When it comes to writing productively, when and where we write are very important and very individual. Everyone is going to write best in different circumstances based on their personality.
Personally, my ideal writing situation is in the evening in a coffee shop. I’m a night person so that is when I’m the most awake and mentally active and I like writing in coffee shops since, ironically, I find it is less distracting to have things happening on the periphery of my vision than if I was sitting home alone in an empty room. Some people might write best in bed early in the morning or on the train going to work. Everyone has their own best place and time.
Of course, ideals are fine but we also have to work with the schedule we have. I used to write in coffee shops in the evenings when I lived in Korea, but now I have to get up early so I can’t stay up late (plus, coffee shops close a lot earlier in the US than in Korea).
The Two Sides of Writing
I think there are two main sides of the initial writing process, which are Generation and Transcribing. Generation is actually coming up with the story, and Transcribing is writing it down. Ideally, when you sit down to write these happen simultaneously: you think of what will happen in the story and write it down and then continue. Your brain is working on the next ideas as your fingers are typing out the most recent ones.
Of course, there are times when these don’t come together. Sometimes we sit down to write and while we are ready to transcribe, the story just doesn’t come for some reason. Then, at other times, we have stories coming to us while we are doing something else and don’t have any way of writing them down.
Expanding the Writing Space
When we think about a writing space, we are thinking of the transcribing part of writing, where we sit and put words down on paper (or screen). However, the other part of writing, Generation, is equally important and can happen anywhere. I find that times when I am physically active but not mentally active are the best time to think of story ideas. I have come up with some of my best ideas while hiking alone since that gives my brain a chance to rest but also get out into new surroundings.
I believe that we can train our brains to keep working in the background on Generation as we go through our daily lives. This includes both working on a story you are currently working on as well as looking for new story ideas. When you do have story ideas, I think it’s good to capture them somehow, either by carrying a notebook with you to write down ideas or using a notes app on your phone or recording voice notes.
Of course, Stephen King recommends not keeping notes like this since they are a way to immortalize bad ideas. If a story is good enough, it will stick with you. You can make up your own mind, but I like to write ideas down. In response to Mr. King’s opinion, I would say that just because you write something down doesn’t mean you have to use it. I’d rather scoop up a bucket of mud with three diamonds in it than risk losing them. Also, it’s fun to go back later and see the nuggets that some of your stories grew from (and the terrible ideas you had back then).
If you do make notes, make sure you write down complete ideas. There have been many times when I looked back at my notes and read something like, big river, ice cream truck, scary and absolutely no idea what I was thinking at the time.
In conclusion, we should try to find a regular time and place to write where we will be the most focused and productive. However, in support of that, we should also develop a habit of thinking of stories throughout the day. This will make it easier to be productive when we do sit down to write.
Where do you like to write? Do you have a regular place and time when you write the best? Let me know in the comments.
If you have any questions about writing or other topics you want me to talk about in Writing Corner, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.