If you want to write but can’t seem to find the time, try making a space to write first.
I’ve found it’s a common challenge among entrepreneurs: they want a blog for their business or practice but are too busy running the business to make time for it.
Having a dedicated place to write can be motivating in itself; a comfortable, inviting space makes you want to be there, and then you’re making time to write without trying. Like a writing theory of relativity, create space and you create time as well.
It doesn’t need to be elaborate. The point is simply to create a quiet, comfortable, personal place where you can be alone with the words you’re writing.
This post will show you how to create a space that’s more than a mere location, but a supportive environment that gets you writing.
The case for a space
Hemingway claimed he could write standing up in the middle of a battlefield, undistracted by shells flying overhead … but he was Hemingway.
Still, there’s something to be said for not using location as an excuse for not writing. “I can’t write unless I’m in my favorite chair in my den,” is a sentence a credible professional writer would never utter. Nonetheless, a dedicated writing space is essential for pros who need to crank out thousands of words a day.
Or for you — needing a boost to get started. If you’re not a professional writer (or Hemingway) but just trying to write a post a week, having a dedicated space can get you writing them.
Your “space” can be as simple, cozy, and cheap as a favorite chair in your bedroom. Or as elegant as you can imagine (and afford).
We love to see the spaces of famous writers (including Hemingway’s), thinking they hold secret clues to brilliant prose — but most of them are simple, even spare in their decor and furnishings.
That’s the clue: There’s nothing to do there but write.
Change your space, change your mind.
What I find amazing is how creating literal space changes your writing mindset almost effortlessly. By making room for writing in your life, you’re showing it respect, and you’ll start treating it with respect — by writing.
And a space inspires creativity because you’re in a place you feel comfortable. Writing itself becomes easier and more fruitful.
Make your space a writing environment.
I’ve been talking about rooms and furniture, but a writing environment includes more than tangible things.
In one of my favorite inspirational books, One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers, Gail Sher talks about creating a “right environment” for writing. It starts with your own body and physical surroundings and extends outward to the people in your life. Do they support your writing as much as your favorite armchair?
Here’s how to create your own “right environment” from the inside out:
1. Prepare yourself.
Writing doesn’t involve much physical activity, but it helps to spend a minute getting physically ready.
You know (or should) the damage you can do to your body by sitting at a desk crouched behind a computer screen for hours. Chair-based yoga, stretching, and exercise routines are easy to find and important to do.
Before you even sit down to write, a few simple stretches across and along the chest, shoulders, neck, and arms, not only buffer you from injury but help you feel more energized, focused, and inspired.
2. Get a different chair.
If you work at home, then you’re already in your office chair to work and sit through days full of Zoom calls. Sitting there some more to do your writing is probably the last thing you feel like doing.
So don’t. I move from my office to the sofa (where I am now) to write. I’m nearer the sliding glass doors, where I have a better view of the bird feeders hanging above my balcony. My HomePod fills the room with my go-to writing playlists. I’m way more comfortable now.
Maybe get out of the house. Find a different environment like a coffeehouse, library, or even outdoors: your back porch, a park with benches or picnic tables. Sitting on anything besides your desk chair will feel like relief. Sit on the grass.
3. Subtract distractions.
It doesn’t go without saying that to focus on writing, you need to turn off phones, get away from kids, stay off social media, and so on.
Admittedly, this is often an ideal, especially for parents, but it’s important to do what you can. Novels have been written by working moms who drove a block away just to sit in the car and write without distraction.
4. Create a mood.
Like I said above, I have my writing playlists. Background music isn’t a distraction if it relaxes you, but avoid music with understandable lyrics, talk radio, podcasts, or, heaven forbid, TV on in the next room.
I cannot listen simultaneously to one set of words inside my head and another set outside; I don’t really hear either one. On the other hand, I play instrumental music almost all the time when I’m writing.
In addition, you may decorate your space with bookshelves, plants, mementos, or whatever makes your space feel like a relaxing and inspiring retreat.
5. Do your rituals.
Sometimes you just can’t settle down to write until you’ve straightened the pens on your desk, loaded the dishwasher, watered the plants, or checked email one last time.
Do those things. They may seem completely trivial; they’re not. They clear your head and ease your mind, where undone tasks will only take root and grow into nagging annoyances while you write. They’re distractions; see item one above.
6. Prepare your writing tools.
Compared to, say, painting or photography, writing doesn’t take a lot of tools or technology. But having the right writing tools at the ready makes a writing space feel complete.
A handful of pens. Your trusty worn notebook or shiny new laptop. Blogging apps, and even free, simple apps like Google Docs, feature a distraction-free “writing mode” that helps you focus and can serve as a virtual writing environment when you’re traveling or away from your usual place.
7. Write with others.
Writing is naturally a solitary activity, but the company of others can help you feel less alone. Focused writing communities like Shut Up & Write provide a place to work alongside others needing the same support, motivation, or accountability as you.
Many are virtual as well as (or instead of) in-person, but they’re not for sharing and critiquing work. They’re for sitting quietly, on your side of the screen or table, and getting some writing done.
Get your write on.
One final tip:
8. Stretch your mind.
Cosmically if you insist, but I just mean take a moment to imagine your words out there on your blog having an impact in the world. Reminding yourself why you’re doing this makes a great pep talk.
In the end, the right environment is the one that’s right for you, whatever gets you sitting and putting words on screen or paper. That’s the intention.
Where do you like to write? Share your favorite place in the comments below.