Atmospheric Control

Absolute Blank

By Lisa Olson (Boots)

As I settle in to write this, I am sitting at a cluttered desk surrounded by a wave of papers, magazines, books, and CDs. My TV is on as background noise, set to a channel I think I can ignore. From the other room, I can hear my children singing along with the game Rock Band, as loud and as off-key as possible. All of these factors are colliding together and contributing to my performance as a writer.

It occurred to me when I started writing this article that all these things were creating a writing atmosphere. Some of what is going on is helping me, while some of it is keeping me from my goal. Successful writers can be found writing in surroundings that support their performance. It’s important to create a writing atmosphere that works for you.

Background Image: K.G. Hawes/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

Let’s tackle what’s going on in my writing area as an example of what works and what doesn’t work, at least for me. You can do this yourself to find your own strengths and weaknesses. We’ll start with my messy desk.

Even in the chaos that the desk is in right now, I can tell you right where everything is on the desk. My dictionary and thesaurus are close by, as are my other inspirational books and CDs. The desk works for me because I know right where my tools are, even under all the papers and clutter. Look around your own desk a moment. Are you frustrated by the clutter? Are you uninspired by the cleanliness? Try mixing it up until you feel comfortable and you aren’t distracted by either.

I next mentioned that the TV was on as background noise. I thought I could ignore it while I did something else, but it wasn’t working. Instead, I turned on the radio in order to finish the article. Some writers can’t have any kind of sound while they work, while others use it to set a mood they’re trying to create. A colleague mentioned that she creates specific soundtracks for her stories and novels. She said it helps put her in the right place at the right time. Whichever works for you, silence or sound, don’t wait until you have been distracted several times. Start out with what you know will drive your efforts.

For me, the children were the easy part. The door to the office closes and they’re all old enough to take care of themselves. They know that a closed door means “leave mom alone.” While they’re grown now, I am still familiar with the challenges presented by very small children, since I have a granddaughter with a demanding nature. My advice for parents is to work hard and fast when kids are asleep or otherwise occupied. I worked this way when my children were young and I did manage quite a few short stories. You could also hand them off to a grandparent or to your significant other for a set period of time until the work is done. You don’t need to compromise your children or your writing, but you will need to look for, and create, writing opportunities.

There are other distractions, but my surroundings are in my control, just as yours are. If a writing session isn’t working out, try changing your atmosphere before giving up and closing what you’re working on. Even a subtle change can make a vast difference. Hey, I finished the article, didn’t I?

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