Thursday, September 12, 2013

Writers Need Space (to Write In!)

Dear Fellow Writer,

Respect to you this week for helping get my book, The Easy to Write Short Stories That Sell, into the Amazon Kindle TOP TEN!

It's been an amazing week - and I have you to thank!

Oddly enough I also did an interview this week. Not about writing - but about my (short) former life as a musician. You can read about that here. There's even a recording of a 1980s EMI single which they must have found (even I don't have a copy anymore!)

Keep Writing!
Your Success is My Concern

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Writers Need Space (to Write In!)

Rob Parnell

Getting what you want in this world is an act of will over nature. If the natural un-tethered state of things is to move towards chaos, then humanity is here to inject order. And to create order we must make decisions about what makes our lives better, more comfortable and more effective, if possible without causing too much strife and discomfort to nature, to what's already good, or to those around us.

It's all very well having a Zen like respect for the universe, and a belief in karma, but we humans are designed to be creative. And as we know from physics, things cannot be created from nothing - it is all disassembled and reorganized energy.  

So in a sense all creativity is disruptive. And often the most disruptive thing a writer can do is to insist on having a writing space somewhere in their living quarters!

 I fought for years to get my own writing space. It was hard when I had no writing career to speak of. Trying to convince partners that I should be allowed to take over an entire room to have as my own was an uphill struggle. Often too, when I did take over a room and decorate it to my satisfaction, my partners would then decide I'd made the space perfect for some other purpose: a guest bedroom, a child's play area or even once, an ideal studio apartment for paying tenants. Gah!

It was easy enough when I was single. Simply putting a cheap desk in my bedroom usually did the trick. If the bedroom wasn't big enough, the kitchen table had to suffice. In one shared house I converted the cupboard under the stairs - which wasn't big enough to stand in and had no windows - or much air for that matter!

Stephen King used to write in the basement of his house, close to a hot water pipe that acted as a radiator in the cold months. He wrote in there during the evenings to, you guessed it, get away from the sound of the TV - the writer's perennial distraction.

Philip K Dick used to rent a tumbledown shack a couple of miles away from his apartment, so that he felt like he was 'going to work' to write, rather than stay at home and do nothing or get distracted by his (usually nagging) partner.
Meeting Robyn, my darling wife, also a full time writer since 1998, was a godsend. Not only did she already have a writing room of her own, she understood implicitly that writers need their own space. When we moved in together, two rooms were automatically set aside as writing spaces, one for each of us. I write and run my writing business from my office - my dream space, surrounded by thousands of reference books and files, all my toys, and more technology than I could have ever dreamed of owning!

The only thing I don't have in the room is a phone - but that's probably just me. Hate the things. Over the years I've noticed the only people who frequently disturb you during the day are telemarketers - and bill collectors. And who needs them?

At the end of the day, it's not the physical writing space that's as important as the 'writing space in your head'. The room is really a giant trigger. You need it so that as soon as you walk in and sit down, your mind goes into writing mode, automatically.

There's a psychological advantage too. When you're not writing you often feel guilty if you're just thinking or staring into space. However, when you have a writing room, these activities take on a whole new dimension! A couple times a day I lean back in my executive chair, put my feet on the desk and close my eyes. Guess what? I'm still working! Because as far as I'm concerned, if I'm in my room, I'm in work mode - even when I'm surfing idly or watching YouTube - it's all research and 'writing related' to me, simply because I'm in my writing room.

Having your own desk and workspace is taken for granted in the corporate world. You wouldn't dream of employing someone and then not give them a PC, a phone, a desk, a chair and space in a cubicle. It's fundamental to productivity. So why would you think you don't need these things in a home office?

My advice is, wherever you live, no matter what the circumstance, you aim to get your own writing space - and, even if it's just the corner of a bed, an outhouse, or a cold step somewhere, you should begin to regard that space as sacred.

Because it is sacred - or will become so as time goes by. Once you've written for any length of time in your sacred writing space, then being blocked is an impossibility.

The mind loves routine. The more you do something in the same environment, the better able your mind is able to switch to the requirements of that setting. It's like training an animal to always sleep in the same place. It's the same phenomenon. We're creatures of habit. Once you understand that, you'll see the benefit of manufacturing the writing habit through self discipline and subconscious triggers - like your desk, chair, computer and personal writing effects.

You need everything that motivates you within reach. Your dictionaries, writer's market guides, encyclopedias, and your favorite writing resources should be only a step - or preferably an arm's length - away. Fill your space with personal trinkets that inspire you. I have a statue of Thoth - the Egyptian god of writing - on my desk. A bust of Beethoven, a banker's lamp, a rock crystal, a remote control toy helicopter and incense burning paraphernalia. All things that make me feel at home. I have pictures on the walls of past projects: book covers; play, film and writing-talk posters. I have a white board that I fill with inspiring quotes by other writers or people I admire. It all helps make my personal writing space feel special. And I believe it works wonders for my creativity.    

But what you mustn't do is to fill your writing space with distractions.

Once you have something in your room that persistently takes you away from writing: remove it. Banish it.

In one writing space I had back in the UK I wrote on a computer that had games on it. I was forever flipping over the screen to complete just one more level. It was disastrous for my long term concentration level - and profitability!
These days, I don't have any computer games preloaded on my writing computers. And when I'm writing, I switch off the internet connection. You can't concentrate properly if emails or updates are constantly 'pinging' when you should be focused on your next sentence!

Remember, writing is all about habit - and you have to get used to having only good habits in your writing space. The sacred is closely related to 'ritual'. And rituals require strict adherence if they're going to be meaningful - and helpful to you.
Keep Writing!

 rob at home
Rob Parnell
The Easy Way to Write
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