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.