The answers to that question are as various as are writers themselves.
Here are some of the things I’ve found work for me:
- Structure/Planning – Having written both as a “pantser” (a writer who chiefly depends on inspiration) and as a “plotter” (a writer who pre-plans story and structure), I’ve found that both ways work, but that pre-planning saves a lot of wheel spinning. Interestingly, plotting also helps counter writer’s block. If you create a one-sentence summary, a one-page summary, a beat sheet, etc. – see previous posts – you’ve created a map with a path marked out on it for yourself. When you’re done with one scene, you don’t need to pause and think a bit about what to do next; you pick up your beat sheet and know what to write next.
- A quiet place – Optimally, a writer should have a room with a door he or she can close. Personally, I’m not one of those extraordinary writers who do their best work surrounded by distractions. Soft background music (see below) is about the only “noise” that I find conducive to writing. The Sennheiser headphones, at right, also are a real lifesaver. My hubby loves movies and watches more of them than the law should allow. With these wireless headphones, he gets better audio than he would without. More spectacularly, our home resounds with the sounds of silence for little ol’ writer person – me! If you want to sell your co-habitor on the virtues of these headphones, let them know that they also can hear the baseball game or their favorite news pundit while mowing the lawn or doing other errands in a certain radius outside the house.
- Support/understanding/respect – Family and friends need to respect a writer’s time. When you close the door to your writing place (room or office), they should not barge in and interrupt your train of thought. Some of my writer friends find that their wise counsel, apparently, is needed on a multitudinous variety of subjects. Even “Do Not Disturb” signs don’t work. In this case, a writer may need to rent a small office (if lucky enough to have the funds to do so), or may need to make a quiet carrel at the nearest library serve that purpose.
- Background music – Some writers like to listen to the sound tracks from suspense movies when composing suspense novels. I’ve heard that Stephen King composed his novels to acid rock. Personally, I know acid rock would never work for me. I’m not a fan of same, and I know I would find strident music and lyrics distracting. Classical music also doesn’t work for me, as it seems to demand too much of my attention. However, for me, New Age music – especially Pandora’s New Age Internet radio station – is conducive to creative thinking.
- Guilt – I’d like to say, “setting aside certain hours each day to write.” But I don’t like to abide by a rigid schedule. I’m more likely to find two, three or six hours sometime each day to write. It might be mornings or afternoons or evenings, depending on what else is happening in my life. What does compel me to make time to write each day is a feeling. Call it “guilt” or “discomfort,” or what you will. All I know is that, if I don’t work on my writing for a significant chunk of my day, that feeling kicks in – a sense that I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing – that I’m not utilizing the precious gifts I’ve been fortunate enough to receive. Therefore, I make sure to set aside the necessary time as I move through my day.
Well, that’s what works for me. What do you find works for you? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.
Image (top): SearchEnginePeopleBlog via Flickr