Writing Environment

The work environment of a writer is diverse and unique to the individual. While you may not realize it, there are a lot of factors that go in to a work environment. In this article I am going to touch on a few such factors and experiences of a writer and discuss my personal views/choices for each.


Every writer/author is different when it comes to the whole music question. I know Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicle, is an adamant backer for the idea of complete silence as he writes. Any noise of any kind is entirely detrimental to the writing and it’ll only serve as a distraction at best or influence the tone of your writing at the worst. How can you write a tender love scene if you have rock and roll, heavy metal music playing in the background?

Then there’s the other half, those, like me, who like to have the inspiring flows of sound and music weave through the air as they write and create. This music can be stimulating, providing the perfect pitch of loose cognitive ability, inspiring while not influencing. That’s not to say if the track-list stops I’m going to stop writing to find a new song. Usually I plug along for another hour or until I finish the scene, the lingering musical effects still working their magic.

Personally, I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks or ambient music while I write. This gives me the best mixture of sounds to stimulate my writing. It’s better if you mix it up and try out new music until you find what works for you – Pandora is a godsend for this.

Musical Choice – Inception Soundtrack on Pandora, Explosions in the Sky

Location, Location, Location

Being a writer has a certain number of perks that go with it. Perhaps the best known is the fact that we are beholden to no one but the publisher and ourselves. There is no 7 a.m alarm clock, set to drill into our skulls and prepare us for a day at the office, in a cubicle, at a desk. (Unless you work a full-time job in order to support your writing, there’s nothing wrong with that).

Instead, writers are perhaps an infamous bunch for staying up writing into the early hours of the morning, the dim glow of a computer monitor a solitary companion as you write your way through the first draft of a manuscript. Waking up at 2 in the afternoon and starting your day over again while all your friends are going to lunch already.

Just as with music it’s important to find the perfect writing location that fits your needs. Whoever designed the cubicle layout wasn’t a crazy, vindictive person – or maybe he was, I don’t know the guy – rather it’s the perfect layout for that kind of work, it’s efficient.

Where will your “cubicle” be as a writer? A favorite couch while Law and Order plays in the background (not very good if you want to get work done, trust me). In your bed as you wake up? (not too bad as that is exactly where I am as I write this post). Or at a desk in your house with a nice view and any tools or supplies you need arranged around you.

Finding the perfect spot to write is important, nothing beats curling up on the couch with Pandora on and setting into the long haul of bringing your characters and story to life.


Top 3 Location Picks (no particular order)

  1. At my desk that sits in front of a big window with my notebooks and reference books stacked around me
  2. Outside on a picnic table in my backyard, the sound of nature my only companion
  3. On the couch in the living room, curled up and a short walk to the fridge for ‘motivational snacks’

What to do when you’re stuck

Writer’s Block. The bane of the creative world.

It can strike at the worst possible time, and more often than not it does, putting the brakes on your creative output sometimes for days on end. I don’t know if there is any rhyme or reason to it but when it hits, it hits hard.

There has been stretches for me personally where I am writing a crazy amount for days on end, the inspiration well seemingly endless, and their is no slowing me down. Then, I realize a character wouldn’t do the thing he’s outlined to do, or there’s a hiccough in my continuity/worldbuilding. And that’s it my 2,000+ word count days are done and I’m stuck in writer’s limbo as I work to resolve the issue.

For me, writer’s block has come at each of the stages in writing – outline, writing, revisions. It’s felt more strongly in the first two stages, while in the third it seems to pass more quickly.

While there’s no cure for the block, cue applause for catchy new name, there are a number of ways to combat it.

Combating the Block

  • Walk Away, Literally – For me one of the best things I can do is get up from my computer and leave it alone. Take my dog for a walk or play a little basketball. Anything to get my mind off of the writing and whatever problem I’m having. Tumblr and StumbleUpon are amazing websites for this. Little do you realize but your subconscious is still working on the problem and whether if it’s when you sit back down to write, or in the midst of your brain recharge, the answer will flow a lot more smoothly.
  • Research – Sometimes, depending on the source of the block, I found that doing research will not only help fight against the block, it can also help spawn a whole host of new ideas. If a particular point in your worldbuilding is giving you trouble, switch over to google or wikipedia and do a quick search. I once spent two hours rolling around researching ancient forms of currency and the economic switches to banks and bank notes. Not only did it help solve my initial problem but I learned so many new tidbits of information that I had a host of new worldbuilding ideas to help combat further cases of the block.
  • Skip It – This method doesn’t apply to every writer. For me it isn’t so much of a big deal. If a particular scene or chapter is giving you issues just go on past it. Due to the fact that I outline so much of my book in advance, I don’t really have an issue going ahead to some other point in the book and writing that while I think about the problem that made me switch in the first place. “Gardeners” won’t really be able to take advantage of this method as much as “Architects” but it can still be a viable option if your willing to try.

There are a lot of perks to being a writer. Our work environment being one of those that stands at the top of the list. Being a creative person professionally affords us a lot of allowances in exchange for the humdrum of cubicle life. This is only a short list that barely manages to touch the surface of the world of a writer. I may expand on these topics and more in the upcoming weeks but this should be a satisfying start to a look in the life of a writer.


80 thoughts on “Writing Environment

  1. Interesting post. I write once in a fortnight on weekends, and during the week have a 9 to 5 job which stretches way beyond 5 . Would love to reach a stage in life where I could be a full-time writer. Really envy the freedom you have. Great post and thanks for sharing.

  2. I have a hard time writing with music or the TV on. My favorite place is my back porch just after dark. It’s generally quiet of people noise. The only noises are the singing frog and the crickets. Early mornings aren’t bad either.

    • Definitely no TV. That goes for the newsroom, too.
      Actually, when you consider writing environments, remember that most reporters are working in an open office, under deadline pressure. Police radio cackling in the background.
      Even there, the TV is deadly babble, something I’ve begun killing with online streaming of opera or classical music by living composers, as needed.

  3. Good stuff here. I write long hand in bed early in the morning when I’m relly on a roll. And at my desk when I’m not fired up but still need to work on the writing. If I’m stuck, often just reading something that inspires me, a favorite poem or book, or a book on writing, especially those excepts they use of what what great writing is, will be enough to get me going again.

  4. You’re right about Pandora! Altho’ once I get going my mind takes over and often the music gets tuned out, I find it important as a mood setter (classical only). Your point about the inspirational benefits of research is well taken. As for the “where” of writing, the importance of one’s surroundings cannot be overstated.

  5. I write only non-fiction and journalism, so this whole “where to write” thing is less compelling for me. I tend to sit at the desk in my apartment and just get it done. But for blogging or more creative work, (as I write this now) it’s great to sit on my balcony — listening to the cicadas and waving to the helicopters thudding overhead.

  6. Thank you for this post. Of course, it goes without saying that everyone has different styles, methods and so on and so forth but there are times when nothing works. All the old and true methods dry up and lead to dead ends and in this case, a piece like this could potentially light the spark needed to get things on the roll again. It’s not preachy or lecturey, just a guide. One always needs to try different avenues to accomplish their end. Thank you so much and happy writing to you.

  7. I like to have my journals, some visual image that inspires me, music (I like Explosions in the Sky too! And the Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack), and a big pot of coffee/diet cokes. Often an open window and a comfortable chair is enough though. Thanks for this post! i look forward to reading more.

  8. one effective way for me to get rid of writer’s block is really just to write anything until I get my mind running, and write anything that gets in my head.

  9. I enjoyed reading this post. It is informative and well written. The ideas expressed have been adapted to my line of work. We write for different reasons. By no stretch of the imagination can I be considered a writer in the classical sense of the word. I too write better while listening to light music. My favorite location for writing is anywhere that I have not used recently. By using a variety of locations I am forced to concentrate on what it is I am writing. Rarely does Writer’s Block impede my writing; I always have a purpose for writing. This post does not mention the use of specific blocks of time to write more effectively. I normally give myself a set amount of time to write something. It is necessary that I take periodic breaks from writing in order to recharge my batteries.

    • I think it was Raymond Chandler who talked about setting 4 hours of time aside in his day. During those 4 hours he didn’t have to write, but he couldn’t do anything else either. Honestly, it seems like this is a brilliant strategy but I don’t think I have the discipline to keep myself from breaking this rule.

  10. I typically write in my home office — I’m a full-time freelance writer, so there is little variation in my routine. I find that complete silence is my best environment, and I must be free of distractions. Seriously, if there is dusting or laundry to do, I’m screwed…it sounds odd, but sometimes I’ll do anything to get out of committing to writing. It’s such an overwhelming thing for me — writing is all-consuming, painful, fun, engaging, passionate and exhausting, all rolled into one!

  11. very well thought- kudos to that . I personally feel the same way as him and writing in a beautiful park gives a sense of silence and the expansion of our mind formulates creative ideas. Sometimes we have to find real source of inspiration and its very important for every artist. Don’t you think so?

  12. Good set of tips, especially for the writer’s block part. I am also one of those that can’t stand any noise when I’m writing, it’s so distracting. It’s crazy, I’ll have to take batteries out of clocks sometimes. A terrible tip but I smoke a cigarette when I get writer’s block, somehow I always get a new idea. Thanks for the tips!

  13. I absolutely adored the ‘motivational snacks’ part. Maybe cause that’s what helps me write haha. just kidding, i’m no fattie. All jokes aside, I completely identify with your article, I think you attracted such a large audience because every single writer can relate to your experience, and what’s most wonderful….you give tips! I would love to write in the nature, but unfortunately I rarely do that, maybe cause of technological issues, but what works best for me, is simply sit at my desk, feeling the warm and fresh breeze and the chant of birds coming from my window, often a couple of rays of sunshine reflecting on my screen. Although I’m not exactly ‘outside’, I still feel connected to nature. Music often simply distracts me…so I prefer to listen to the babbling of my inside voice. It’s my best writing buddy. Cheers, INNA. http://innamazing.wordpress.com/

  14. Great post. I can’t write with the TV on but music really helps. As for location, as long as there aren’t too many people and it’s not too closed-in I don’t mind where I write, which is good seeing as I live half the time at home and the rest of the time in my uni digs 😀

  15. Great blog post! It made me think, with music and location, perhaps it goes down to my actual as much as the mood that I can get from what I’m listening too and where I’m sitting. For example, if I’m unhappy I will sit with earphones in, sitting in my kitchen to nibble at cake and biscuits simply because I’m not feeling great, this of course reflects on my writing, but more so because I’m unhappy rather than what’s around me!

  16. I usually write at my rooftop enjoying the panoramic view of sunset while smoking. I don’t listen to music. I prefer the sweet songs of chirping birds (crows not included).

    • Oh wow, the rooftop. How cool is that! Tonight we’re going to have meteor showers. I want to go take a blanket to the field and lie down and watch the show, all the while “writing” my book in my mind.

    • I have the perfect roof for writing too, nice and flat but I don’t go on there too much. Although now that you mention it, a nice panoramic view of my yard would be really nice – I have 10 acres of country, green trees and nature all around.

      • I have a nice view of the Rawalpindi slums. I don’t know, its perhaps like the the rooftop Aladin has (in the disney movie). At sunset, the sun fits perfectly into a tower of a nearby mosque. It looks like an hour glass. Very enchanting 🙂

  17. I have two favorite spots to write: my desk in my bedroom, a gigantic monstrosity left over from when I had a desktop computer and also needed tons of storage space, and an easy chair in the living room, which isn’t as easy to write in due to space logistics, but which is a more copacetic place and more relaxing and thought-provoking. The desk is rapidly losing out to the chair these days, even though it has a proper back supporting ergonomic chair of its own. I can’t explain it: I’d just rather write and think in a corner of a bigger room than in the snug fitting confines of my sleeping space.

  18. But do you have the imagination to produce something unique ? As author of seven novels and occupied as a travel magazine columnist I have never found any ‘magic formula’ to master creative writing…… The first thing you have to ask yourself before you start is, “Do I have anything to say?” Some people do …some don’t. No amount of preparation will create lightning in a bottle.

    • I disagree with this to an extent. I think a big factor of what makes us human beings is the stories that surround and fill our lives. Each and every one of us has a story to tell, it’s just a matter of being able to coalesce these thoughts and stories together into a cohesive, larger piece.

  19. I’m just now starting to make my blogging a public thing. You provide very useful information. Please make follow-ups. I’d love to read more.

  20. love it. okay, so as a writer, the sound thing depends on what i’m doing. i do some mindless copywriting at work, that i like to get done super fast, so i listen to pretty deep, dark techno, deep house or minimal. if i’m writing for my blog, or for any of the websites i write for, it’s silence, or very very quiet instrumental music.

    for location…well, at my desk at work (for work), in my bed in the morning (at times, for my blog) or at my kitchen table in sweatpants, with a pot of coffee and a pack of smokes.

    and YES the walk away part works so well for writer’s block.

    thanks for sharing your insight! x

  21. Great post thanks! Have never really thought about the writing environment. But, looking back I realise a lot was done outside, at a picnic table, in the forest, in a park. Maybe it is easier to tune into the creativity that nature inspires us with there. At the end of the day when it comes to writers block, I have found it important through those frustrating times to not be too hard on yourself. The words will come when the time is right, relax and don’t force it! 🙂 Thanks again for the post!

  22. Love the post. My routine is to walk from home to a Starbucks about 3 miles away, even though there are about 20 closer that serve exactly the same beverages. Is it the barista, nope, it’s the view of palm trees, beach and ocean here in Vancouver, Canada. Especialy when the palm trees have snow on them, just seems to be a different world.

    • I am into Starbucks too, actually any coffee shop. And I love, love, love eavesdropping for great dialogue. I feel so devious. 🙂 Sets the tone for my imaginative spirit.

      • Another thing that’s good for writers to do I think is a change of scenery. If i spend too much time working at my desk I feel that I become to accustomed to the space. From there I’ll move to a Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, or other such change of scenery in order to get the productivity levels up again.

      • I agree! I think there’s something adventurous about going to a new writing place, something that sparks the creativity.

  23. Now that we have the luxury of portable writing devices like tablets, mini laptops, and electronic scribe tools I suppose one can move to almost any environment to get inspired. Thanks for the post. Your writing environment is appealing. Happy writing!

  24. I could really relate to your post. This is he way it works for me. When I write, I imagine the movie playing in my head, and, of course, I have to have background music. So give me sappy love songs for the romantic parts. I live music, so there will always be music in every novel I write, so I can’t write without music. I’m drawn to Memphis, so you can bet the blues will be playing somewhere, on Spotify, Pandora, or in my heart.

    • I’ve spent so much of my life imagining scenes of a movie playing out while I’m listening to music with earbuds in. The next logical step is imagining the proper scenes to fit along with what I’m trying to write.

  25. This blog was very interesting, and yet still very informative. Something I can relate to that actually keeps my attention through the entire article. Good article!

    P.S. I use the “Relaxation” station on Pandora.

  26. I too envy your freedom of writing. Freedom, as in…time. I try to get away in the evenings when everyone is asleep…on my vanity where I have my writing notepad and pen. It sorta pushes me to write when I see my notepad in a place I am often. Serves as a reminder also of what I “love” to do and one day dream do fulltime. 🙂 Awesome article! Thanks for sharing!

  27. Thanks for the tips! I have to have music on in the background while I write – it seems to help put off writer’s block for me (and yes, I listen to Explosions in the Sky on Pandora too 😀 )

  28. I am a teacher looking to make the transition to part-time writer. I appreciate your insights into the writing environment, it makes me want to be a writer even more.

  29. This is a very informative post.. I am a writer by hobby (blogger may be a better word 🙂 ) and I do find that sometimes even when I know what I want to write about, the words won’t come.. So, thank you for sharing this.. 🙂

  30. I always wonder if it would actually be more productive to schedule regular writing times and rather deal with the occasional block than just… no writing time for days on stretch. Still haven’t figured that one out…

    • Best advice I’ve seen in regards to improving your writing craft, other than reading a ton, is to write every day. You can always go back and revise or edit what you don’t like but that’s impossible if you don’t write in the first place.

  31. This a great write up, thank you. I am one of those people who needs to write in absolute silence, and “boredom” seems to be a great reason to get rid of writer’s block for me. Congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  32. Yes, music certainly helps creating the right environment. I love it.

    But, creative “block” is like a bad cold. You’re not sure what caused it, and it can be hard to get rid of.

  33. I can relate to a lot of this. Walking away from the topic certainly helps writer’s block…sometimes I just start writing about a completely different (maybe lighter) topic.
    On any occasion, for me, a cup of hot coffee at my fingertips is always a plus for writing 🙂

  34. I write when traveling (or when I am in transit). I find the ever-changing flow of people, details and sounds quite inspiring. The writing, though, is usually limited to ideas and abstract thoughts, fodder for more in-depth work.

    A cafe with beer on tap works too.

  35. Such a relatable post..I aspire to reach that point in my writing career where my writing is enough to support myself. Right now I have to work a 9-5. I know cubicle life is not for me; whoever thought of the whole cubicle idea clearly wasn’t a writer!

  36. Great post and great tips. I also have to have music playing in the background, but I’m peculiar about it: it can’t be music that I know the lyrics to or I’ll be tempted to follow/sing along in my head. I’m going to try to add a little more Pandora to my life, and maybe find some great new music while writing 🙂

  37. Great post & phenomenal ideas. I am actually writing from wherever I happen to be staying at that moment. I am currently homeless but have the advantage of an apple computer to carry around. I started a Blog & a Facebook page to write about my journey crawling out of homelessness. The inspiration seems to be endless, so I got a good amount to write in the immediate future. I really liked what you had to say about the location I constantly find myself being distracted simply because of WHERE I’m trying to write at that moment. As far as music, I put it on Pandora & play a preset station they have called relaxation. No lyrics, just beautiful ambient & classical piano. It’s zen. 😉 Thanks so much for this Blog, truly helpful.

  38. Pingback: ……the Music Connection….. « Sex, Spirit, Soul Mates and Chocolate….Ivonne's Journey

  39. Pingback: When nothing works. When the mechanism stops. | Writer Writing.

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