that writing with music on in the background was immensely beneficial. This continues to be true today – music in the background helps put me “in the zone”.  Other types of distractions or noises, though, are more difficult for me to handle when I am writing now.

I have also learned that different types of music work better for different types of writing.  For the most part it is not specific (with one exception).  If I am writing a comedic piece, it can really be any music that doesn’t offend me. If I am writing a lot of dialog or poetry, it can be any instrumental music.  If I am writing a “scary” scene I have a definite preference for dramatic instrumental soundtrack music, like the soundtracks for “Star Wars” or “Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

The one very specific bit of music I’ve needed is an interesting one and honestly I cannot tell you how I figured out that I needed to play this particular album.  In high school and in college, I found myself struggling to write essays, term papers and lab reports.  The drudgery of slogging through these was extremely disheartening considering how easily I could write fiction pieces. Somehow I found that if I played “The Cars Greatest Hits” (by The Cars) while I was writing these, I could write them easily. Weird, right? I don’t even particularly like The Cars. But I happened to have this album on cassette and for some reason I popped it into the player one day and the words just flowed.  This worked repeatedly for me, through high school and college.  I don’t have to write essays anymore, but I do have to write performance reviews.  And you know what?  This album works for performance reviews, too.

So now I’m throwing over to you – what is your preferred writing environment? I focused on music here because location, clothing, beverages, etc. seem to have no impact on my ability to get into the writing zone, but music has a tremendous impact.  Do you have any specific requirements for environment when you are writing? Anything particularly “strange” or unexpected?  Share in the comments.

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10 thoughts on “What Is Your Optimal Writing Environment?

  1. I prefer instrumental music rather then music with lyrics. I can write anywhere but prefer places with less distractions. I have to have something to drink: coffee, sweet tea, Dr. Pepper, or water are my preferences, and it really depends on what time of day.
    I have my own writing room and prefer to write there, but right now I am writing on my novel on my laptop while on the road with my husband who is truck driver. The landscapes, freedom of the open road, have been inspirational and motivating (at least until we hit bumper to bumper traffic.)
    My preferred software is Scrivener.

    • I have heard a lot of good things about Scrivener but have never used it. I use Microsoft word for most things. For blog posts I use Microsoft Live Writer. For scripts I use Celtex.

  2. The Cars are always in order. 🙂 AC/DC does it for me if I need to crank something out–seems like it shakes my right brain loose.

    • I just find it odd that they *only* work for me when it is that specific album (in order) and when I am writing non-fiction. I’ve tried other Cars albums and nope, they don’t work.

  3. Can’t listen to music while I write. It’s distracting. I wish I could!

  4. I have to listen to music otherwise the silence makes my mind wander off. I love using music to set the scene that I am writing, it definitely helps me visualize it better. I just did a couple posts on both being inspired by music and where you prefer to write. Great minds think alike! 🙂 I mostly write in bed.

  5. I write best in one of our small local cafes or late at night in bed. One is fairly noisy, the other is quiet (go figure). Can’t write to music or with the TV on.

  6. Time.
    Time – just need time. All else is detail. Then I go and write.

  7. I write best with certain albums, but I find it hard to write without any music. I particularly like stuff by RED, and the album ‘Rise’ by Skillet.

  8. I listen to music, usually something related to what I am writing. I am fortunate, my son is a professiona truck driver who drives long haul. He invites me to ride with him. I use the opportunities to write and I have really produced some pretty good stuff based on what I was seeing, hearing, feeling. It’s pretty awesome to look up into the night sky and see the stars, or even the beauty of the trucks as they weave from lane to lane (at night) creating a kind of ballet. No matter the music, its pretty inspiring.

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